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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Unconditional Election in John 10 - part 3
This picture always makes me giggle...If you haven't read it already, you should read the first and second posts in this series.

As I mention in the previous posts, Rose posted a wonderfully edifying devotional by J. Vernon McGee, on the text of John 10:27-29, and I made some comments in the comment section about how this same text not only preaches eternal security (which was the bread and butter of McGee's devotional), but also teaches what that eternal security rests upon, that being the unconditional election of God.

I entered some comments, and some of that conversation became substantial enough that I thought I ought to post it here, if for no other reason because it would be easier for me to find if I post it here.

Rose's suggestion that the "call" was not soteriological (wasn't the gospel call) struck me as worthy of a decent reply. I had to go back to the text myself to be sure that I wasn't simply trying to make the text say what I "wanted" to believe - but that I was in fact believing what the text said because that was what was found there.

My reply follows:
Rose, thanks for taking so much time to answer my comment.

I apologize for the length of my comment here, but I wanted to address your first comment as best I could.

You rightly identify the point of convergence in our understanding of this passage. Unless I misunderstand you, you believe Christ is calling people who are already believers to continue to follow him.

To put your mind at ease, I am not a covenantalist, neither in the extreme nor in the least. Which is not to suggest that I am dispensational either, frankly, I don't fit into any one box well. ;-)

I appreciate that newborn lambs become the property of the shepherd, and that the inherent procreative ability of the sheep can be seen as a means by which one can dismiss the interpretation that the shepherd's call to his sheep represents Christ's call to the gospel. But the question I would ask is whether the basis for that dismissal is warranted.

There are a few ways I could answer this. The most obvious would be to remind us that the metaphor Christ used was catered specifically to the immediate situation: Recall that Christ had healed the blind man who was thereafter cast out of the synagog. Upon finding him again Jesus explains a riddle to the healed man: that he has come into the world to open the eyes of the (physically) blind and to close the (spiritual) eyes of the sighted (c.f. John 9:30). Some of the Pharisees who happened to be with Jesus in the street heard this conversation and asked Jesus whether they were spiritually "blind" - and Christ explains that had they been victims of blindness they would have no sin, but because their continuing "blindness" required them to intentionally ignore what they were plainly seeing their sin remained.

John 10 begins in the middle of this conversation - where Christ figuratively expounds what He had just told the Pharisees who were with him and overheard the conversation.

He starts by vividly prefacing what he is about to say by emphasizing that it is the full and only truth in the matter ("Amen, amen, I say to you" - John 10:1a). Then he expands upon what he has just told them (you Pharisees having made yourselves intentionally blind, are not part of the true flock), by way of this parable, expounding both [1] their error, and [2] what is really true.

Now, as I said above, this is a specific parable, but I want to be unambiguous - the parable is directed specifically at both the false religion being taught by the Pharisees, and its consequences.

So we see in verses 10:1-2 the identification of "Who holds the truth" the false teachers have come into the flock, not through the only doorway - that being through a turning to God - but rather they have come in a false way - through a regiment of religious tradition that has been molded to look like a relationship with God, but is in fact a relationship with the traditions of man.

Recall that the purpose of the law was (and is) to teach people that they are sinners. The Pharisees however taught that the law could be kept, and invented workarounds, circumventions, and misinterpretations whereby they appeared to be keeping the law. This was (of course) spiritual poison because instead of humbling a man so that he would call out to God, their tradition exalted the man so that he believed himself to be righteous (recall the prayer of the Pharisee: God, I thank you that I am not like other men...")

So Christ begins by hitting the bases. Here is the false hope, and it comes from these false teachers who have come into flock through means other than coming to God in broken repentance (thieves and robbers). Here is the right Teacher of the flock, He comes through the door (that is, through God), the door keeper (God) opens the way to the flock to Him (Christ), and His sheep hear His voice, and He leads them out. (verses 10:1-3)

Now we ought not to lose sight of this fact - Christ is explaining to the Pharisees who overheard his conversation with the healed blind fellow why it is that they are blind (spiritually), and why it is that this formerly (physically) blind man now sees (both physically and spiritually).

In verses 4-5 He explains that He goes before His sheep, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. Christ notes that not all the sheep who hear his voice are going to follow Him; only the sheep that are of His flock are going to follow Him, and more than this - that these sheep who follow Him would not follow a stranger - this is to say that the very fact that the sheep are following the Shepherd demonstrates that they are His sheep, for they would not follow a stranger.

