Can you tell me what exactly our Lord meant when he said in John 10:15 about laying down his life for the sheep? Was that exclusively for the sheep and not the goats, as the Reformed Christians believe?
Some Calvinistic doctrine rings true to me. I have some of their literature and preaching tapes here. John 13:1 mentions he loved his own. Acts 13:48 looks interesting to me anyway. As it says as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. There are other Scriptures that seem to say that Jesus died for his elect, and not the whole world.
I often wonder why I believe, and all of my family doesn't. Also why God has led you, me, and many others to accept our Lord Jesus as our Saviour, and my neighbors have no interest in the Holy Gospel.
Referring to God loving the whole world: why does Psalm 5:6 say that there is a part of the world that He hates? I know that the world has different meanings in Scripture, but would it be wrong to believe, for example, that Jesus died for his elect only, and not the whole world? If he did die for the whole world, why is it that most of the world has no time for him?
I would love to read your view on this as a Christian regarding this topic.
My brother and sister, whom I love, have shown no interest in the holy Gospel, yet have been told by my lovely mother and me. This puzzles me. Is there such a thing really as an inward call of the gospel and an outward call? For example, Jesus decides whom he will choose? Reformed theology seems to me anyway to have some great truths. Can you enlighten me on this?
"The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever" (Psalms 119:160).
I've noticed over the years that much of what is taught in Calvinism is based on what passages don't say. For example, you mentioned those lead by God to Christ. That is based on "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). It sounds as if God is doing the selection of each individual until you realize that this one verse doesn't say how God is drawing people. It is just assumed that it is a direct drawing. I point this out because the very next verse explains how God draws people. "It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me" (John 6:45). This changes things drastically for the Calvinist. God appeals to people through His word. Those willing to be taught by God come to Christ.
When you see this, then you understand why Paul said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16). Salvation starts at the most fundamental point with teaching the Gospel. You see this in Acts. It was to Peter's sermon that people responded with "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Peter told them what they needed to do, but notice also: "And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them" (Acts 2:40-41). Or take the example of the Philippian jailer: "And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized" (Acts 16:30-33). Therefore we understand why Paul said, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).
Now, let's look at: "As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd" (John 10:15-16). When you read John 10:15, you inserted something that isn't in the text. It isn't just you, many people make the same mistake. When Jesus said "I lay down My life for the sheep," where is the word only? You assumed that this statement was exclusive, but it isn't. In fact, notice that the very next verse said that Jesus had other sheep. What other sheep? The sheep he was talking about in John 10:15 were the Jews and the other sheep were the Gentiles. "Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh -- who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands -- that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:11-19).
Or consider: "Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end" (John 13:1). Who were Jesus' own in this context? Notice that they were "His own who were in the world." This is mentioned just before the last Passover meal that Jesus had with his disciples and explains why Jesus wanted to have this final meal with them. After the meal, Jesus prayed, "Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:1-2). In this context, Jesus' own are the twelve apostles. John 13:1 is not a statement regarding whom Jesus died for, but whom Jesus wanted to spend his final hours with. It wasn't the entire world, but twelve men who became extra special to him during his years of teaching on this earth.
"Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region" (Acts 13:48-49). Notice that the Gentiles heard Paul's message, they glorified the word of the Lord, some believed, and the word of the Lord was spread. So it goes back to what Paul said that faith comes from hearing (Romans 10:17). But hearing doesn't automatically produce faith. "But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?"" (Romans 10:16). Acts 13:48 says that only those appointed to eternal life believed. The problem, though, is an assumption on how that appointment is done. Everyone like to jump on the mystical bandwagon and assume there is some individual selection process going on behind the scenes. But the problem that it is assumed and not proven.
"Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (I Corinthians 1:20-24). The world looks for something extra, so God chose to use a very simple means to separate the true followers from the pretend -- people are saved through a message taught. No signs, no wonders, no incredible mental gymnastics, just learning God's message and obeying it. The very simplicity of God's scheme divides the world because only people who love truth respond to the truth. "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved" (II Thessalonians 2:9-10).
So consider: did God say he appointed each individual person who would love the truth, or is what the Bible revealing is that God appointed a way of salvation that would only appeal to a certain kind of person -- the kind of person God wants as His own?
Notice also in I Corinthians 1:24 that Paul talked about "those who are called." How are people called? It popular to assume that it is a direct calling, but such isn't stated. "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thessalonians 2:13-14). Notice again, people are chosen by God for salvation and are called to that salvation by the message preached. This is the way God has always planned it.
Why do some people respond and others do not? Calvinists assume that it is because God is behind the scenes picking who will listen and who will not. This is because they assume that because God is sovereign there cannot be any free will to make choices among people. But the answer lies in the parable of the sower (Luke 8:5-15). One word goes out, the seed, but the result depends on the hearts of those receive it (the soils). God designed His message to bring to light what is buried deep in a person's spirit. Take a look at the lessons: "Perceptions of God's Word" and "God's Wisdom" for more passages on this topic.
