John the Baptist, Jesus and judgement in Luke 3


The gospel lectionary reading for the First Sunday of Epiphany/the Baptism of Christ in this Year C is Luke 3.15–17, 21–22. We have recently been exploring Luke 3 during Advent, having read the first six verses of this chapter with the announcement of John the Baptist’s ministry in Advent 2, and the detail of his preaching in Advent 3.

Since we have just been celebrating Jesus’ birth, and his baptism happened as an adult, this is one of the odd moments where the lectionary year rather telescopes Jesus’ life and makes him a fast developer! I think the selection of the reading is very odd, not so much in cutting out Luke’s interpolation of Herod’s opposition to John (which the other Synoptics place elsewhere) but because of the way it truncates John’s teaching as the context for Jesus’ baptism. It is as if we can think of Jesus’ baptism in isolation from the ministry and teaching of the one who baptised him—which we can’t. (Here again, James Cary’s plea that we read longer passages of Scripture has purchase. This Sunday, consider doing something more sensible than the lectionary and read a long extract from Luke 3!)

The short account of Jesus’ baptism is very similar in the three Synoptics. (Interestingly, John 1.29–34 agrees with the Synoptic accounts at key points—but fails to mention that the Spirit descending on Jesus was actually at his baptism. It is almost as if John assumes we have already read one of the other gospels, perhaps Mark.) But there is one point where Mark’s account seems to be ambiguous, and Matthew and Luke clarify it in different ways. Mark 1.10 explains that the Spirit came down on him ‘when he came up out of the water’, and popular imagery pictures Jesus surfacing from full immersion, but still standing in the river, as this happens. Matthew 3.16 corrects this impression: after his baptism, ‘Jesus went up immediately from the water’ which can only mean that he has climbed out of the river. And Luke 3.21 makes the same thing clear in another way: ‘when Jesus had been baptised and was praying’, including his distinctive and customary emphasis on prayer. But Luke doesn’t include Matthew’s highlighting of the incongruence of Jesus’ baptism in his conversation between Jesus and John (Matt 3.14–15); instead, he emphasises the role of the Spirit. When Jesus goes into the desert after his baptism, he is ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ (Luke 4.1) though this on its own is not enough to equip him for ministry. On his return from the strenuous demands of the testing in the wilderness, he returns to Galilee ‘in the power of the Spirit’ (Luke 4.14), both Spirit references being unique to Luke.


But when I was reading this passage, the thing that leapt out of the page came several verses earlier, in John’s description of the one who was to come after him:

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah.  John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them. (Luke 3.15–18)

There are several significant images of eschatological judgement here. First, the promise of the Holy Spirit being poured out (‘baptism’ means being immersed in or overwhelmed by) is connect with ‘the last days’ in Joel 2.28. Although we might naturally associate ‘fire’ with the tongues of flame at Pentecost in Acts 2, but in fact it is an image of judgement, as the phrase ‘unquenchable fire’ makes clear. (Two interesting things to note here. First, the Greek term is asbestos from which we get, well, asbestos! Second, fire is primarily an image of destruction, not torment.) John seems to expect Jesus to be one who will bring the judgement of God to his people and to the wider world.

Mark’s account of John’s preaching and ministry is very brief, but in Luke and Matthew the writers both make strong links between John and Jesus—Matthew even recording John as preaching ‘Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand’ (Matt 3.2), and an exact parallel with his account of the preaching of Jesus (Matt 4.17). But at the same time, Luke and Matthew (with John 1) also include clear differentiation: John’s ministry is preparatory; Jesus is greater than him; he is not worthy; and his baptism foreshadows a more powerful experience. Jesus confirms this differentiation in his own teaching:

I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than him. (Luke 7.28 = Matt 11.11)

Whilst John anticipates the coming of the kingdom of God and the eschatological gift of the Spirit, in Jesus and his ministry the kingdom has come and the Spirit is (after Jesus’ ascension) outpoured. This is the moment of the turning of the ages.


Luke’s account of John’s ministry is longer than Matthew’s, and has some distinctive emphases. (This is evident if you look at a Synopsis, such as Throckmorton; you can also see the texts in parallel in an online synopsis such as the one hosted by the University of Toronto, though the layout does not make the differences quite so evident.) He includes John’s specific commands clarifying what repentance looks like in response to three sets of questions, from the multitude, from tax collectors and from soldiers. Once more we see a Lukan focus—that the ‘good news’ includes those who might be considered beyond the pale, as well as those who are more respectable. (I am intrigued to note that Matthew’s mention of the ‘Pharisees and Sadducees’ in Matt 3.7 becomes for Luke 3.7 a much more general ‘multitude’. See the later explanation in Luke 7.30.) The inclusion of the hated toll collectors finds fullest expression in Luke’s unique account of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus in Luke 19.1–9, forming a contrasting pair with the encounter with the ‘rich young ruler’ in the previous chapter. The soldiers need not necessarily have been Gentile Roman soldiers, but could easily be Jews serving with Herod’s forces. This good news is indeed inclusive: all face the coming judgement of God, and all without exception need to repent. This good news comes as a gift, but demands a response; the phrase ‘What shall we do?’ occurs regularly in Luke and Acts (Luke 10.25, 18.18, Acts 2.37, 16.30 and 22.10). And the ‘fruit’ of repentance does not consist of nice personal qualities but (as all through the New Testament) specific ethical actions of obedience to God’s commands. The connection between judgement and repentance is made clear by Luke as he sandwiches this teaching on repentance between the two warnings of judgement in verses 7 to 9 and verses 15 to 18.

