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Is God preventing people to be forgiven?

Discussion in 'LCMS / WELS / ELS / LCC' started by Ann77, Jul 4, 2020.

  1. Ann77

    Ann77 Member

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    I’m back again with another thread.

    I’ve been having difficulty with these passages for a while.

    John 12:40, KJV:
    He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

    Mark 4:12, KJV: "That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them."

    I know it’s a cross reference to Isaiah.. It seems like God is actively hardening hearts on a people that would’ve repented (?).

    If God wants all to be saved and He doesn’t delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23), why is He preventing repentance in these passages?

    Are these passages spoken in a sarcastic way? What’s everyone’s take on these difficult verses?
     
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  2. -57

    -57 Well-Known Member

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    People can't come to Jesus unless the Father allows it.

    John 6:65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

    That's how dead in our sins and trespasses we are.
     
  3. Ann77

    Ann77 Member

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    Yes, that is also my understanding. But I thought Lutheran’s believed God genuinely wants all to be saved.
     
  4. -57

    -57 Well-Known Member

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    My bad, I'm not lutheran.
     
  5. Ann77

    Ann77 Member

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    No, that’s fine. I’m thinking about posting this elsewhere to get more takes on this. I’m not sure the proper place to post this. I’m sort of new.
     
  6. Ann77

    Ann77 Member

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    BUT it almost seems like they weren’t too far gone to repent. Would these verses mean people can lose their salvation? I’m so confused :sleepy:
     
  7. -57

    -57 Well-Known Member

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    Once you're saved you are always saved.

    John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

    Romans 8:28 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
     
  8. Daniel9v9

    Daniel9v9

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    On the surface and taken out of context, it can certainly sound like God is arbitrarily denying salvation, but here we need to bear in mind the broader context.

    First of all, God is not denying anyone salvation - far from it! Christ died for all and the Gospel is for all. This is an objective and external reality, which is accepted through faith. God is our Saviour, but He is also the Judge, and all who reject His grace will be judged, because they reject the only means of salvation, which is Christ alone.

    The second thing we should bear in mind is the idea that someone is neutral or good, and somehow God is hardening their hearts, corrupting their morality, causing them to sin - this notion is false. No one is righteous before God, not even one. God does not tempt people to evil or bestow on them sin, but He can and does harden the hearts of those who are unrepentant, as just punishment for their sin.

    God is merciful and righteous at the same time, and these are not opposing qualities, but good, holy and loving. For God is good, and anything in opposition to God is in opposition to that which is good, which is to be evil. And for God to punish evil is in and of itself a good thing.

    Now, again, if we look at the context of these verses, it's sufficient to ask a simple question: Those with hardened hearts - did they believe in or trust in Jesus, or did they reject Him? You'll find that they rejected Him, which is why they're given over to sin, death and condemnation.
     
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  9. Tolworth John

    Tolworth John Well-Known Member Supporter

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    As Daniel has said in post 8. People are not naturally good nor are they neutral.
    Every living person hates God. They are sinners and reject all of God's love and mercy.
    So when God chooses to save someone he totally transforms them from a worshipper and follower of the devil into a worshipper and follower of himself.

    Look at it this way, on the judgement day Christians are those who say to God, " Your will be done. "
    While God will say to all non Christians, " Your will be done! "
     
  10. Ann77

    Ann77 Member

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    Thank you everyone I appreciate your incite. I don’t know why I keep struggling with this verse. My mind keeps thinking about the part “lest ye be forgiven” it seems like they weren’t that far gone. It doesn’t make sense to add that otherwise. But maybe they would have rejected further warnings (?). Because 2 Thess. implies this in one situation.

    2 Thessalonians 2:10-12
    And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

    And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

    That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
     
  11. Ann77

    Ann77 Member

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    I thought God only hardens you when there’s no hope. These verses made it appear they were capable of repenting...I’m not trying to ignore what you said. It was very helpful. I guess I’m still struggling with the phase “lest they be forgiven”. :persevere:
     
  12. Ann77

    Ann77 Member

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    This has somewhat helped me. It's from a Frederic Louis Godet, Commentary on John's Gospel. If any of you have the time, let me know if it's orthodox
     

    Attached Files:

  13. Daniel9v9

    Daniel9v9

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    Thank you for sharing! I think that would be one Calvinistic point of view. If I'm understanding Godet's position rightly, it is the idea that God is passing over certain sinners. It's perhaps not High Calvinism, but it's still a position the Lutheran Church rejects, for we hold that the Gospel is for all. That is, we reject the idea that the Gospel is truly accessible to the elect, but only has the form of accessibility to the unelect. Scriptures don't make that distinction and it goes against explicit texts that say that God wills for all to repent and believe.