But the Pharisees with Him didn't get it (verse 6) so He spelled it out again, with a little more clarity - and we do well to note some of the finer points here...

In verse 7 Christ identifies himself as the only door of the sheep, in verse 8 He explains that His sheep didn't listen to the thieves and robbers (false teachers) who came before Him, and in verses 9 and 10 He identifies (in no uncertain terms) that what he has been talking about is the way of salvation - that the Pharisees do not have it, nor are the teaching men how to be saved, but that He has it, and that He is teaching men how to be saved, "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

He is contrasting the false teachers (Pharisees) and their false teaching (Pharisism) with the genuine Teacher (Himself) and a true teaching (the Gospel).

In verses 11-18 he again contrasts Himself with the Pharisees, this time showing that they are loveless and he is loving, that He is willing to die for the flock, but that they are only concerned about the "righteous" wages they imagine themselves to be earning through their imagined "righteous" shepherding of the flock.

In verse 22 and 23 we see a segue into another scene - Christ entering Solomon's porch in the temple, and being surrounded by Jews who want to know if He is the Christ or not. Christ's response to them is a continuation of this same metaphor. Perhaps John linked two separate but overlapping narratives together to logically link (and therefore emphasize) what was clearly the same teaching, or perhaps this scene is a continuation of the last, meaning that the former conversation took place as Christ was coming to the temple and John stops here to interject that now they had arrived at the temple and more people were joining into this same conversation. Whatever the case, it is no coincidence that these two passages are linked immediately together, and it is a not some empty speculation to suggest with some certainty that what is being discussed in verses 24 to 42 is a continuation of what was being discussed previously in the chapter.

We already know that Christ is talking about the gospel - he said that in verses 9 and 10, so when we begin to see the theme come up again, we understand that John isn't pulling a confusing switcheroo, but is still presenting the same gospel truths in the same figurative language.

In verse 24 the Jews ask Jesus plainly, are you the Christ?

Now, understand that they weren't asking because they believed He was the Christ, and wanted some sort of formal declaration so that they could commence worshipping Him. It is plain in verse 25 that these Jews did -not- believe that He was the Christ. That needs to sink in for us to understand why they asked the question. They weren't asking the question in order to decide whether to follow Him or not - they had already decided that He was not the Christ - they were asking for the sole purpose of having a justifiable reason to reject Him and His teachings "formally" - they were trying to get Him to admit to something that they could say was blasphemous.

His response in verses 26 and 27 is perfect - they did not believe that He was the Christ because they were not His sheep, that is why they did not "know" His voice.

Verse 28 reminds us that this was speaking of the gospel - had they "known" Christ's voice He would have given them eternal life. That is, had they responded to what Christ was teaching (recall that Christ's ministry was summed up as preaching "repent" and "believe" in the gospel) - had they responded to the message to repent and believe, they would have demonstrated that they were part of Christ's flock - but failing to do so they demonstrated that they were not part of Christ's flock.

In verse 29 Christ again re-emphasizes the fact that the Sheep are Christ's because God gave them to Christ, that is, Christ didn't purchase them, they were God's gift to Him, He came, as I said in a previous comment, to redeem those whom God had already given Him.

Also in verse 29, and especially in verse 30, Christ identifies Himself as the Son of God, and introduces the theological conundrum that He and God the Father are one - which gives those Jews the excuse they were looking for - but even in this Christ calls their attention to the works He had done - the very things that bear witness to the legitimacy of His claim - really, giving them even in that moment ample opportunity to rethink their theology, repent, and be saved.

But of course they don't want that - they want to stone Him, so He answers their charge in kind - showing that it is not blasphemous to call oneself God's child since scripture makes it plain that God himself calls us that, he quotes from Psalm 82, the first part of verse 6 "I said, "You are gods," - but the remainder of the verse says, "And all of you are sons of the Most High." Recall that the Jewish hymn book at the time was a psaltery - so that by quoting the first have of the verse, he left them to fill in the latter - never theless, they tried to stone him anyway - but he eluded their grasp.

That is how I see the passage.

Your understanding of the passage fails to convince me on the grounds that Christ himself in several places puts the passage into a soteriological framework. He is speaking specifically about whose teaching brings salvation - His or the Pharisees, and explains why it is that the Pharisees get it wrong - because they are not His sheep (v. 26), which is the same as saying because they have not been given to Christ by God (v.29).

I am not suggesting that Christ's discourse in this passage was intended to teach the Pharisees about UE. What I am saying is that Christ's answer to the Pharisees and Jews teaches UE.