So let's go back to your original question: Did Jesus die only for the saved? Jesus died for all men. "For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again" (II Corinthians 5:14-15). His death was for the whole world. "My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world" (I John 2:1-2). Notice that "world" is used in I John 2:2 and the context makes it clear that it cannot be limited to just believers. Jesus' death gave the entire world the potential to be saved. Whether they accept the gift given is up to them. Did Jesus die for my sins? Yes, but not my sins only. Did Jesus die for his people's sins? Yes, but not for their sins only. If that were true, then no one else has a chance to be saved. Jesus died for everyone's sins. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).
Thanks for your latest message and teaching. I know that the Calvinistic subject is very deep. Lots of great scholars believe it. I just don't know. I like Dr. Luther's understanding of this doctrine of election, but I hasten to add that as a novice I don't know as yet exactly who is correct. The Holy Bible is of course, but we novices need human teachers along with the blessed Spirit of God. Our Lord said that we can't come to him unless we have been first given of the Father. I understand that as it is simple.
I notice that Arminian people try to talk around this, but the fact remains that God is sovereign, not sinful man. All the great Protestant reformers believed in predestination, and I do also as election runs from Genesis to Revelation.
Regarding denominations, I understand that approach, but what if a particular group is teaching something you can't accept? For example, I am a convinced Paedo-baptist [covenant of grace]. Should I attend a church that would tell me that infant baptism is not in the Holy Scriptures when it is? I believe the churches of Christ deny that infant children of believers should be baptized. Is that correct? If so I would beg to differ as baptism is an act of God and not man [prevenient grace]. Also, there is no mention of a ceremony of infant dedication anywhere in the pages of the New Testament. Also, there must have been some infants in some of the houses the apostles visited, and a Jewish couple from the old covenant would not have accepted that their children had to be left out of the New Testament covenant. I feel Baptist-type people don't understand this with all due respect to them.
I am convinced that they are very wrong in their understanding of the New Covenant, even regarding their understanding of the mode of baptism by insisting on immersion only. The Holy Scripture does not say this. I was baptized by immersion as I did not understand then that immersion was not the only method used to baptize new believers. The Orthodox Ukrainian church now understands this and leaves the mode to a new converts choice which is more democratic than the narrow-minded views of the other immersionist churches of Orthodoxy.
I guess you won't agree as I believe that the churches of Christ only accept immersion as the mode, would that be correct? Anyway, I have started a Bible study with one of the churches of Christ in my area. If they insist that I must accept their view of immersion only and no paedobaptism, then I will have to look somewhere else to fellowship as I can't go against my conscience on this. I would appreciate your view on my stand on the Holy Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Please let me know.
While I have not done a detailed study of Arminianism, what little I know is sufficient for me to know it doesn't match what the Scriptures teach. But I will grant that it is a bit closer to the truth than Calvinism.
In regards to God's sovereignty, I fully believe that God rules the universe. But what is being rejected by Calvinism, and perhaps by you, is an acknowledgment that God made man and gave him the ability and right to make a choice in regards to serving him. As Joshua told the people of Israel, "Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:14-15). In the Calvinist system, Joshua's words are nonsensical since they believe that God is so sovereign that mankind cannot have a choice. It is a denial of what the Bible says.
You believe in infant baptism, yet notice that you do not argue it from the Scriptures. You even acknowledge there is no record of infants being baptized, yet you feel it must be implied. Jesus taught that people had to believe and be baptized (Mark 16:16). He did not leave the option that others can believe for you. It is something that the person must do on his own. How does an infant accomplish this when language is not yet developed, let alone reasoning ability? Peter told the Jews they needed to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38), seeing that already believed his words. How does an infant, who has done nothing, repent of sins not committed? How does he change his behavior when none has been established (Acts 26:20; II Corinthians 7:9-11)?
Children aren't left out of the covenant, the Bible teaches they are saved until they become responsible for the sins they have committed. Then they have the choice, like everyone in the world, to return to Christ's kingdom by having their sins forgiven through baptism.
In regards to the mode of baptism, again you argue what you learned from Russian Orthodoxy, not from the Scriptures. The word "baptism" is a transliterated Greek word that means immerse. It has no other meaning. You did not prove that people entered into Christ through any other means than by baptism (immersion).
A claim that adding more choices is better is contrary to what God said. "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-10). As pointed out repeatedly in the Bible, God does not approve of people adding things to His Word because then it is no longer His teachings. "Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar" (Proverbs 30:6). So to say that being narrow-minded is wrong when people insist on standing with God is not the proper thing to do. Take a look at Jesus: Intolerant, Confrontational, and Exclusionary to look at a side of Jesus many people don't want to see.
If you want to put your own beliefs above what you find in your Bible, there isn't much I can do for you. Being a Christian requires enough humility to discard my personal will and follow the Lord. "Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (I Peter 5:5-7).