    Again, I think the context is important for grasping the idea in these verses. Certain expressions and phrases can be obscure or challenging for a variety of reasons; depending on who's talking to who, the difference in culture or linguistics, and what the historical and theological context is. But let's break these verses down very simply:

    1. Isaiah is a prophecy about Christ. All of the OT is about Christ, but Isaiah is sometimes referred to as the 5th Gospel because it's so explicit in its Christology.

    2. Christ fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah. This is what the immediate context says and also what Christ in His own words claim.

    3. Key point in verses above: "When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him." Here we see that God is willing to save, but the people are unwilling. God does make the Gospel known and does show signs, but the people reject the salvific work of God.

    Now, bearing this in mind, as well as the teaching that comes before and after, which is about God's righteousness and the Gospel, talking about how Christ must be lifted up, and how He comes into the world to save sinners.

    Contrast all of this with what He says later: "If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead."

    This is all to say, the people claimed to know God and His Word. They had the outward appearance of righteousness and sincerity. They were devout in their religion. Yet, their religion proved false as they rejected God's Son. Christ is pointedly saying that (1) they don't know God, but they actually work against God. And (2) they will even reject His own resurrection, which they did.

    So in short, because of their rejection of God's grace, they are already condemned. Because outside of Christ, there is no salvation. Christ did show them many signs and wonders, but they did not believe, and their hearts were set on killing Him as servants of lawlessness. In summary, the teaching is simply this: "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
     
  14. Ann77

    Ann77 Member

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    Thank you for your help.
    It's funny that you should mention Luke 16:31. I was thinking about this verse and a debate with Dr. Bart Erhamn and Mike Licona. I think it went something like this..Licona asked Bart what if he saw a man (pardon the vulgarity) decapitated and resurrected three days after death, what would he think of that or call that. His reply was basically "Meh, strange things happen." Do you think on certain people, maybe the people that fall on stony soil, miracles can make the heart harder?

    Last question. I'm sorry I'm all over the place here. Do Lutheran's believe in Prevenient grace? I guess I don't understand how the gospel can truly be available to all. It says Jesus will not lose any the Father gives Him. That verse makes me think grace isn't truly available to all and some are going to hell no matter what. If that makes any sense.
     
  15. Daniel9v9

    Daniel9v9

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    Well, thank you for your reflections! These are great questions, and you've touched on a very large but interesting subject, but I'll try not to go on for too long. Please bear with me.

    Miracles - John gives us a very clear and concrete insight into the purposes of miracles. "Jesus, in the presence of his disciples, did many other miraculous signs that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." So, the purpose of miracles is certainly to point us to God's grace, namely Jesus Christ. But some will receive Christ and others not, which is why miracles can also indirectly serve as testimonies against the unbeliever, so that they are without excuse in being judged. The fault is not with God and His means of grace, but with the people who, through rebellion and sin, attempts to overthrow God.

    Prevenient grace - Scholars throughout Christendom understand this a little differently depending on their framework, but in short, yes, this is a Lutheran position. That is, based on verses such as 1 Corinthians 4:7, 2 Corinthians 3:5, Philippians 1:6, and Psalm 21:4, and along with Agustine's argument against the Pelagian heresy; salvation, from beginning to end, is entirely from God. We summarise this as Sola Gratia.

    I think perhaps what you're picking up on or feeling from your studies is a friction between rationalism and Scripture. What I mean by this is that the Calvinistic system and the Arminian system (Roman and Eastern Orthodox aside), are logical in their own right, but they have rationalistic tendencies. Basically, they're attempting to scientifically dissect or solve a holy mystery. In this respect, Lutheran and many Anglicans are a bit closer to Eastern Orthodox.