But was John right to see Jesus as eschatological judge? He first talks of God’s judgement in terms of the axe at the tree (note the parallel in Luke 3.7 with John 15.6). But then he talks of Jesus as the one who executes this judgement. The winnowing fork is used to thrown harvesting grown in the air, so that the wind blows the chaff away and the heavier, valuable grain falls to the ground to be collected. It is not clear whether John sees Jesus as actually doing this sorting himself, since he has the winnowing fork ‘in his hand’ and on the metaphorical threshing floor wheat and chaff have already been separated—so perhaps Jesus will pronounce judgement over the separation that John’s ministry has already brought about. But, as the gospel unfolds, does Jesus fulfil what John anticipates?


There are two pointers to suggest that he doesn’t. The first is his ‘sermon’ at Nazareth, the so-called ‘Nazareth manifesto’. In Luke 4.16–19 Jesus reads from Is 61.1–2, but it is striking that Jesus (or Luke) omits the final phrase of the Isaiah passage ‘and the day of vengeance of our God’ suggesting that judgment has given way to mercy. The second pointer is John’s own puzzlement about Jesus’ ministry, expressed in a message sent from his captivity (which the lectionary cuts out of Sunday’s reading!) which contrasts strongly with the confidence we find in this passage: ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ (Luke 7.20). Jesus’ answer focusses entirely on the things he has mentioned at Nazareth about healing and restoration and again makes no mention of judgement.

But in contrast to that, there is other very clear language of judgement on the lips of Jesus. Luke gives this a sharp edge in his (again unique) account of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem in Luke 19.41–44:

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come on you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Rather awkwardly (for us as readers), Jesus is here connecting directly the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans with judgement by God for not recognising Jesus’ arrival as the presence of God himself visiting his people.

Secondly, Jesus himself talks about the division that he will bring, and makes mention of the fire of judgement that John has talked about:

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother–in–law against daughter–in–law and daughter–in–law against mother–in–law.” (Luke 12.49–53).

John is right about judgement and Jesus, with two important qualifications. The first is that this judgement is postponed—in the case of Israel until the destruction of the temple in 70AD, and in case of all humanity until the return of Jesus as judge at the end of the age. And the second qualification is that the basis of judgement shifts; for John it is avoided by repentance, baptism and the fruit of that change in tangible change of life. In Jesus’ teaching this is taken up into the question of decision about following him: judgement is no longer on the basis of being part of the ethnic Jewish people of God; nor on the basis of whether we change and begin to obey God’s just commandments; but it is now on the basis of being incorporated into the renewed people of God by accepting Jesus as Lord, and living a new life of holiness empowered by the Spirit. And all this is possible only because of Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection for us.


This is confirmed by the imagery in the brief language of the baptism of Jesus itself. In Mark’s account, the focus is on Jesus’ experience: he saw heaven opened and the Spirit descending, and the divine voice addresses him. Here in Luke, the divine voice is addressed to Jesus, but the opening of heaven and descent of the Spirit ‘bodily’ appears to be a public event. Matthew’s account leans more to Luke than Mark; we are to ‘behold’ the sudden opening of the heavens, and the divine voice affirms Jesus to the crowd. The splitting open of the heavens alludes to the longing expressed in Isaiah 64.1, that God would come down and rescue his people, vanquishing their enemies, and the opened heavens are an apocalyptic sign of God’s revelation in both Ezekiel and Revelation. The sending of the Spirit is an eschatological act in Joel 2.32 brought to completion in Acts 2.

The language of ‘my son, my beloved, in whom I delight’ take us back to at least two significant OT passages. The first is Gen 22.2, where God calls Abraham to offer his ‘son, whom you love’ as a sacrifice; the end of that narrative is the fulfilment of Abraham’s claim that ‘God will provide the sacrifice’. The second is the Servant Song in Is 42.1, where God’s servant ‘in whom I delight’ will be anointed with God’s Spirit, will bring justice to the nations, and has been called ‘in righteousness’ (Is 42.6).

But the whole episode suggests a range of other OT passages as well, some more strongly signalled than others. The combination of a dove and the Spirit over the water reminds us of the beginning of creation, when the Spirit of God broods over the chaotic deep. Do we have here a suggestion that Jesus is the one who brings the new creation (2 Cor 5.17?)

A dove also comes across the water in the account of Noah and the flood in Genesis 6–9. Noah’s father believed that Noah would bring people ‘rest’ and relief from the curse of sin (Gen 5.29), and he leads a faithful remnant, rescuing them from the judgement of God on the sin of the world after the ‘heavens were opened’ (Gen 7.11). Could Jesus be the one to rescue us from judgement, and give us true rest (Heb 4.1–11)?

Ezekiel (Ezek 1.1, 2.2) stands by a river, sees heaven opened, and receives a vision of God in which he is commissioned for is prophetic ministry promising God’s people a return from exile. Is Jesus the one who will finally bring his people home?

And as we have seen, passing through the waters of the Jordan was a key moment in the saga of God’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt, when they finally completed their journey and entered the promised land (Joshua 3–4). Is Jesus (his name being the Greek version of Joshua) the one who will finally deliver God’s people from all their slavery to sin, and complete the promise of God’s deliverance?

As the gospel unfolds, we discover that the answer to all these questions is ‘Yes’—Jesus really is the one who was to come to liberate his people, and not just them, but the whole world.


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62 thoughts on “John the Baptist, Jesus and judgement in Luke 3”

  1. Thanks Ian.

    To reduce bigger themes to the more mundane… baptism here shows all the signs of being by immersion.

