The Heart of the Matter Is a Matter of the Heart :: By David Cogburn

Wouldn’t it be nice if all born-again Christians thought the same things about what the Bible says vs. many differing from one another? Why is that? Since we are talking about “only” born-again believers, all of us “want” to know the truth, and since we all have the Holy Spirit in us, it seems obvious that we should all believe the same things, right? What causes the difference?

I hate to say it, but it is our sin nature. WHAT! WAIT! We don’t have a sin nature. We are born again, and all of our sins have been forgiven through Jesus paying the price for our sins – past, present and future. Yes and no. Yes, we have no sins through Jesus – SPIRITUALLY! But we STILL have sins PHYSICALLY! As long as we remain human beings, we will always have a sin nature. After becoming born again, our sin nature is now at war against our new “God-nature Holy Spirit in us.” Spiritual is “eternal,” and physical is temporary. Our desire is that our new God nature will win this battle big time in our sanctification walk with the Lord.

We all have our own biases, and it is the sin nature in us that can skew our beliefs to make many born-again believers differ from one another in what the Bible says and means. So, how do we know who is right and who is wrong? The easy answer is to research and study the Bible to see the truth, and if the truth is controversial, then it is a matter of comparing one’s beliefs to another’s beliefs to determine which side has the most “evidence” to hopefully reveal the truth. This process has been going on since the beginning, it seems.

An example of a controversial topic in the Bible is the rapture and when it occurs. Is it before the tribulation, in the middle of the tribulation, at the end, or somewhere else? We each have to determine for ourselves based on Biblical evidence that we consider the strongest to support our belief. Controversial topics are simply a debating match for the most part.

This article is going to deal with one of the largest controversies in the Bible – God’s sovereignty vs. our free will. It is Calvinism vs. Arminianism. Predestination vs. free will. The main emphasis behind these two beliefs is salvation. The “biggest” problem with the disagreement of this controversy is it makes the Bible WRONG by having an ERROR, and we KNOW the Word of God Bible has ZERO errors. The “true error” is what causes the so-called “error” in the first place. Let’s examine the so-called error between the two and then see if we can see an answer to support BOTH of them.

Let’s begin with Calvinism. What is it? Its basic belief is God’s will or sovereignty supersedes our free will, and God has already decided who will be saved and who won’t. This is referred to as predestination. They are saying that God has already decided who will be saved and who won’t. If that is true, then we don’t have free will – everyone who God rejects, He has rejected at birth, and there is nothing they can do with their supposed free will that will save them.

Arminianism is different in that it puts more emphasis on free will. “We” determine our salvation based on our free will, but we do recognize God’s sovereignty since God “is” sovereign over all things.

So, where is the so-called error in the Bible caused by these two different beliefs? Calvinists rely on the many verses in the Bible that say God is rejecting many people. Let’s look at a few:

1. John 6:37 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” This makes it appear God has chosen X number of people to come to Jesus, and those people had no say so concerning God’s decision.

2. John 6:65 “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” This is similar to number 1.

3. John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit that will last…” They get excited about this verse supporting their beliefs because Jesus is saying point blank, “You did not choose me, but I chose you,” etc. There is a plausible answer, though.

4. Acts 13:48 “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” This is another very strong verse that seems to be saying God is “choosing” who will be saved.

5. Gal 15-16 – this is Paul speaking: “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him to the Gentiles…” This is another verse where Paul is saying God set him apart or chose him from birth. 2 Thes 2:13 – again, Paul speaking: “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” This is, again, another verse showing God did the choosing of these believers. Let’s do one more. Eph 1:4 Paul speaking: “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us for adoption to Sonship through Jesus Christ in accordance with His pleasure and will…” Calvinists also get excited about this verse.

Now, let’s look at Arminianism. I will not put up Arminianism verses to counter each verse that supports Calvinism. You can do a Google search and find lots of articles that show debates over the meanings of Calvinist verses vs. Arminianism verses. I will mention a couple that will do the job, though. 2 Pet 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to us, not willing that any should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance.” Also, John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The controversy that causes a so-called error in the Bible is you have people saying there are verses in the Bible that show God chooses who will be saved and who won’t, and then you have verses in the Bible that say that God does not wish that ANY should perish and that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. I’m sorry, but you cannot have it both ways. It is impossible to say on one hand that it is God Himself who will do the choosing for salvation, and on the other hand, God saying that anyone who repents and chooses His Son will be saved.

So, what is the answer? How do we reconcile this to not be an error but something that supports both beliefs? Now, obviously, what I am about to say is MY OWN BELIEF as to how these might reconcile. I certainly know my belief, whether right or wrong, will not change anything, obviously, but I will share it anyway.

No way can I support Calvinism for one simple reason; it takes away our free will. That would mean that John 3:16 does not apply to us even though God’s word supposedly wants us to repent and embrace Jesus. God did not create us as robots. He wants us to LOVE, but you cannot love unless you have the “ability” NOT to love. That is called free will, and God would never take that away from us. It is our free will that brings Him joy and pleasure.

My own definition is this: God’s sovereignty is our FREE WILL under His control!

How did I end up marrying my wife? I met her at First Baptist Dallas Church in a Sunday school class. I used my own free will to decide to visit that Sunday school class many years ago. I decided to pursue her and date her and do all the things necessary for us to fall in love and get married. I did ALL of that with my “own free will.” Now, how does the “under God’s control” come into play? Even though I was “using my own free will” in all of this, God was orchestrating things behind the scenes to set everything up that would lead to us getting married. A few years ago, I wrote an article on RR entitled God’s Sovereignty Vs. Our Free Will that might help explain this a little more. Here is a link for those interested.

There is one more aspect I think is important to pay attention to when it comes to who ends up saved and who doesn’t. God obviously knows the future and who is going to be born and when they die, and if they ended up saved or not saved. God also is the only One who knows everyone’s HEART. What is the heart? It is our free will. It is our beliefs, our decisions. It is “why” we do everything that we do. It is what truly makes us who we are. This is how God knows who is sincere and who is not when they say the sinner’s prayer. The world can only look at what we say and do. Only God can look at WHY we say what we say and do what we do.

In the Bible, we see where God says that Jacob I loved and Esau I hated. God also says that He hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Why would He harden Pharaoh’s heart? Again, God, knowing the future, knows Pharaoh’s heart will never be drawn to Him; thus, He uses Pharaoh in a way to fulfill His plan. I would be surprised if God ever looked at anyone’s heart who, with their free will, would love to know Him and become His child and then to have God NOT save them. All of this is saying that God is searching for people who will fall in love with Him with their “free will,” and then He leads them in many different ways to become saved.

To me, the answer is “everyone’s heart.” When we see the Calvinist verses that show God is choosing, it’s based on their heart. When we see God using evil people to fulfill His plan, it’s based on their heart. Free will combined with the heart seems to support combining Calvinism and Arminianism together in a way that shows there are NO ERRORS in God’s word. Does this make sense? I hope so. It does to me.

Blessings and Maranatha,

David Cogburn