    Let me give you a few examples: We don't understand scientifically how Jesus walked on water, yet most Christians can agree on it and believe in it. It's not blind faith, but (1) an acknowledgement of our limited understanding, and a submission to God. (2) We know it's possible because God is almighty. And (3) It's not the how that is important, it's the why that matters; it's not how a miracle occurs that holds any value, but why it occurred - its purpose - which is to point us to Christ.

    The above is a very simple mystery, but the Bible is full of great and unsearchable mysteries. Consider the Trinity, or Jesus Christ who is fully man and fully God, or the depth of sin, or the cross! There is no logic or reason in the world to fully grasp these things. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12, now we know in part, but soon we will know in full.

    So, just because we cannot fully understand something, doesn't mean that it's false. It just means God and His ways are greater than us. The Bible gives us many paradoxes, again, like the Trinity, that we accept through faith, trusting in what God has revealed to us to be true, even if we can't entirely understand it. Salvation is another great mystery in Scripture. On one hand, Scriptures say that God died for all; Christ took upon Himself the sins of the whole world - not just a few; the Gospel is for all - not just a few; God wills all to repent and believe - not just a few. Yet, the Bible also teaches that many will perish. These are not contradictory statements.

    The Biblical teaching that Christ died for all, but not all will be saved is a doctrine that is prone to be mistreated through rationalism. The Calvinistic system (though inherited from Agustine) is a reaction against the rationalism of Rome, and Arminianism is a reaction against Calvin. They're all guilty of forcing the philosophical idea known as The Problem Of Evil upon Scripture, but the problem is that this philosophical idea is not compatible with Biblical thought. It doesn't apply, because that's not the framework Scripture operates in.

    The Lutheran position is sometimes called Crux Theologorum, which is essentially recognising that we cannot understand why some are saved but not others; it's a holy mystery, just as the Trinity is a holy mystery. We confine ourselves to proclaim what the Bible says: Salvation is from God, damnation is from man. This equation is good, true and unproblematic by virtue of God being greater than math.

    So, in a word, Christ did die for all and the Gospel is for all, but God's grace is resistible. There are those, by God's grace and the power and working of the Holy Spirit, believe in Jesus Christ. And there are those who, by their own evil will and works deny God's grace and resist the Holy Spirit.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2020
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  16. Ann77

    Ann77 Member

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    Thank you @Daniel9v9. I'm still stuck with my want to try and figure things out on this matter. I'll have to keep re-reading your posts to take it all in. I do think there are verses that are ingrored regarding God's offer for salvation to all within the Reformed camp. I'm highly sympathetic to many Lutheran views. But there are some things I disagree with. I guess I'm leaning in-between both camps.
     
  17. twin.spin

    twin.spin Trust the LORD and not on your own understanding

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    Ann77
    There several Scriptures that God says of himself that you need to keep in mind:
    Isaiah 55:8
    For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

    Romans 9:15
    For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

    Jesus makes the same point when he speaks of bringing people to repentance resulting in coming to faith ... it's done at the pleasure of God the Holy Spirit.

    John 3:8
    The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
    The best way I've been told from Lutheran theologians to reconcile what you're dealing with is this:

    The Godly mindset is to ask "why me?" instead of dwelling on "why not them?".
    The reason for such mindset is simple: God choose not to disclose the answer to "why not them?" ... he did however choose to disclose the answer to "why me?".
     
  18. twin.spin

    twin.spin Trust the LORD and not on your own understanding

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    Scripture teaches what Lutherans confess concerning the false teaching of OSAS:
    We state our position on this in This We Believe (IV, 9): “We reject the teaching that believers can never fall from faith (‘once saved, always saved’), because the Bible says it is possible for believers to fall from faith (1 Corinthians 10:12).”​

    In addition to the Bible verse listed, we could add Luke 8:13; Galatians 5:4; 1 Timothy 1:19; and, 2 Peter 3:17-18.​

    Those verses warn against self-confidence and the possibility of falling away from faith. We take those verses seriously. At the same time we cling to our God’s promise that he will guard and protect our faith to the end (John 10:28).​

    Once again this is something that human reason can't grasp Isaiah 55:8
     
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