    And, I feel your commitment to annihilationism which I would love to believe doesn’t face up to the verses about eternal torment that are associated with the fire Rev 14:9-11

    Reply
    • Three months ago my wife and I moved to a new place in the country. There were (and are) a number of trees which needed to come down and willow hedges to be cut back. Although some timber can be used, the fate of a lot of the branches etc. is to be burnt on a bonfire. If you get a good bonfire going it is remarkable how the next day only the little round the edge of the fire remains. All the rest has been consumed and turned to ash. There was a bonfire going this afternoon despite the rain. If it is burning well the fire is unquenchable as the wood is consumed and more is added to receive the same fate.

      I think that those hearing John would have the same experience of fire – perhaps more so in a dryer climate. It burns up, it consumes, it destroys. (What is exceptional and remarkable is fire that does not consume.)

      Whatever other passages might say, it seems clear to me that the words of John imply destruction.

      Reply
      • You need to deal with the explicit mention of eternal torment. Analogies can be pressed in directions the writer does not intend.

        Reply
        • I am struggling to find a reference to eternal torment in Luke 3, which is the passage in question. The verb κατακαίω in Lk 3:17 seems to mean ‘to burn up’ or ‘to consume’, and the LXX of Ex 3:2 has of the bush that it οὐ κατεκαίετο. Fire is an image of destruction.

          Reply
          • As I’m sure you know David, I was responding to Ian’s point that fire was an image of destruction not torment. I pointed out that fire is associated with torment in Revelation not to mention Lk 16. I am not challenging the image of destruction simply the desire to erase ‘torment’ from it which Scripture clearly includes.

            I do not relish the notion of eternal torment, I’m far too much the child of the last 70 or so years to do that. However, I do not think Scripture permits us the indulgence of annihilation.

    • Phil Almond brought up these verses a few weeks ago. The ‘wrath’ in question, like the calamity experienced by the Jews in AD 70, is temporal judgement. It is important to distinguish between that and judgement after death (Rev 20:12). The ‘torment’ is real, but it is for the limited time of that wrath, culminating in the Day of the Lord. The fire relates to the physical burning up of Babylon the Great (in my opinion, the towns and cities of this present civilization) and the sulphur relates to the volcanism that brings darkness on the earth (Rev 16:10). The smoke comes from both. ‘Forever and ever’ is hyperbole (cf 14:20) and needs to be understood in relation to other instances of ‘eternal’, which do not mean literally forever and ever. Ultimately the fate of the reprobate is destruction/extinction, and on that point I agree with David.

      Reply
      • The wrath in Rev 14 is not merely temporal wrath. Fire and sulphur relates too closely to the lake of fire which is associated with endless torment (20:10,15, 21:8). There is no reason to assume the language is hyperbole and more than that which describes eternal bliss is hyperbole. Rather John’s point is the terrible fate that awaits whose who worship the beast. I think you’re making plain language say something other than it does.. I accept of course it is a vision and imagery. However, there is no good reason I can see to think the image is more extreme than the reality it describes. I’m not so sure that blood as high as a horses bride is hyperbole. It is metaphor describing the judgement of the whole of humanity. I doubt if images could be too extreme.

        I see no indication of annihilation of the wicked in Reveelation the ungodly continue to exist but outside of all that is blessed (Rev 22:15).

        Reply
        • To suppose that God gives some human beings 70 years of life, after which they die, and then he brings them back to life to torment them in fire and sulphur forever and ever is to turn God into the Devil. This does not accord with any concept of justice that I recognise. It also makes a nonsense of the vicarious justice meted out on the cross: Christ would have had to hang on the cross forever and ever if eternal torment had been the punishment awaiting the wicked.

          This is another instance of my contention 4 days ago that Trinitarian Christians hardly know God at all.

          Reply
          • I agree with you on the final destruction of the ‘unsaved’ yet I am a Trinitarian Christian. The leading British Evangelical teacher, John Stott, believed the same. Go figure.

          • Steven

            You often insist that Scripture is the authority. Rightly so. Here you are falling back on a notion of natural justice. One sin of defiance against God has visited upon our world the most awful suffering. We cannot compute the merit of one act of defiance. But then, it is not one act of defiance, it is a lifetime of defiance, indeed for those who do not repent an eternity of defiance… let him that is filthy be filthy still.

            Your logic about the cross is equally suspect. Sin-bearing accomplished or the elect in three hours is not solved by positing eventual annihilation. Tied into the satisfaction of the cross seems to be the glory that such obedience brought to God but that is a different matter.

            By the way, a number of trinitarian shows clearly agree with you. The fault can’t be intrinsic to trinitarianism.

          • To suppose that God gives some human beings 70 years of life, after which they die, and then he brings them back to life

            See the issue here is what ‘brings them back to life’ means. It can’t mean ‘recreates a replica of them out of nothing’ because, well, a replica of me, even one accurate down to the tiniest detail, isn’t me. So for God to be able to bring me back to life, the ‘me’ that comes back must have continuity-of-identity with the ‘me’ that is typing this now. So there is something about me, the essence of me in fact, the thing which makes me ‘me’ and not you, which continues to exist after I die and which makes the thing which God brings back to life ‘me’ and not just a replica of me.

            So then I suppose the question is, does everyone’s essence continue to exist after their physical body dies, or does God act to preserve the essences of those He intends to bring back to life — the saved — while allowing the essences of the unsaved to… well, and there’s the rub, to what? If the essence of a person exists in relation to their body as, say, the blueprint exists to the building that is built from it — a limited analogy but not a totally unreasonable one, I think — then clearly everyone’s essence continues to exist after the death of their physical body, in the same way destroying a building doesn’t affect the blueprint.

