We’re going through a difficult time in John’s side of the family. Out of respect for the family’s privacy, I will not share any details here. I may blog tomorrow, or I may take a week or two off. We’ll take one day at a time.
Please pray for John and his family as they go through this trial, and pray that I can support him well.
So often, in objection to the fact that the Lord has chosen to reveal Himself exclusively through the Bible in our age, many professing Christians have asked me the same question: Why would an infinite God limit Himself to a Book? Usually, the insinuation is that I’m attempting to limit God. Several times, it seeming as though my questioner wanted me to feel ashamed for my narrow expectations.
That question, regardless of the motives behind it, reminds me of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple:
But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! ~~2 Chronicles 6:18 (ESV)
Solomon recognized the absurdity of believing that the Creator of the heavens and the earth could physically reside in the comparatively miniscule structure that had just been built for Him. So it was a wonderous moment when God accepted the Temple as His place of prayer:
Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice.” ~~2 Chronicles 7:12 (ESV)
But then, the Lord’s willingness to inhabit Solomon’s Temple wasn’t the only time He voluntarily limited Himself. God also accepted the limitations of a human body, which He still inhabits in its resurrected state. Without ceasing to be infinite, He graciously condescends to limit Himself to our smallness. He sees our limitations, and lovingly adapts to them while continuing to retain a glory that we won’t be able to comprehend until He raises us up in our resurrection bodies.
Similarly, even though the Bible certainly doesn’t tell us everything there is to know about God, it gives us everything we need to know in this present time. He chooses to reveal Himself through Scripture, knowing that none of us will ever be able to fully plumb its depths, no matter how often or how carefully we read it. After my almost 47 years of reading it daily and studying it more than most professing Christians do, I’m only now beginning to understand what He is saying through it.
As a matter of fact, God’s Word supplies such an abundance of ways for us to know Who He is, how He sees things and what His will is, that we simply don’t need any further revelation. Consider, for example, the apostle Paul’s proclamation to Timothy:
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.~~2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)
People who accuse me of “limiting” God by my insistence on the sufficiency of Scripture often really mean that they don’t want the Bible to limit them. That’s essentially what I meant when I embraced things like Charismatic theology and “Christian” psychology. Of course, I wouldn’t have admitted as much back then, but in truth I actually did want alternatives to Scripture. I didn’t always like what I read in its pages. I wanted a “bigger” God Who would say what I wanted to hear.
Yes, God is greater than the Bible. I don’t think any of us can begin to comprehend His majesty or His magnitude. But we can appreciate His graciousness to give us Scripture, through which He provides enough revelation of Himself to occupy us until He takes us home.
Someone I love died angry. I’d witnessed to her, very imperfectly, over many years, always fearing that my unchristlike behavior nullified everything I’d told her about Jesus. Admittedly, I don’t really know what happened between her and the Lord during her final moments on earth, but every conversation I had with her showed a rejection of fundamental Biblical truth. So it haunts me to know that she died angry.
Sometimes I struggle with temptation to blame myself. I think I should have told her the Gospel more often and more accurately. I should have acted less hypocritically and demonstrated more of Christ’s love. Well, yes, I did fail in how I represented Christ, and I pray I’ll learn from my sins in witnessing to her.
But my blunders, as serious as they were, did not keep her from turning to Christ. And this very point leads me to resume my discussion on T.U.L.I.P. (or the five points of Calvinism) by introducing the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.
The doctrine of Irresistible Grace teaches that those whom God elects for salvation will not refuse His call. As with the doctrine of Unconditional Election, this teaches that regeneration is accomplished solely by God, adding only the nuance that His call is always effectual. In other words, mere human beings simply don’t have the ability to resist His sovereign decree appointing them to salvation.
I feel a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of explaining this doctrine (and therefore have procrastinated in writing this blog post) because so many Scriptures support it that I can hardly decide which to present. Obviously, I must obey the limitations of time, space and copyright laws when it comes to making a case from the Word of God, leaving me frustrated at the certainty of giving inadequate evidence. And yet, anyone who seriously wants to find Biblical affirmation of Irresistible Grace can easily Google it.
So today I’ll only introduce this doctrine by commenting on Jesus’ own remarks about how people come to Him. In thinking about Irresistible Grace, my mind instantly goes to His statement in John’s gospel:
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. ~~~John 6:44 (ESV)
Well, that little proclamation certainly squashes human pride! I mean, Jesus actually says here that we lack the ability to become Christians without the Father’s direct intervention. We can’t make our own decision whether or not to follow Christ, according to His own words. Yet, if the Father draws someone, Jesus promises to raise that person up.
Jesus strengthens the idea of election without our participation in His last discourse before His crucifixion:
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. ~~John 15:16 (ESV)
We love the part of this verse assuring us that the Father will give us whatever we ask in Jesus’ Name, but we can’t appropriate that promise without also appropriating the pronouncement that we did not choose Him. Again, that concept humbles us, taking away all possibility of congratulating ourselves for “accepting” Him. But it also highlights the implicit idea that, upon His choosing of us, we came.
My loved one, had the Lord elected her to salvation, could never have rejected Him. And perhaps, despite her anger that last day, something transpired between her and the Lord that I don’t know about. If that sweet lady was one of God’s elect, nothing could have prevented her from accepting His call. Not even her own will.
Can we really run out of reasons to praise the Lord? Although our selfish flesh might think so, His goodness, holiness and sovereignty can never be exhausted. But more than that, He is eternal and unchanging, and therefore able to bring us through all the fluctuations that affect us in the weaknesses of our flesh. I take great comfort in knowing that He won’t change, don’t you?
Today’s hymn highlights just a few reasons that we should praise the Lord, the King of heaven, particularly focusing on His eternal dependability. I pray that the lyrics, by helping you dwell on His unchanging strength and love, will encourage you to rest in His care for you.