It isn't the first place I would go in scripture to make the case for UE - (that is better demonstrated elsewhere - starting with Christ's coming to Paul on the road to Damascus) but it certainly illustrates the point if one understands the metaphor.

I should mention, the passage in John 8 where Christ refers to the Pharisees as being children of Satan (8:44) - that conversation took place in the treasury of the temple, and ended with those Pharisees picking up stones to stone Christ, and Christ left the temple through the midst of them (and therefore left that conversation c.f.John 8:59) to go and find the man whom he had healed.

The conversation that takes place after Christ finds the man He healed, is (presumably) overheard by different Pharisees, as I hope we will all agree. It would be difficult for me to accept, as you seem to suggest in a different comment, that these same Pharisees who picked up stones to stone Christ, and from whom Christ escaped by walking through their midst (c.f. John 8:59) - were in fact the same Pharisees we encounter in John 9 and 10. I say, it would strike me as rather remarkable that those who were crying for His blood moments ago, and whom He had presumably left behind at the temple - should suddenly be with Him wherever it was that he found the man whom he had formerly healed.

I think it is fair to say, all drama aside [ ;-) ], that those comments we find in John 8 are not to be understood as being contextually significant to the conversation in John 9 and 10 - certainly not (at least) in the way you seem to be inferring. I appreciate that it was 3:00 a.m. when we wrote this, I have four little ones myself, and I know all about sleep deprivation. ;-)

Let me know if this all makes sense. I appreciate this post because I had to go back and look at the text quite closely to make sure I wasn't messing up anywhere - and in doing so I had to put myself before the Lord, that is, I had to be willing to be wrong if what I was saying wasn't being borne out by the text. But I think I am being true to what the text says - which is my way of reminding you that I am not trying to "be right" - rather I am trying to rightly divide the word, and I am entirely open to having any errors on my part revealed - since I am not pursuing "being right" but rather I am pursuing what is truth.

I know your heart is the same, or I wouldn't bother commenting. ;-)

Labels: , ,

posted by Daniel @ 1:41 PM  
12 Comments:
  • At 10:45 AM, March 01, 2007, Blogger Craver VII said…

    That's an outrageous picture. I hope to find the time later to come back and read the text.

     
  • At 12:47 PM, March 01, 2007, Blogger Even So... said…

    I just want to let you know I did read every bit of this post...seems valid to me, the larger point is about Jesus claiming His truth versus the distorted doctrine...

     
  • At 5:58 PM, March 01, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    JD - I am glad someone read it ;-). It is one of those things where it seems obvious to both people involved in the conversation, but they have very different presumptions, so what seems obvious to both is quite different.

    My hope is, of course, that the truth comes out.

     
  • At 9:10 AM, March 02, 2007, Blogger Deviant Monk said…

    daniel-

    In verse 29 Christ again re-emphasizes the fact that the Sheep are Christ's because God gave them to Christ, that is, Christ didn't purchase them, they were God's gift to Him, He came, as I said in a previous comment, to redeem those whom God had already given Him.

    This peculiar interpretation demonstrates, as far as I can tell, that UE is your underlying hermeneutic for approaching the scriptures, or at least this passage in particular.

    Within the overarching teaching of the scriptures, God's 'gift' of the sheep to Christ is based upon Christ's redemptive work- for instance, in Hebrews, the writer ascribes Jesus' incarnation and suffering and death to bringing sons and daughters to glory, and that the authorship of their salvation was through Christ's suffering, not through God's eternal decree.

    Similarly, in the Servant Song in Isaiah, it speaks of how because the servant will suffer, he will see his offspring and justify many.

    So, in relation to John, the language Jesus employs seems to be less about some eternal decree of election, and more about the contrast between those who refuse to believe and those who choose to accept Jesus as the Son of God.

    He is speaking specifically about whose teaching brings salvation - His or the Pharisees, and explains why it is that the Pharisees get it wrong - because they are not His sheep (v. 26), which is the same as saying because they have not been given to Christ by God (v.29).

    Again, you are allowing UE to determine the import of Jesus' words here, by equating these two passages as you do. Actually, Jesus explain why they are not his sheep- he says that those who are the sheep listen to his voice and follow him. Obviously, the Pharisees were not living in such a
    posture towards Christ. You are trying to create a causal link between God 'giving' someone to Jesus and them following Jesus; however, Jesus is indicating that belief in Christ is the means by which one is part of the flock, not a unilateral giving in reference to an eternal decree of election.