            So therefore the saved and the unsaved both continue to exist after death, and in timeless eternity (because the essence of a person clearly doesn’t exist inside the material world, and time is a dimension of the material world).

            It’s therefore unclear how God even could destroy the essences of the unsaved, should He want to. So they must continue to exist, for ever (which is to say, outside the material world and therefore outside the dimension of time).

            All this is implied by God being able to bring us back to life, as opposed to just creating replicas of us in the New Earth.

      • Hi Peter
        That was a good read.
        A Greek philosopher, I forget which one, demonstrated his belief in reincarnation by jumping into a volcano. Perhaps the image of Revelation’s Lake of fire scotches any vain hope that there would be a way through .

        Reply
        • Steve – oh well, I clicked on it (following your recommend) and rapidly decided that it wasn’t my cup of tea. Basically a new box has been invented, which is known as `Evangelical Conditionalism’ and now people are being put into that box.

          I’d never heard of this technical term before – and I basically decided that I don’t need more technical terms.

          As far as heaven and hell go – well, I know that those who are `in the number’ of the Saviour’s family are those who are serious about communion with God and who welcome it.

          Scripture makes it clear that there are many who do not welcome the heavenly kingdom – and who therefore do not see life. Scripture doesn’t really answer too many questions about what happens to such people – except that they do not end up in the heavenly kingdom.

          I think that this is basically what Luke’s treatment of the rich man and Lazarus tells us: the rich man never indicated that he *positively* welcomed the kingdom of heaven; his only motivation was to escape the torment in which he found himself.

          I don’t think that these boxes which I found in the article are useful or helpful and I think there is a great danger of going beyond what is written. I feel that Scripture is written for God’s people who actively welcome the heavenly life and I don’t think it tells us too much about those who don’t (except that they won’t see eternal communion with God).

          Reply
    • “baptism here shows all the signs of being by immersion.”

      You may be right but I’m not convinced by the language or by some of the earlish baptismal provision in churches.

      The latter (certainly in Ephesus) simply does not have room for immersion with any ease. It’s a couple of steps down, a small circular space, and a few steps out. It’s more obviously designed for pouring… albeit maybe with far more than water sprinkles.

      Reply
  2. May I be so bold as to add a few observations to this thoroughgoing post :-
    (1) Re Jesus’ baptism: the uniting of Isa.42:1 and Psalm 2:7f ( “He said to me , you are my Son, today I have become your Father —“) could be seen as the conflation of Jesus’ institution and empowering as Messiah while at the same time highlighting the paradoxical nature of his Messiahship as the (suffering ) servant also. “Today I have become your Father” possibly alludes to the fact that the baptism reveals the first *direct, extra- uterine* connection between Jesus and the Holy Spirit as occurring at this point. Is it merely concidental therefore that (a) Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit [Luke1:41] ,(b)Zechariah was also filled with the Holy Spirit [1:67] , (c) Simeon had the Holy Spirit “upon him”[2:25] (d) John the Baptist “would be filled with the Holy Spirit -even from birth!”[1: 15] and that last but not least, Mary was also filled with the Holy Spirit [1:41]?
    (2) In all of these instances, what is Luke trying to say? Surely from the outset, the keynote is not judgement but redemption, restoration and the glorious reign of the King of Kings! “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end [Luke 1: 32].”
    (3) “At least twice in Luke’s introduction, he makes reference to the Abrahamic covenant. Is this not at least raising the possibility that in the final analysis, God’s promises supercede His judgements? Yes, of course, there was judgement, but in the words of Paul :”For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” [Romans 11:32]. Yes the Gospel is revealed fully and completely in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the call to repentance to all nations [24:46 – 47]. But he also told his disciples: “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” [24:44].

    Reply
    • Yes, lots of verses illustrating the nonsense of Trinitarianism. In Isa 42:1 the one God refers to the Messiah not as his coeternal coequal but as his servant. He, God, will put his Spirit upon him (i.e. he will not ask another member of the Trinity whether he will kindly do this).

      Ps 2:7 explains what it means to be ‘my son’: God begets him. The NT applies this expressly to the incarnation and to the resurrection.

      Luke 1:41- I’m afraid there’s no “the” in the Greek. Elizabeth was filled with holy spirit – God’s holy spirit (see above on Isa 42:1). Ditto Luke 1:15, 1:41, 1:67 and 2:25. The added ‘the’ is Trinitarianism insinuating itself into texts extraneously.

      According to Jesus himself, ‘the’ Holy Spirit would not – indeed could not – come to his people until he had ascended to heaven, that is, until his Spirit was no longer confined within his own physical body. At Pentecost the Church became his physical body and became filled with (Rom 8:9) his and the Father’s spirit.

      Reply
      • Steven Robinson – I’d like you to explain where Trinitarianism all goes horribly wrong. Do you think that `Trinitarians’ are not saved? Or is it simply a question of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s?

        Reply
      • Steven

        I thought that you agreed Jesus was divine. If so you presumably must believe in some form of dualism in God. Is that not as much nonsense as trinitarianism.

        Reply
        • My understanding of his position is that Jesus was divine but not co-eternal. And certainly not God as there is only ‘One God”. I am not sure if he believes that Jesus became divine when he was born of Mary. This view looks very much like classical Arianism .

          Reply
          • I distinctly remember affirming that Jesus was ‘begotten from the Father, light from light, very God from very God’. I also remember asking: ‘If my father is human, why do you have a problem with my considering myself human? If God is Jesus’s father, why do you have a problem with his being his son’ (and his being divine on that basis)? But you couldn’t or wouldn’t answer.

