Uiversal Kingdom Debate

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Part Two - Theological Debate of the Universal Kingdom

 

As we covered last week, there is one Kingdom of God but it is made up of two aspects, the Universal Kingdom and the Meditorial Kingdom. The Universal Kingdom refers to God’s sovereign rule over all that He has created whereas the Meditorial Kingdom has to do with God’s rule over the earth through His creation man. With this distinction made between these aspects of God’s Kingdom we can now explore what God has to tell us about His Kingdom. This week I want to spend some time looking at the Universal Kingdom and some of the theological controversy over how God rules His Kingdom. 

In dealing with God’s rule over His Universal Kingdom there are two areas of disagreement which seem to have a strong impact on modern Christians. We will try to express the various views and then respond to any areas that do not line up to the teaching of the Scriptures. 

Issue #1: Sovereignty vs. Free Will

The issue at hand has to do with what extent does God’s sovereignty play in the lives of His creation and does God allow angels and men any freedom to make any of their own decisions. This debate has been on going since the time of the Reformation if not well before and continues to this very day with no hope of a final solution. To understand this debate let us look at the two main views in this controversy. 1) 

a. Total Sovereignty: often called the Calvinism, this view believes that God being Creator is sovereignly in control of all things, events, and decisions. It believes that unsaved man has no free will because he is enslaved to sin, the world, and Satan (Eph. 2:1-3). Apart from the gracious work of the Holy Spirit that draws the unbeliever to the cross, there is no hope of Salvation. Once the believer is saved, the sovereignty of God will not allow him to be lost even if he falls into a period of sin but will chasten the believer to bring him back through repentance.

Before we go further, let it be known that there are many forms or stripes of Calvinism all with their own unique positions on the extent of God’s sovereignty. In the following discussion I intend to focus only on those who take Calvinism and it view on the Sovereignty of God to it farthest extent. 

The total sovereignty position focuses on God’s sovereignty to the complete exclusion of the free will of men. It is held that God controls everything including who will be saved and who will be damned. It is their belief that the “election” of God involved nothing on the part of the believer including his free will but is solely determined by what best fits God’s perfect will. This election predated Creation and in their view it determined those who would be saved and those who would not. In other words, if you are elected, you are guaranteed to be saved. If you are not elected there is no hope of you avoiding eternal punishment in hell. With this being the case, some have abandoned the work of evangelism and missions since all the elect will be saved whether they are evangelized or not. Since God is sovereignly calling all the shots, some go so far as to see God as the author of sin since He decreed for Satan, his angels, and mankind to sin. In essence He programmed them to sin therefore He created sin. When in college I had a room mate one semester who had come to this conclusion but did not want others to know lest he be expelled from school. 

The fallacy of this view can be shown by many arguments from Scriptures. For the sake of time let me cover just a few of them. 

i. Christ died for all men: it would make no sense if God elected a select group to be saved that He would have died for the sins of all men. The fact that that Christ dud die for all mankind indicates that God intended His salvation be made available to all men. Please note the next few verses that lend support to this.

2 Peter 2:1, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.”

1 John 2:2, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

1 Cor 15:21-23, “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. “ NKJV

Rom. 5:18, “Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life

1 Tim 2:4-5, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” NKJV

ii. God offers of Salvation to everyone: If God selected for only a special group to be saved He would not have offered salvation to everyone. If some one had to be elected in order to be saved, then God’s offer of salvation to all men would be a farce or a lie. Like promising water to a bunch of thirsty men but never intending to give it to but a few. Such an act is unthinkable of a righteous God. Therefore we must conclude that God’s offer of salvation is universal. It is available to whosoever is willing to receive it. This must involve the freedom of choice on the part of the recipient indicating that though God is sovereign, yet in His sovereignty He has chosen to give man some freedom of choice. If this were not true then our presentation of the gospel would be, “if you trust in Christ as Savior and are elect, you may be saved.” Note the following examples of the universal nature of God’s offer of salvation.

Jn 3:15-17, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” NKJV

Jn 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." NKJV

Ro 10:9-11, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." NKJV

iii.Sinfulness of God: to say that God in His sovereignty decides all things including all the actions of man, then we must draw the conclusion that God must be the author of sin. This of course is absurd for James 1:13 tells us that God can not be tempted to do evil nor does He tempt any one to sin. 1 John 2:16 indicates that the forces that drive men to sin are “not of the Father”. The conclusion we must draw is that sin is not the product of God but the product of His creation. Therefore men and angels must have freedom of choice in order to be held responsible for their sinful activities. If man is programmed to sin and has no choice in what he is doing then how can he be held responsible for the sins he has committed. It would be like building a robot and programming it to smash all the dishes in the kitchen. Do you punish the robot for doing what it was programmed to do? The damage is the responsibility of the one who programmed him. Likewise, if God programmed man to sin than God is the one responsible for sin.

iv. The Justice of God: If a man’s eternal destiny is determined solely by the election of God and he has no freedom of will or choice in the matter, then God has shown Himself to be an unjust God. If man’s destiny is determined by election rather than by his sinful choices, then he is sent to hell to suffer forever for doing things he had no control over. He is not at fault for being in hell, he had no say in that matter but he must suffer terribly just the same. All the time, the elect, who likewise had no say in their destiny, enjoy all the delights that heaven can provide. Both are sinners but by God’s decree one suffers while the other only knows happiness.