    The whole metaphor of shepherd and sheep argues dramatically against understanding this in the light of UE. In the scriptures, the shepherd is seen as a caretaker- thus the kings of Israel (and other Near Eastern kingdoms) were known as the shepherds of the people. The religious leaders of the day were entrusted by God through their offices to be the shepherds of the people, but had failed in their task; Jesus derides them for this on a number of occasions- his denouncement of them heaping laws upon the people but not helping them comes to mind; also, his calling them blind guides. Thus, he contrasts them with himself as the true Shepherd- as God had given the sheep to the shepherds to care for them, but they had failed, so Christ now as the True Shepherd was entrusted with the sheep- whereas the religious leaders he likens to theives and robbers and hired hands; he is the one who will care for them and protect them and lay his life down for them; it is because of this sacrificial love, as I have already mentioned, that God gives him the sheep. Jesus' own words that follow illustrate this, as he shows that no one can snatch the sheep from his hand, because he is God.

    Also in verse 29, and especially in verse 30, Christ identifies Himself as the Son of God, and introduces the theological conundrum that He and God the Father are one - which gives those Jews the excuse they were looking for - but even in this Christ calls their attention to the works He had done - the very things that bear witness to the legitimacy of His claim - really, giving them even in that moment ample opportunity to rethink their theology, repent, and be saved.

    Except according to the framework of UE, this 'ample opportunity', since they were not elected by eternal decree to salvation, is essentially meaningless. I agree that he was giving them opportunity to repent; however, such an opportunity, to be genuine, must also be actual. As you have mentioned- they understood what Jesus what trying to say, but they refused to believe- that is why they weren't part of the sheep, not because they weren't given to Christ by the Father.

     
  • At 9:11 AM, March 02, 2007, Blogger Rose~ said…

    I read your comment here too, Daniel, that you left on my blog. It was so long, though, I had to print it out and look at it while I fed the baby. I think you are famous for long posts and comments now. :~) I haven't had a chance to comment back, but have been reading yours and Dawn's exchanges too.

    BTW, I do see that the Pharisees in the two instances weren't the same ones. I was stereotying (this is bad) and just thinking of their ilk. When I said something like, "these are the same poeple..." I just meant it in a broad sense, like, if you, Daniel, were talking to a couple of Catholic Cardinals and these Cardinals said that the Pope was the vicar of Christ ... and then you walked over to another small gathering of Catholic Cardinals and said, "You are the same people who just said that the Pope is the vicar of Christ."

    That is how I meant it when I was telling of Christ's description of "these people". I don't know if Jesus would have thought of them in that way, though. Thanks for calling me on it. He knew each individual heart and He had friends among them ... like Nicodemus and Joseph. But - correct me if I am wrong - were not both groups of Pharisees in those two locations you mention ... against Him?

     
  • At 9:21 AM, March 02, 2007, Blogger Rose~ said…

    I wonder if any of your friends would come on over and read what I said to you in my comment before you replied with this comment that you posted here on your blog. My main jist ==was not== that the call wasn't soteriological.

    This was my main problem, my main jist:
    Why must this verse be taken to be such a blanket statement ... reaching past it's immediate context and audience in such an all-encompassing way?

    This was a particular group - the Pharisees and they were "visited" in a particular way - the very Son of God stood before them.

     
  • At 12:34 PM, March 03, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    DM - you are correct in saying that I come to this verse with an UE hermeneutic; in that scripture elsewhere teaches me that the election has nothing to do with my effort or persuasion, but that God Himself persuades me out of rebellion and into light - even when I was yet a sinner and rebel - and not because I have taken the initiative. So when I come to see this text it isn't that I am saying the primary teaching is UE, and I think if I have made that suggestion or implied that I stand in error - for this is not the primary teaching, the teaching that is primary in this parable is about Christ being the true Shepherd, and the Pharisees being the false.

    I believe however, that since scripture teaches UE elsewhere, that it can be seen here just as plainly, and identifying and discussing that was what drew me into this discussion. I see election here, and I see election everywhere - and I see that man does not force God to elect him by doing the right works that will bring about God having elected him in the past.

    Sovereignty is, after all, an all or nothing thing - you are either entirely in control, or you are only partially in control - and God's control is not partial but absolute - declaring the end from the beginning, and it is my prerogative to believe that this includes everything in between.