            If you don’t believe that Jesus was God’s son, in the normal sense of the word ‘son’, I fear that your view is a good deal worse than ‘classical Arianism’. Not only has it no scriptural support, but ‘no one who denies the Son has the Father’ (I John 2:22-23).

          • Chris

            He is Arian in that he conceives a time when Jesus was not. The Son is the only begotten of the Father means at some point at or before the beginning the Son came into being. Steven takes a woodenly literal sense of the Son being begotten which refuses to see the parallel between ‘begetting’ by an eternal uncreated being and the begetting of a created temporal being are necessarily different. That the Son is also the word who in the beginning was with God and was God who is the first and the last, whose presence ‘in the beginning’ implies deity and eternity is dismissed. So too Hebrews where we are told he is ‘without the beginning of days’. Phrases like ‘before Abraham was, I am’ and the many times that the Jesus of the NT is without qualification identified with the Yahweh of the OT must collapse before the insistence that Father/Son means that the Son must have a beginning. For the Son to be truly like his eternal Father he must be the eternal Son. Or (assuming Steven denies the eternity of the Father) for the Son to be the true image of God he must image all that God is. That he does so Scripture goes to pains to point out. That the human parallel falls at the first hurdle of a missing mother Steven seems to regard as no reason to question his premise of precise correspondence between divine and human generation..

            I’m sorry Steven, I’m being sharper here than I would choose but this is in my view an important matter. It is not Trinitarians who have little knowledge of God, it is you. This is a heresy of which you must repent. You have great abilities but they have led you into serious error.

          • John and Chris – yes, this may be a fair way of summarising the position of Steven Robinson – but does he think that we Trinitarians aren’t saved?

            These are all very difficult issues. I’m pretty sure that the people of faith from Old Testament times had very little idea of the Trinitarian nature of God, yet they were / are in the number of those who see life.

            Requiring people to believe the correct things about the nature of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, does seem to be a form of docetism.

          • Jock

            Responsibility is based on what God has revealed of himself. OT saints trusted in God as he revealed himself eventually stabilising in Yahweh. They trusted in him and the patriarchal promises he had given. If they seriously distorted Yahweh into something other than he was (Golden calf) this brought judgement.

            In the NT, God has revealed himself as trinity (also in the OT in a subtle way). When people first become Christians no doubt they have only hazy even mistaken views on this. Even with maturity some views may remain irregular. Only God knows how skewed our grasp of who he is may be before it is a salvation issue.

            The doctrinal formula of Nicaea seems to me to articulate with Scripture. I personally find it reassuring that the Nicene Creed has met with such extensive approval. I would not wish to plough a lone furlough in opposition without absolute certainty. To do so seems to me to be foolhardy.

            The thing is heresy rarely comes in isolation, it is normally part of a package which clarifies the trajectory.

          • John – thanks for yours – and yes – I agree with you about the Nicaean Creed. I particularly like it after reading Torrance’s `The Trinitarian Faith’ where he explains the situation that it emerged from, particularly the contribution of Athanasius – and what was most encouraging for me – yes – Torrance demonstrated that the careful formulation emerged from people who were evangelical Christians.

            But about those who are in the number of the Saviour’s family and those who aren’t …… in the matter of the Golden Calf, the Israelites had a track record of being stiff necked and rebellious; the Golden Calf explicitly revealed all that was wrong with their hearts and minds.

            I’d like to point to another example – the example of Jepthah, from Judges. He was a sincere man, called by God – and I’d be very surprised if he isn’t in the number of those who are saved. But his vow showed that he really was way off the mark. He was not trusting in the grace and mercy of God; he was also trusting in the vow `IF you rescue us, THEN I’ll give you the first thing that comes out of the door of my house’ – and God made him pay the highest price possible for this vow.

            He was a man of God, we have every reason to believe that he is in the number of the Saviour’s family, but his understanding of God was way off the mark.

            You are (of course) correct that there seems to be something very wiggy about Steven Robinson and his approach – something doesn’t chime in ……

      • Jesus said, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

        How then did the 70 who went out healing and driving out demons accomplish this if not by the Spirit of God?

        Reply
    • Hi Colin

      Yes indeed, the Bible is a message of hope and salvation. It is a message of salvation because there is a need for salvation. We are lost. We are sinners under wrath, divine wrath which is why Roms 1:18-3:21 precedes a development of justification by faith through the propitiatory work of the cross.

      It was precisely when speaking of the anticipated baptism of Jesus that John speaks of judgement and unquenchable fire.

      Mary begins the theme of reversals that run through Luke.

      (ESV) 1 He has shown strength with his arm;
      he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
      52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
      and exalted those of humble estate;
      53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
      and the rich he has sent away empty.

      A few chapters later Jesus tells a parable of the rich sent away empty (Lk 16).

      Simeon reminds Mary that her child would be ‘for the rise and fall of many in Israel’.

      The Abrahamic covenant does introduce the great salvation promises. Yet included is the warning that ‘whoever curses you I will curse’. In truth judgement and salvation are often developed together in Scripture.

      Roms 11 is not holding out any hope that all will be saved but rather that Jews and gentiles would be saved…. All without distinction not exception.

      In my view part of the reason that people are not being saved in great numbers and many who claim to be Christian have a shallow faith is because there is little preaching about the wrath of God. We need to be ‘saved’ above all else from ‘the wrath of God’. (Roms 1-3).

