by

R. S. Sproul

 

God is most free; that is, His freedom is unlimited. He is sovereign. The most frequent objection to His sovereignty is that if God is truly sovereign, then man cannot be free. Scripture uses the term freedom to describe our human condition in two distinct ways: freedom from coercion, whereby man is free to make choices without coercion, and moral freedom, which we lost in the fall, leaving us slaves to the evil impulses of our flesh. Humanists believe that man can make choices not only without coercion but also without any natural inclination toward evil. We Christians must be on guard against this humanist or pagan view of human freedom.

The Christian view is that God creates us with wills, with a capacity to choose. We are volitional beings. But the freedom given in creation is limited. What ultimately limits our freedom is God’s freedom. This is where we run into the conflict between divine sovereignty and human freedom. Some say that God’s sovereignty is limited by human freedom. If that is the case, then man is sovereign, not God. The Reformed faith teaches that human freedom is real but limited by God’s sovereignty. We cannot overrule the sovereign decisions of God with our freedom, because God’s freedom is greater than ours.

Human family relationships provide an analogy. Parents exercise authority over the child. The child has freedom, but the parents have more. The child’s freedom does not limit the parents’ freedom in the way that the parents’ freedom limits the child’s. When we come to the attributes of God, we must understand that God is most free.

When we say that God is sovereign, we are saying something about His freedom, although we tend to think that sovereignty means something quite different from freedom. God is a volitional being; He has a will and makes decisions. When making decisions and exercising His will, He does so sovereignly as the ultimate authority. His freedom is most free. He alone has supreme autonomy; He is a law unto Himself.

Humans seek autonomy, unlimited freedom, desiring to be accountable to no one. In a real sense, that is what happened in the fall. Satan enticed Adam and Eve to reach for autonomy, to become like God, to do whatever they wanted with impunity. Satan was introducing a liberation movement in the garden to free human beings from culpability, from accountability to God. But He alone has autonomy.

The Lord is not delaying his promise in the way some people think about delays,

but is longsuffering toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

(1 Peter 5:9)

 

Here is a thoughtful theological note from the editors of the NET Bible, one that not only sheds light on a difficult text, but also carries us deeper into the heart of God, teaching us to love all, be patient with all, and desire that all might be saved.

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This verse has been a battleground between Arminians and Calvinists. The former argue that God wants all people to be saved, but either through inability or restriction of his own sovereignty does not interfere with peoples’ wills. Some of the latter argue that the “any” here means “any of you” and that all the elect will repent before the return of Christ, because this is God’s will.

Both of these positions have problems. The “any” in this context means “any of you.” (This can be seen by the dependent participle which gives the reason why the Lord is patient “toward you.”) There are hints throughout this letter that the readership may be mixed, including both true believers and others who are “sitting on the fence” as it were. But to make the equation of this readership with the elect is unlikely. This would seem to require, in its historical context, that all of these readers would be saved. But not all who attend church know the Lord or will know the Lord. Simon the Magician, whom Peter had confronted in Acts 8, is a case in point. This is evident in contemporary churches when a pastor addresses the congregation as “brothers, sisters, saints, etc.,” yet concludes the message with an evangelistic appeal. When an apostle or pastor addresses a group as “Christian” he does not necessarily think that every individual in the congregation is truly a Christian.

Thus, the literary context seems to be against the Arminian view, while the historical context seems to be against (one representation of) the Calvinist view.

The answer to this conundrum is found in the term “wish” (a participle in Greek from the verb boulomai). It often represents a mere wish, or one’s desiderative will, rather than one’s resolve or purpose. Unless God’s will is viewed on the two planes of his desiderative and decretive will (what he desires and what he decrees), hopeless confusion will result. The scriptures amply illustrate both that God sometimes decrees things that he does not desire and desires things that he does not decree. It is not that his will can be thwarted, nor that he has limited his sovereignty. But the mystery of God’s dealings with humanity is best seen if this tension is preserved. Otherwise, either God will be perceived as good but impotent or as a sovereign taskmaster. Here the idea that God does not wish for any to perish speaks only of God’s desiderative will, without comment on his decretive will.

The essay linked to this post is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, The High King of Heaven: Discovering the Master Keys to the Great End Time Debate. In essence, the book is a defense of amillennial eschatology.

Now according to amillennarians, when God gave his OT saints prophecies of a coming Kingdom, he was pleased to use language and imagery drawn from the Mosaic Law to speak mystically of spiritual blessings that he would introduce under the New Covenant. In other words, he used veiled, typological language to predict the simple, two-staged spiritual Kingdom that Christ would create when he instituted the New Covenant by his blood.

Needless to say, our premillennarian brothers object to this thesis. They say that it makes God a liar, since God surely knew that his OT saints would receive these OT Kingdom prophecies literally, precisely as we should.

The essay posted here seeks to address this very reasonable objection.

As usual, comments and criticisms are welcome.

The  essay linked to this post is extracted from my forthcoming book, The High King of Heaven: Discovering the Master Keys to the Great End Time Debate. As the title indicates, my theme in the essay is the coming of the Kingdom of God: the way it enters history, and the the stages in which it enters, until the universe, life, and man reach their final destination in the World to Come.

I regard this as the single most helpful chapter in the book. I believe it shows fairly conclusively that the Kingdom enters the world in two simple stages. The first I call The Kingdom of the Son. The second I call The Kingdom of the Father (or the World to Come). The two are separated by a single Consummation at the Parousia, or Second Coming, of Christ. Thus, the essay is an effort to show that the Amillennial eschatology of the ancient Catholic Church and the classic Protestant Reformation is indeed the true teaching of the Bible.

Though the essay is fairly long, I hope you will persevere in reading it. Unless I miss my guess, it could revolutionize many a biblical worldview! In any case, I do hope you are challenged and blessed by what you read.

Comments and criticisms are most welcome.

To read the essay, please click HERE.

For sheer power and majesty, 2 Peter 3:3-13 stands among the top two or three eschatological texts of the NT. Here the apostle fully unveils his conception of “the end of all things” (1 Peter 4:7). As ever, the Parousia lies at its heart (3:4). Now, however, the accent falls upon the one Judgment that Christ will effect at his return, and also upon the cosmic implications of that Judgment. The result is one of Scripture’s most comprehensive pictures of the Consummation, a picture whose character and unity completely rule out every premillennial scheme. For this reason, it serves as a true bulwark of the classic Reformation eschatology.

A few words of introduction are in order.

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