    I appreciate your comments, and not in the standard "I am a good Christian ergo I must act it" kind of way - I mean I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to this. God bless you for that.

     
  • At 12:58 PM, March 03, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    Rose, I hope people follow your link - what good is one side of a conversation? My great fear in blogging, and it is more accute as time progresses, is the idea of having "fans" who high-five anything and everything I say just because they have grown to like me, or because they have agreed in the past with some of the things I have said, or because we all wear the same brand of shoes.

    I don't want fans - I want to point people to the same God who gives me joy daily, who loves me with a real, tangible, incomprehensible love - a love that makes my doing His will a real (i.e. not feigned) joy; a love that is the fountain from which all my service springs.

    What good is my Christianity if all it ends up being is an air tight argument to me so that I parade it around for those who admire the beauty of the same argument? The only theological opinion that impresses me is the one that produces a deeper walk with Christ - the one that produces genuine love in me so that my service is not in the flesh, but in love - so that I never have to work at my faith, but it becomes a river of life flowing out of me, and not some trickle that I have to pump like a fiend to produce.

    So I really couldn't care less if people read my position and say it is right or say it is wrong, on the last day God isn't going to praise me because of my "good theology" - but if I bring a soul or two to a closer walk with God, then I will have the sort of praise I can relish in. If I had a choice between hearing God say that I was [1] a "theologically accurate blogger", or [2] a "good and faithful servant" - I hope my choice would be obvious.

    Which is my characteristically long winded way of saying, I highly esteem your blog and the work you do there, and my encouragement is to read your blog is demonstrated in the fact that I have linked to you consistently in my blogroll for almost as long as you have been blogging there. That is, I value what the Lord is doing in your life, and I point others there to see it too.

    So I not only hope others are following the conversation, I hope they look around too. You have a lot to add, and it would be sad for people to miss out on that.

     
  • At 9:49 PM, March 04, 2007, Blogger Deviant Monk said…

    Daniel-

    I believe however, that since scripture teaches UE elsewhere, that it can be seen here just as plainly, and identifying and discussing that was what drew me into this discussion.

    I obviously would disagree with this assessment of what the scriptures teach about election, and I would say that the synergistic nature of salvation is fairly evident here.

    I see election here, and I see election everywhere - and I see that man does not force God to elect him by doing the right works that will bring about God having elected him in the past.

    I think you are perhaps going a little too far in making election synonymous with an understanding of election predicated upon the philosophical underpinnings of UE. I can't think of any orthodox conception of election that would advocate that God's election is predicated upon right works that are performed; rather, traditional Christian teaching has been that God has initiated the act of salvation, and that humanity must freely respond in faith.

    Sovereignty is, after all, an all or nothing thing - you are either entirely in control, or you are only partially in control - and God's control is not partial but absolute - declaring the end from the beginning, and it is my prerogative to believe that this includes everything in between.

    Perhaps sovereignty is an all or nothing thing- but only if you approach the concept of God's power from that of materialistic perspective. Meaning, of course, that's God's power is not synonymous with how we materially perceive power; that is, we see it as limited in supply, and to have some power means someone else cannot have access to that power. However, to perceive God's sovereignty in this way merely makes God the superlative of all that exists, and ceases to be able to make a meaningful distinction, at least in this regard, between God and the created order.

    If God declares the end from the beginning, and is absolute in control of everything, would you go as far to include sin in that, since at least the phenomenological
    manifestations of sin would have to be included?

    Thanks for the discussion.

     
  • At 8:27 PM, March 06, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    DM - I am sure I go too far, and probably more often than I should. And yet, I try to go no further than the light I am given. ;-)

    It seems quite impossible for a sovereign God to be surprized by sin - since he ordained that Christ would save me from it before the world was ever made, and before sin ever existed.

     
  • At 10:28 PM, March 06, 2007, Blogger Deviant Monk said…

    It seems quite impossible for a sovereign God to be surprized by sin - since he ordained that Christ would save me from it before the world was ever made, and before sin ever existed.

    Sin ever existed? Are you applying the category of a substantive existence to sin? If so, you are essentially stating that sin would have to find its derivation from God. That seems a little curious.

     
  • At 7:46 AM, March 07, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    Are you applying the category of a substantive existence to sin?

    No. My honest assumption was that you would understand this without my having to spell it out.

    Sin is an absence of obedience, and as an "absence" it is not "part of" God's creation.

    However creation -was- created in such a way as to not merely anticipate this absence, but that this absence would be the very root that manifests God's glory.

     
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