      Reply
      • Thanks John for that reasoned and reasonable summation of what I was attempting to say. Incidentally, I am with you on another issue. As Jim Packer once declared: “Texts like Jude 6, Matthew 8:12, Matthew22:13 and Matthew 25:30 show that darkness signifies a state of deprivation and distress, not of destruction in the sense of ceasing to exist.After all, only those who exist can weep and gnash their teeth”.

        Reply
        • There is no indication how long that ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ lasts though. I would suggest it is only because you believe in eternal suffering/torment that you have read that into the text. There may very well be a limited time of such suffering, which seems at least to represent a time of deep regret and anger towards God and His judgement. And then the final death, which will never be reversed.

          Reply
          • You are way off the mark! In some respects, I would rather not believe it. It is because it is *scriptural” I chose to accept it. The structure of your third sentence implies that *you* accept it. And yet at the same time you qualify it using the expression “there may well be a limited time”. What is the source of your belief in your statement? Scripture or simply wish fulfilment?
            Too much debate on this topic has not involved “reading that into the text”, but simply ignoring it altogether!

  3. I’m interested to see you don’t think there’s a connection with Ps 2:7 in 3:22 – what leads you away from that, please?

    Reply
    • If by 3:22 you mean *Luke* 3:22, then there is every connection! Point (1) is a reference to Jesus’ baptism ! The baptism represents his messianic calling as well as his representative, sacrifical, crucifixion-based self-giving. I don’t think I can make it any clearer!

      Reply
  4. Can anyone here see any link between John the Baptist and Samson?

    There are some rules for being a Nazirite somewhere in the Pentateuch. There seem to be exactly two instances in Scripture (correct me if I’m wrong about this) where (a) an angel appears and promises a child to a husband and wife who are getting on in years and childless – and (b) where the angel gives explicit instructions that the child is to be set apart as a Nazirite from birth (well, in the case of John the Baptist it probably doesn’t explicitly use the term `Nazirite’, but it is seems to be clearly implied by what the angel says – keep away from the fruit of the vine).

    I actually have great difficulties seeing why Samson was supposed to be a holy man. Some parts of the Samson story really are highly entertaining – but actually leave me feeling sorry for the Philistines (e.g. the father of the first woman he tried to marry).

    There are striking similarities between the birth narratives of Samson and John the Baptist, but that seems to be where the similarities between the two characters end.

    Am I missing something?

    Reply
    • The judges were often strange saints. It was their idiosyncrasies that reveal the freedom of God – he is not confined. They also revealed the need fora king.

      Reply
      • John – I’m not sure they revealed the need for a king (in the sense of Saul, David, etc …), because (a) it was against the will of God that they requested their king and (b) I don’t actually see that things were any less degenerate during the times of the kings (c/f the time of Elijah).

        I do feel somewhat sorry for the mother of Samson – the angel promised her a child, who was to be set apart by God from birth – and he turned out to be a complete head banger.

        On the other hand – am I being far too judgemental here? I see Samson’s behaviour with women and from my point of view I think it is absolutely awful. Not only that, the destruction of the Philistine corn fields shows a man who cannot control his temper – not exactly showing forth the fruit of the Spirit. And I am right to think that all of this is utterly awful – and Scripture confirms this. At the same time though, we have to come to terms with the fact that this was a man who was called by God and ultimately was faithful to his calling.

        Reply
        • Hi Jock

          A regular refrain in Judges is ‘at that time there was no king in Israel’. The implication is that a king would have prevented everyone doing what was right in their own eyes.

          I agree there is an ambivalence about a king. God intended to give them a king but they wanted a king for the wrong reasons.

          Reply
    • As you say there are some striking similarities between the Samson and John birth narratives.
      Samson slightly predates Samuel, as John predates Jesus; and in Luke 1-2 there is a Samuel typology for Jesus complementing the Samson typology for John.
      The typology says at least as much about Luke as it says about John the Baptist or Samson.

      And you mention the Nazirite point.

      Further – Both figures fall in the ‘wild man’ category. G Mobley, Journal of Biblical Literature (1997) referring to R Bernheimer’s broad study of this archetype.

      Reply
  5. I have just spent a couple of hours reading over the arguments for and against total annihilation. I expected that with issues like this that – just as there is with Calvinism – there would be a range of verses which could be interpreted both in favour of – and against – total annihilation – but if one examined all of scripture there would be a verse or passage which would be a knock out punch either way. When it comes to Calvinism/non-Calvinism the knock out punch for me – in favour of non-Calvinism – is:
    Acts 10:34-35 ESV
    So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

    The verse literally says that for God to block the door to some being saved IS partiality. I can think of no other way to say more conclusively that Calvinism is wrong than the exact words of this verse.

    But what about total annihilation? Is there a knock out punch passage in relation to it – in favour or against? I was thinking that Matthew 25:46 would be it:
    ESV
    And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

    However I have decided that there is a POSSIBLE way to see this verse in a way which is consistent with temporary judgements of God having eternal effect.

    I continued to look but couldn’t find the knock out punch either way. But then I realised something – that the reason I could not is that I wasn’t looking at the lowest level. Total annihilation finds succour from “conditional immortality” – that we only take on immortality when we are united with God in Christ and therefore that it makes sense that if we are not united with God that we should simply be destroyed when we die. Some who support total annihilation – such as John Stott – will say that they hold their view without supporting conditional immortality but this isn’t the case – believing that when we are judged that we cease to exist IS belief in conditional immortality.

