Does God woo all to Himself or only the elect?

First of all, we must remember that Scripture clearly teaches both election and the free will of man.  I believe that God draws all people to Himself through general revelation.  Not all respond.  That’s the premise of Romans 1:18-20.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20 ESV)

Those who adhere to Calvinism call this the general call of God, just as they refer to Jesus’ whosoever claims as the general call of the Gospel.

Then, when dealing with Romans 8:29-30, they refer to this as the effectual call of God.  I borrow a quote from Wayne Grudem on this:

“This powerful act of God is often referred to as effective calling to distinguish it from the general gospel invitation that goes to all people and which some people reject. This is not to say that human gospel proclamation is not involved. In fact, God’s effective calling comes through the human preaching of the gospel, because Paul says, “To this he called you through our gospel so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:14). Of course, there are many who hear the general call of the gospel message and do not respond. But in some cases the gospel call is made so effective by the working of the Holy Spirit in people’s hearts that they do respond; we can say that they have received “effective calling.”

We may define effective calling as follows: Effective calling is an act of God the Father, speaking through the human proclamation of the gospel, in which he summons people to himself in such a way that they respond in saving faith. It is important that we not give the impression that people will be saved by the power of this call apart from their own willing response to the gospel. Although it is true that effective calling awakens and brings forth a response from us, we must always insist that this response still has to be a voluntary, willing response in which the individual person puts his or her trust in Christ.”

Does God call? Yes. Do we have a responsibility to answer God’s call? Yes. Our responsibility is not at all diminished by God’s sovereignty, and God’s sovereignty is not at all diminished by our responsibility.

To listen to Sunday’s related sermon (Evidence of Election), go to

Why You Matter to God (and others should matter to you)

Personhood.  It’s the idea that every human being is unique, individual, different…and yes, special.  Sunday’s sermon caught some people by surprise.  The surprise centered around this idea of personhood–why you as a human being matter.  C. S. Lewis touched on this when he said…

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people.

You have never talked to a mere mortal.

C. S. Lewis’ point is that every person you see today will live forever.  Some will so gloriously transformed by Christ, if we saw them now we would be tempted to worship them.  Others will be so wrecked by sin and dominated by Satan, that if we saw them now in Hell, we would run screaming in the other direction.

Why do you matter so much to God?

  1. You matter to God because you are created in his image.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  (Genesis 1:27)  We are image-bearers of God himself.  As a human being you have characteristics that differentiate you from the rest of creation.  You have the ability to reason.  You have the ability to relate with other people, to think and reflect and to act freely.
  2. You matter to God because God became a human being.  God’s plan for redemption necessarily included God becoming one of us.  God robed himself in human flesh, taking on all the temptations of man yet without sin.  (Hebrews 4:15)  Jesus’ best friend, John, had this to say about him, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.”  Erickson says, “Touch was thought by the Greeks to be the most basic and most reliable of the sense.”  John witnessed to the reality of Jesus’ human existence.
  3. You matter to God because God sent Jesus to die for you.  Jesus died to save you, a human being, from everlasting punishment in Hell and to everlasting life in Heaven.  Jesus’ death on the cross, as a human being for human beings, is God’s greatest display of his love for you.
  4. You matter to God because God raised Jesus from the dead.  God values you…and all of you.  Your mind, body and spirit matter to him.  On the cross, Jesus’ body was mangled almost beyond recognition.  Blood poured down his face.  His entrails were exposed where he was beaten.  His beard was pulled out in spots. His lips were swollen from dehydration.  His side was lacerated by the sword.  Why not start over?  Why resurrect that body?  Because Jesus’ body mattered to God.  Yours does too.
  5. You matter to God because your body is His temple (if you’re a born again believer).  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”  As a believer, you are God’s dwelling place.  You house the creator and the crucified one, the King who became the suffering servant.

You are created for eternity.  There are no ordinary people.  Your boss was created for eternity.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Your cranky neighbor was created for eternity.  All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

This forces us to answer two questions:

  • Where will you spend eternity?
  • How are you treating others around you God has prepared for eternity?

How could people marry within their own families in the Old Testament?

This question has puzzled many people.  Regarded as incest today (and also in the Bible!), it seems to have been ok early in Scripture.  As a matter of fact, some skeptics have regarded incest as a contradictory issue, since Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all married relatives and later in Leviticus 18:6-18, it is clearly prohibited.