The only way that God could justly punish someone for an eternity is if that individual is responsible for his sins. Likewise, the only way that God could justly give life eternal to someone is if they freely took God up on His offer of salvation. Freedom of will is necessary if God is going to be a just God.

It should be clear from these examples that though God is sovereign over all things yet in that sovereignty He has chosen to allow angels and men to make their own decisions regarding many things. It is their decision to sin against God and their decision to reject God’s salvation that dooms them to hell. As Jesus stated, he came not to condemn the world but only to save it (John 3:17-18). He did not have to condemn the world for it had condemned itself by choosing to disobey God

b. The Freewill Side: often called the Armenianism, this view puts it emphasis on the free will of man rather than on the sovereignty of God. They see God dying for the sins of the whole world and that it is up to every individual to choose whether to accept or reject the free gift of salvation. However, without the inclusion of the sovereignty of God they go astray in their teachings as well.

i.Salvation requires baptism. It is their view that salvation can only be completed by the act of the individual submitting him/her self to water baptism. Apart from baptism a person’s salvation is not made complete and he will not make it to heaven. If Baptist was necessary for salvation why is not mentioned when the gospel is so frequently given. For example, John 3:16 says one only has to believe in order to be saved. Eph. 2:8-10 states that salvation is through faith not baptism.

ii. Salvation is not secure: Though a believer is saved by faith and baptism, yet he must hold on to his salvation by living as good a life as possible, keeping God’s commandments. If a Saint falls into sin and backslides, then he looses his salvation and is in danger of hell. He must repent of his sins and be saved all over again. However, election, as taught in the Scriptures, indicates that once a person has truly trusted in Christ for salvation, they are sealed by God to receive life everlasting. Yes they may fall into a time of sin, but God never lets them go. If one has any questions about this let them read Heb. 6:4-6. The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that if a person can be saved then loose his salvation, it is impossible for him to be saved again. To do so would be to put Christ on the cross a second time and thus put Him to open shame. Open Shame? Yes, because it would mean that when He said “it is finished” on the cross He was wrong. There would be additional sin committed that was not covered through His death on the cross.

c. The Biblical View: the view of the Scriptures is that God is sovereign over all of His Creation directing all that takes place to fulfill His perfect plan. However, in His sovereignty, He has chosen to give men and angels freedom at to obey or disobey His commandments and for men to chose either heaven or hell. How free will and election go together is beyond the ability of any man on this side of heaven to fully fathom. Like so many things about God, they are too great to fully be grasped by our fallen finite minds.

2) Issue #2: Sovereignty Absent: Deism is the belief that God created the earth and universal and all that dwells in them. Upon competition of His work God choose to step away from what would take place and is only a spectator to the events that have been shaped by angels, mankind, natural disasters, and other forces. God is therefore not actively involved in the matters of men and therefore is an impersonal God who really does not care what His Creations do nor is He interested in intervening on their behalf. The flaws to this view are as follows.

a. It denies the inspired inerrant testimony of the Word of God. Such a conclusion is necessitated by two factors. The first being that the Deist does not believes that God involves Himself in any supernatural way in the lives of His Creation. This would of course cover the supernatural revelation of God’s Word in written form. Therefore from the Deist view all religious scriptures are a product of man not God. All that we need to learn about God can be found in a study of nature and creation.

Secondly, the testimony of the Bible shows a God who is sovereignly involved every aspect of the history of man and loves man to the point that He made the ultimate sacrifice of dying on the cross so that man might be rescued from eternal damnation. Such a testimony of a sovereignly involved God is diametrically opposed to the Deist view of an uninvolved God.

b. This view denies the need for any faith or religion, the need for a Savior or a way of salvation. All religion is the product of human beings. It therefore denies the matter of sin and leaves mankind guessing as to what awaits him at death if anything. 

As a side note, this view is the key that separates the Creation position of origins from the Intelligent Design position. The Creationist and those who hold Intelligent Design both believe that there had to be a designer of the Universe. However, the Intelligent Design advocate does not believe that the designer is involved in the processes or the events that take place in that Creation. In other words, the Designer got things in motion and then stepped back and let things continue on. Something like a boy who winds up a top and sets it spinning. The top could not start spinning without the boy’s efforts however the boy does not know exactly how the top will perform or what it will do after it put into motion.

Also, it should be noted that in a time where Creationism is gaining a footing over evolution, there have been some “Christians” who have been lured by Deism to place the “revelation of nature” on a par equal or greater than God’s Word. Thus they accept the views of Secular science and seek to fit the Scriptures into agreement with it.

In summary, God’s sovereignty is in control of every aspect of His Kingdom. Though He is not the Author of sin nor does He ever tempt anyone to sin, yet He has permitted it to happen and has made a way of atonement for those who desire to put their faith in Christ. His sovereign election does not keep anyone from Heaven however it does keep the believer’s on the path of salvation regardless of what backsliding they may fall into. His sovereignty will ultimate foil the plan of Satan and sin and bring about a New Heavens and a New Earth.