    I then realised what in my view is the knock out punch on the issue. The knock out punch is that there is no authoritative faith if we do not have some part of us which is not fallen which relates to God – and to whom all fallen parts of us are subject – our spirit – by which we can experience God’s presence, leading, and empowering. Yet many people who call themselves evangelical believe that the word or words translated ‘spirit’ – and the word or words translated ‘soul’ – are two words referring to the same thing. And they believe that our intellect is part of what they each describe – making no part of our faith not intellectual. But this amounts to saying that there is no part of our relationship with God which isn’t somewhat faulty since our minds are fallen. If ANY part of us which is fallen is included in our primary means of relating to God authoritative faith collapses. Just as it does with Calvinism when it says that before knowing God we are spiritually dead (meaning that whilst we are spiritual that our spiritual element is not functioning in any way in respect of God) – that belief means that a person has no means of reliably knowing they have been saved – they only know that in spiritual terms they seem to have become someone else. No – without our having a spirit (Rom 16:8) – something distinct from our mind, emotions and will – which I believe scripture shows make up our soul – which is why our soul can be destroyed as part of our being judged – as revealed in Matthew 10:28 – but not our spirit) there is no authoritative relationship with God.

    It doesn’t matter how much or little the Bible speaks about our spirit. What matters is that the whole of scripture REQUIRES it to exist.

    (I am not saying that in having a spirit that every conclusion we come to about God is always correct. I am saying that when our conclusions are not correct it is due to our mind, emotions and will dominating what God is revealing to our spirit).

    Reply
    • I meant to include somewhere that the Bible teaches that our spirit and soul are different things.
      In Hebrews 4:12 and in Luke 1:46-47. And it reveals in 1 Corinthians 2 that being spiritual must be separate from being intellectual – or why else is the spiritual man not subject to the judgements of the natural man (1 Corinthians 2:15)? And I point out that if spirit and soul are two words which refer to the same thing then Matthew 10:28 forces us to conclude that God – in killing the soul – also kills our spirit.

      Reply
    • Hi Benjamin

      Against my better judgement I’m writing this comment for I don’t really want to get into a discussion. You mention Acts 10 as a killer punch against Calvinism. I’m not sure why. It simply reveals that God’s grace is not limited to Israel but extends to all nations. A Calvinist has little difficulty with this. A Calvinist, and by this I simply mean someone who believes God is sovereign in the area of salvation as he is in every other may suggest you read Romans 9 and Ephesians 1. His killer texts may be one of a few.

      I can’t seem to copy in text so I’m obliged to simply leave references. Sorry. Romans 9: 19-24; Acts 12:48; Jn 6:37,65

      Reply
      • Hi John,

        So your argument in respect of Acts 10 is that if God chose only Jews but not Gentiles that that would make him partial – but if he chooses to predestine only a few people for salvation (Matthew 7:13) and others not that this is not partiality? Seriously?

        You say that Calvinism is belief in God’s sovereignty in everything and therefore also in God’s being sovereign over who is predestined to be saved. But it is the non-Calvinist whose belief in God’s sovereignty is most extensive – in believing that God has also incorporated free will into his creation plans. He can theoretically create an infinite number of universes and only has to choose one in which free will and his purposes co-exist.

        You mention Romans 9 as if it supports the Calvinist view. But the whole thrust of scripture is about a God whose love is GRACIOUS. That he reaches out to the undeserving as one willing for anyone to come to him – as the first one to love. Any interpretation of Romans 9 that aligns with this being God’s heart makes more sense than one that does not – as long as it does not do irresponsible things with the passage. Below are links to two videos which present a non-Calvinist view of Romans 9 – they explain that the passage is about God closing the door to ethnic Israel so that both Jews and Gentiles can come to Jesus by faith. In other words they explain that Romans 9 is about a God who hardens in order to include – not exclude.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOA1p3NaJ1c
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y4yjSwEkfY&t=1s

        Ephesians 1 is an example of a passage which can be interpreted equally in favour of Calvinism or non-Calvinism. Those who believe it is a killer verse for Calvinism miss an important part – the words in capitals (vv4-5):

        ESV
        In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons THROUGH JESUS CHRIST…

        The non-Calvinist view is that God has chosen Jesus as the means by which the elect will be saved and the non-elect will not. This is not some kind of fudge – of course God can see what will happen in his own creation – human beings might for some reason wonder how election and free will relate but of course God doesn’t!

        For a more complete explanation of corporate election (which I just introduced) see the video at the link below:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48q-i3JuLUk&t=5s

        You mention John 6:37 but again this is just a perfect restatement of the corporate election view – that God has chosen to unite people with himself through Jesus – just as all of creation is made through Jesus. Why would you raise a verse with me which specifically says “whoever comes to me I will not cast out”?

        You mention John 6:65 which says:
        “no-one can come to me unless granted by the father”.
        But that’s not what Calvinists believe – they believe that people have come to God only if he first comes to them. They believe that people are God’s once they are objects of irresistible grace. They believe it works likes this:

        FULLNESS OF GRACE > REPENTANCE AND FAITH

        It is the non-Calvinist that believes that salvation involves us having to come to God in order to be saved (as mentioned in John 6:65):

        PREVENIENT GRACE > REPENTANCE AND FAITH > FULLNESS OF GRACE

        And verified by Romans 5:2
        ESV
        Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

        What grace do you as a Calvinist believe we don’t gain access to until we first have faith?

        Finally you mentioned Acts 12:48 but that verse doesn’t exist.

        You didn’t say whether you were a Calvinist – I think it’s important if you wish to continue to engage that you indicate whether you stand by the arguments which you present or present them only as if responding on the Calvinist’s behalf.

