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Archive for January, 2010

How Can I Know the [Personal] Will of God?

January 5, 2010 5 comments

Below is a letter I wrote  after hearing a sermon on “How Can I Know the Will of God?”

Dear Pastor,

Perhaps I’m too logical in my thinking or somewhat of a doubting Thomas and need to mull over new ideas for them to take root in my life.  Such is the case with your recent sermon, “How Can I Know the Will of God?”  Your message was very clear that God has a specific “plan” for each believer and that it’s the believer’s responsibility to find out what that specific plan is.

You referenced Prov 3:5-6, which in your translation says, “And He will direct your path.”  The NIV I have says, “And He will make your paths straight.”  To me, there are substantive differences in these translations and subsequent interpretations to be derived.  You said we shouldn’t depend on our own understanding and yet we also shouldn’t “deny our own smarts.”  And, more than once you said, “You’ve got to trust even when it doesn’t make sense.”  How can one ever have confidence to know they’re doing the will of God if they can’t be sure the decisions being made are what God would want done?  Specifically, you stated, “He will guide you [referring to any number of things including] career, marriage, dating, and college so long as He’s Lord of all.”  I regret that I didn’t hear how it is that we can know when it is that God is guiding us.  In addition, because I didn’t come to Christ until later in life, does that mean I might have married the wrong person, have the wrong job, bought the wrong house, am raising the wrong number of children, etc?  And that makes me wonder, does God also have a specific will for children and teenagers?

I recently found and a book in the church’s library, Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen.  He references three separate aspects of the will of God which include:

  1. The sovereign will of God
  2. The moral will of God
  3. The personal will of God.

From his definitions, it seemed evident that you were referring to the personal will of God in your sermon and to that end, I’d be interested in your take of instances where Paul appears to make decisions without any obvious indication of seeking the Lord’s will:

1 Thess 3:1

Phil 2:25

1 Cor 16:3-4

Acts 6:1-7

Acts 15:24-29

Friesen would say that Paul was exercising wisdom and that in non-moral areas where there isn’t a Biblical command or principle, we’re free (and responsible) to make decisions that we think are best.  Do you agree with this?  Are there other books you’ve found helpful in determining the personal will that God has for a believer?

Certainly throughout the Bible there are instances where God has led individuals.  However, it’s my sense that direct guidance was the exception and not the rule.  To that end, I’m asking if you think Friesen’s  conclusions regarding the “personal” will of God are correct:

  • In moral decisions, Christians are to live in obedience to the stated moral will of God.
  • And, in non-moral decisions, Christians are free and responsible to choose their own course of action.

Most Sincerely,

John 3:16 doesn’t say “whoever believes”?

January 2, 2010 9 comments

I was referred to this video for a Calvinist perspective that John 3:16 is more accurately interpreted “all who believe” instead of “whoever believes”.

After watching the video, I’m not so sure that John 3:16 is best translated “all who believe”.  I’m certainly not a linguist – and, for better or worse, have no interest in incorporating Greek or Hebrew into my own Bible study.  However, at some point we have to trust that those who put together the various translations we have at our disposal did so with honesty, integrity and a keen awareness of language and culture.  In doing a quick comparison of some versions, not one of them infer “all who believe”.

NIV – whoever believes

NASB – whoever believes

NLT – everyone who believes

KJ – whosoever believeth

NCV – whoever believes

ASV – whosoever believeth

ESV – whoever believes

Why is this?  How is it that so many biblical translators over the course of centuries have determined that the best wording or phrase for John 3:16 is ‘whoever’ and not ‘all who believe’?

Dr. White referred to John 6:44 as justification for an ‘all who believe’ interpretation for John 3:16.  From a non-Calvinist perspective, I admit to finding the wording in John 6:44 a little troubling.  Moreover, I can certainly understand Calvinist thought that due to being dead to sin, no one can bring himself to God unless God first gives His grace to whose whom he’s elected.  However, in John chapter six – a little before and a little after verse 44 (i.e. vs 40, 45, 47 & 51 in particular) it seems apparent that ANYONE who believes shall be saved.  Jesus makes no distinction as to the elect and the non-elect.  Wouldn’t this have been an opportune time for Jesus to explain TULIP?  But so far as I read here, he doesn’t.  John 6:25-59 is a discussion between Jesus and unbelieving Jews who happen to know of Jesus (vs 42) and who were struggling to understand how this “boy” they knew is now the messiah.  To that end, those unbelieving Jews were perhaps troubled with previous statements Jesus had made with regard to not having the love of God in their hearts (John 5:42).  Jesus continued in John 5:43 that [the Jews] did not accept [Christ].  I presume this to mean that many (but certainly not all) Jews had rejected Christ’s offer of forgiveness through faith and instead were holding on tight to the law for their justification.  Again, Jesus did not explain TULIP and tell the elect to rejoice and explain to the non-elect that their eternal destiny is sealed and too bad.  The overriding principle that I see from verses such as John 3:16 & 2 Pet 3:9 is that God indeed reaches out to everyone and desires that everyone be saved and no one to perish.  Yes, we’re dead in our sins and without Christ’s forgiveness – which must be individually received, we’re toast.  To their eternal peril, the majority of people have chosen to reject Christ.  And that’s the point – they have made a choice.  So, in the middle of all this is John 6:44 – no one comes to [Jesus] unless he’s “drawn” by God?  Again, I admit to finding this phrase a little troubling.  But could it be that there are some translational aspects involved in which a Greek to English translation doesn’t accurately convey the thought that the Holy Spirit is moving within people and works to bring about a desire to seek forgiveness of sins?  Hmmm, perhaps that concept is elsewhere in scripture?  Still, for the aforementioned reasons, I’m not convinced that John 3:16 states ‘all who believe’ and I don’t see that John 6:44 is as solid of a foundation for unconditional election as Calvinists would believe.