I agree with Norm Geisler and Tom Howe in their view of incest.  At the beginning of the creation, Adam and Eve were created without genetic imperfections.  The result, then, of apparent incestuous relationships between Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Rachel, was no condemnation from God.  The prohibition came once many generations had passed and sexual relations between family members produced offspring that were adversely affected as a result of it.

I am convinced that the Bible’s apparent contradictions can be resolved with deeper study, or will be resolved eventually through archeological discovery.  God’s Word is trustworthy.

What does Mary Magdalene’s story have to do with me?

This is call an a fortiori argument—one from a greater point to a lesser point.  If Jesus can rid Mary Magdalene of her demons, then he can rid you of your sin problems.

If you were to interview people at Grace Community Church, you would discover former drug addicts, alcoholics, sex addicts, workaholics, arrogant, self-centered, egotistical people.  The one key difference in their lives is Jesus Christ.  You would discover people radically changed by Jesus Christ.

Whatever your problem is, it isn’t too big for God.  Mary Magdalene’s case proves that.

Hanging out with an unrepentant sinner

Question:  If a man continues in sin should we continue to be around him?

Answer:  If he is influencing you to do the sin he is committing, then get away!  No friendship is worth falling into sin.  If, on the other hand, you can be an influence in his life, hang tough.  Talk to him.  Pray for him.  God can use you as a truth-teller in his life.

How to respond to friends who are homosexual

Question:  I have several friends who are homosexuals.  I make it clear that I believe homosexuality is wrong but I also do not “judge” them for their belief or practices, but still love them as people.  Is there anything else I should be doing/saying in those relationships?

Answer:  You are right to stand on the beliefs of Scripture on the issue of homosexuality.  You are right to love your friends who practice this lifestyle.  My encouragement to you is to continue to love them.  Show them the love of Jesus Christ.  Let them see Jesus in you.  Do not look down on them.  Remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians:  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We have a tendency to take homosexuality and extrapolate it from the list of sins in 1 Corinthians 6.  Paul doesn’t.  God loves and saves everyone on that list!

False gods

Question:  Couldn’t your god also be your wife or girlfriend?

Answer:  Yes.  Anything good can become God when it becomes more important than God Himself.  Most of the gods we worship are harmless when in their proper place.  However, when they take control of our lives, when we live our lives according to the worship of them, that’s when they become god and must be surrendered to the Holy Spirit.

Why is homosexuality a sin and polygamy seemingly approved in Scripture?

Question:  Why is homosexuality an abomination, but Deuteronomy 21:15 talks about polygamy as though it is a perfectly accepted practice.

Answer:  Deuteronomy 21:15 reads, “If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him children, and if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved…”  This verse seems to give a tacit approval to polygamy.  Let me answer the question in two parts.  I believe homosexuality is disapproved (especially in light of Romans 1) because it is a reversal of God’s created order.

Regarding polygamy, I am copying Hank Hanegraaff’s answer for you.  It is from his website,

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one” (Matt. 19:4–6).2

Polygamy, the practice of one man having multiple wives, was common in antiquity. Though practiced in the Old Testament, polygamy was never God’s perfect plan.

First, the ideal pattern of monogamous marriage of one woman and one man was established early in Genesis: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (2:24). Moreover, this very passage was quoted by both Jesus and Paul in defense of the sacredness and exclusivity of monogamous marriage (Matt. 19:3–91 Cor. 6:15–17; cf.1 Cor. 7:2).

Furthermore, the Bible explicitly condemns the polygamy of Old Testament kings (Deut. 17:17). Likewise, New Testament elders and deacons are called to be “the husband of but one wife” (1 Tim. 3:212Titus 1:6). Just as the requirements for church leaders set the standards of morality and spiritual maturity for all believers, so too the admonition against polygamy for the kings of Israel demonstrates the danger of this practice for all.

Finally, God’s disdain for polygamy is seen in its consequences. The Old Testament clearly reveals the familial strife and temptations that accompany the practice. Solomon is the quintessential example of one whose legacy of faithfulness was compromised because of his polygamous behavior. Despite his world-renowned wisdom, Solomon’s peaceful and prosperous rule ended in idolatrous scandal and civil strife, for “his wives turned his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4).

For further study, see Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982).

— Hank Hanegraaff

Do our prayers aid/empower angels?

I think aid or empower are strong words.  I think our prayers to God can result in God sending angels to our aid.  I don’t know of any place in Scripture where we are instructed to pray on behalf of angels so that their work can be more fully accomplished.