John 3:18… Already Condemned?

Innocent until proven guilty.

That is one of our favorite clichés in the American system of justice.  Too bad it fits into the social media category #thingsjesusneversaid.

As in… there will be a judgement at the end of this age, the sinner will be on trial and considered innocent until the plethora of sins, misdeeds and crimes will be presented, and only then will he be judged and condemned.  Too bad that is not biblical.

In a twist that only a God who foreknows future events and who actually ordains them, John 3:18 reveals a shocking statement:

“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.”

Condemned already?

This verse poses two problems for the humanists who criticize biblical faith

1. It tells us that there is only one way to avoid eternal judgement.  There is only one way to avoid condemnation at the final judgement in front of the white throne: to believe in Jesus Christ now.  Such concept runs against the inclusivity of today’s modern humanistic thought.  The world hates us because we are an exclusive faith.  There are no multiple ways to heaven.  There is one Way and His name is Jesus Christ

2. Future condemnation is foreordained for those who do not believe.  How is it possible to condemn someone before his sins are even judged? They ask this question because they do not know God.  They do not acknowledge His infinite and timeless attributes.  At any point of our earthly time dimension, God knows all facts and events… past, present, future.  God reserves the right to condemn an unbeliever even before he commits sin. Understanding and believing such attributes makes sermons like “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” all the more effective.

 The message of the Gospel is best news for those who believe it and the worst news for those who do not.  Condemnation to hell, as abrasive as it sounds not only in the world, but even in lukewarm churches, must be part of any Gospel presentation.  Without it the Gospel is incomplete which makes the Gospel a false gospel.

Eternity has been sealed.  

Believers in Christ and His atoning work stand redeemed, and those who will not believe have already been condemned.

Delight in Truth: Most Viewed Posts and Pages

These have been the most read articles on Delight in Truth through January 22, 2013:

Rick Warren on Homosexuality: “not everything natural is good…”

What Would it Be Like to Hold Baby Jesus?


Perspective on Halloween

Theology 101: What is Double Predestination?

Mark Driscoll’s “Puff or Pass?” on Recreational Marijuana

Come, and you will enjoy… great “worship!”

Theology 101: What is Double Predestination?

A Presbyterian theologian has the following conversation with his colleague:

“You believe in the absolute sovereignty of God, correct?”

“Of course”

“And you believe everything exists and happens for His glory, correct?”

“Yes, I’m a 5-point Calvinist.”

“Then would you be willing to be dammed to reprobation for His glory?”

“…hmm, no”

This absurd and funny conversation embodies some difficulties presented by the doctrine of double predestination. In perhaps the best description of Calvinistic essence, John Calvin defined double predestination in the following statement:

“God preordained, for his own glory and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation.”

What this doctrine basically says is that before the foundations of the world were constructed, before time was created, in His eternal council, God decided that certain humans will be ordained for damnation due to sin while others will be ordained for salvation through grace despite their sin, and nothing will change this.

Everyone wants to know if this is really true. I honestly do not know. Theologians are split on whether God actually and actively predestines humans and angels for hell and each camp provides Scripture to support their position. Famous theologian JI Packer calls such difficult issues a “divine mystery” which may not be meant for us to figure out.

The problem is that extremely difficult questions rise connected to predestination when studying the Word of God in-depth. For example:

“If salvation is absolutely exclusive through faith in Jesus via hearing the Gospel, and it is, then is it possible for a person who lives and dies without access to the Gospel to be saved?”

“If no, and that appears to be the case, then was such a person destined for such an outcome?”

I will provide two passages from the book of Isaiah, the first makes Isaiah look like a double predestinarian, while the second appears to contradict this controversial doctrine. Both are in the context of Israel’s turning away from God:

63:17 “O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?

And God answers placing responsibility on Israel, highlighting His effort to save Israel, and lamenting over Israel:

65:1 “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me;
I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here am I, here am I,”
to a nation that was not called by my name.

2 I spread out my hands all the day
to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices;

3 a people who provoke me
to my face continually,
sacrificing in gardens
and making offerings on bricks;”

On the other hand, in Romans 9 Paul alludes to the real possibility that certain people are created for damnation (keep in mind that he prefaces with a “what if”):

22 “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”

However, in perhaps the most powerful passage appearing to contradict predestination to damnation, Jesus laments over those perishing in Jerusalem due to unbelief.

Why would He lament over the outcome of His eternal council if He predestined them to damnation?

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”

To attempt to understand this dichotomy would mean that we must understand the mind of God, and that is not possible. It is perfectly acceptable not to form a strong opinion or any opinion on the issue of double predestination.

Wherever one stands on this doctrine one must clearly understand that human responsibility is found on every page of the Bible regardless of predestination. Even if God predestines, man is 100% responsible.

I do not understand this antinomy so I resign to leave it in the realm of divine mystery.

Is Human Free Will Really Free?

Which pill will you swallow?

Which doctrine will you embrace?

The one which teaches that God is sovereign in all details including the deepest crevices of the human soul?  Or the teaching that human free will is ultimately responsible for our decision to follow Christ?

I would argue using the Bible that for believers, their freedom and free will is hidden in God’s sovereignty.  Paul tells Christians in Colossians 3:3: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  Discussing the “when” this happens is a matter of technicality… we know that from God’s perspective the past, present and future matter not.  From His point of view, which ultimately is the only point of view of importance, our choices, our decisions, and final outcomes are hidden with Christ in Him.

When it comes to free will, I believe that absolute human free will is not found on the pages of the Bible.  But interestingly, human responsibility is found on every page of the Bible.  If absolute free will were found in the Bible, then we would also find our ability to NOT sin.  If a man or woman had absolute freedom of choice, they should be able to choose to NOT sin!  But sadly this is not the case.

There is a multitude of biblical texts showing that while unregenerated by the Holy Spirit, we are enslaved to sin, captured and bound by our sinful nature, and the only freedom we have IS to sin.  Any attempt to rid ourselves of sin is unsustainable.  That is biblical truth.  Then how can anyone say that they have absolute free will?

I personally know people who live in sin and cannot stop sinning even though they know the depravity of their actions.  They know the truth to a large degree.  Paul tells us in Romans 1 that such people know the truth but they are suppressing it.   No matter how much these people want to give up sin in theoretical terms, they are unable to do it.  They do not have the absolute freedom to do it because they are not free.  They are chained.  Their will is not free at all.

What the children of God have is not an absolute free will but a will that is subordinate to God.  Paul teaches this in Philippians 2:13 “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  And the previous verse implicates the human responsibility: “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…”

Our free will is subordinate to God’s sovereignty while maintaining personal human responsibility.

So, the next time you think that your own freedom of choice lifted you out of sin and unto salvation, meditate on our incontestable inability to break the chain of sin on our own.

This is the mystery of all ages, the way God the Father draws his children unto Him through the work of God the Holy Spirit, all made possible by the death and resurrection of God the Son.  And to see that He found it appropriate to reveal to us this great mystery of salvation makes us stand in awe.

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At Christmas We Remember God’s Eternal Plan


The most profound, the most mysterious, the most wonderful plan ever conceived has to do with God’s intra-Trinitarian counsel to create and redeem humanity. The incarnation, death and resurrection of God Himself into the person of Jesus to save believers onto His glory is the center of this plan.

This mystery of human redemption is so great that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:12 that even angels “long to look” into this matter. These majestic, pure, and unfallen beings who live in the presence of God, long to observe the unraveling of this mystery, that is God’s redemptive plan for us.

Imagine the greatest movie ever produced, one that took many years to complete, the one with perfect ratings across the board, the one which everyone in the country awaits to see… That anticipation pales in comparison with the anticipation that heavenly creatures have in observing God’s redemption of humanity. That is why we, the subjects of this great salvation, must always keep in mind this eternal plan, especially when we celebrate Christ’s incarnation.

Before this world was corrupted by sin, before Satan and his angels fell, before the foundations of creation were laid, and before time became a dimension… in the greatest mystery ever conceived, God installed this plan of creation and redemption for His Glory. He knew that His beloved creation will fall and will need to be redeemed. In His omniscience, God foresaw this as revealed to the prophet Isaiah:

“The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.” (Isaiah 59:15-16)

It is a special treat for believers to get a glimpse into God’s counsel as we observe past tense language used in this verse for a future event! Past, present, future… these are human considerations… God is not bound by time, therefore His counsel stands eternal.

Consider what Paul writes:

“7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:7-12)

As the born-again believer is faced with this realization, he or she is overcome by an awesome desire to worship the Redeemer, to give Him the all glory, to thank Him and to serve Him.

Let us remember God’s mysterious and eternal plan for us as we celebrate His incarnation this Christmas.