        Reply
      • Hi John,
        My original comment referred to Calvinism only while discussing total annihilation (the latter relating to the verses which were the subject of Ian’s article) in order to point out two things:
        – that there are issues where two competing views of a passage are both credible until eventually we find a passage in scripture where only one of two views makes sense and I expected it would be similar when comparing total annihilation and traditional views.
        – I wanted to show that total and annihilation has a similar problem to Calvinism in that if one becomes spiritual only when being united with Christ we are not able to make spiritual judgements about our own conversion.
        I didn’t intend for the topic to change to Calvinism – and it seems neither did Ian – as he has understandably chosen to moderate my reply to your reply. I therefore won’t be continuing this discussion. Thank you.

        Reply
      • If instead the reason my post was moderated was because it had links to third party locations (YouTube videos) – I now suspect this could be the reason because my reply to your post just now was not moderated – then you will no doubt get my original reply to your reply to me (this is complicated!) in due course.

        Reply
        • Hi John,

          Here is the first third of my reply in case the length is the issue.

          So your argument in respect of Acts 10 is that if God divides people by nation that that would make him partial but if he prevents people from coming to him individually before they are born that that does not make him partial? To prove that that distinction is artificial I ask – what if all of those who were predestined for salvation became Jewish citizens – so the only people who could be saved were Jews?

          You say that Calvinism is the belief that along with everything else God is sovereign over who is able to come to him but it is the non-Calvinist whose belief in God’s sovereignty is most extensive – in believing that God has also incorporated free will into his creation plans. He can theoretically create an infinite number of universes and only has to choose one in which free will and his purposes co-exist.

          Reply
          • Here is the second third.

            You mention Romans 9 as if it supports the Calvinist view. But the whole thrust of scripture is about a God whose love is GRACIOUS. His grace is his reaching out to the undeserving as one willing that anyone come to him. So any interpretation of Romans 9 that fits in with this heart of God revealed on every page of scripture makes more sense than one that does not – as long as it is not irresponsible with the passage. Below are links to two videos which present a non-Calvinist view of Romans 9 – they explain that the passage is about God closing the door to ethnic Israel so that both Jews and Gentiles can come to Jesus by faith.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOA1p3NaJ1c
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y4yjSwEkfY&t=1s

            Ephesians 1 is an example of a passage which can be interpreted equally in favour of Calvinism or non-Calvinism. Those who believe it is a killer verse for Calvinism miss an important part (vv4-5):

            ESV
            In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons THROUGH JESUS CHRIST…

            The non-Calvinist view is that God has chosen Jesus as the means by which the elect will be saved and the non-elect will not. This is not some kind of fudge – of course God can see what will happen in his own creation – we might wonder how election and free will relate but of course God doesn’t!

          • Here is the second third.

            You mention Romans 9 as if it supports the Calvinist view. But the whole thrust of scripture is about a God whose love is GRACIOUS. His grace is his reaching out to the undeserving as one willing that anyone come to him. So any interpretation of Romans 9 that fits in with this heart of God revealed on every page of scripture makes more sense than one that does not – as long as it is not irresponsible with the passage. Below are links to two videos which present a non-Calvinist view of Romans 9 – they explain that the passage is about God closing the door to ethnic Israel so that both Jews and Gentiles can come to Jesus by faith.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOA1p3NaJ1c
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y4yjSwEkfY&t=1s

            Ephesians 1 is an example of a passage which can be interpreted equally in favour of Calvinism or non-Calvinism. Those who believe it is a killer verse for Calvinism miss an important part (vv4-5):

            ESV
            In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons THROUGH JESUS CHRIST…

          • Here is the second third.

            You mention Romans 9 as if it supports the Calvinist view. But the whole thrust of scripture is about a God whose love is GRACIOUS. His grace is his reaching out to the undeserving as one willing that anyone come to him. So any interpretation of Romans 9 that fits in with this heart of God revealed on every page of scripture makes more sense than one that does not – as long as it is not irresponsible with the passage. Below are links to two videos which present a non-Calvinist view of Romans 9 – they explain that the passage is about God closing the door to ethnic Israel so that both Jews and Gentiles can come to Jesus by faith.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOA1p3NaJ1c
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y4yjSwEkfY&t=1s

          • A Calvinist dies and goes to heaven. He sees two doors. One is labelled “free will”, and the other is “predestination”. He walks through the predestination door and an angel asks him why he was here. The Calvinist replies, “I saw this door and decided to walk through it.” The angel replies, “You can’t be here, you chose this.”

            Dejected, he goes into the other door. Its angel asks him why he was here.
            He replies, “I had no choice”

        • You mention Romans 9 as if it supports the Calvinist view. But the whole thrust of scripture is about a God whose love is GRACIOUS. His grace is his reaching out to the undeserving as one willing that anyone come to him. So any interpretation of Romans 9 that fits in with this heart of God revealed on every page of scripture makes more sense than one that does not – as long as it is not irresponsible with the passage. Below are links to two videos which present a non-Calvinist view of Romans 9 – they explain that the passage is about God closing the door to ethnic Israel so that both Jews and Gentiles can come to Jesus by faith.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOA1p3NaJ1c
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y4yjSwEkfY&t=1s

          Reply
          • Thanks for full response Benjamin. As you say it is going off the topic of the blog. We both agree God is gracious and that grace is to thee fore in Scripture. Amen.

          • The last part of my reply.

            For a more detailed explanation of corporate election (which I just introduced) see this video below:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48q-i3JuLUk&t=5s

            You mention John 6:37 but again this is just a perfect restatement of the corporate election view – that God has chosen to unite people with himself through Jesus – just as through Jesus all is created. Why would you raise a verse with me which specifically says that “whoever comes to me I will not cast out”?

            Finally John 6:65 says:
            “no-one can come to me unless granted by the father”.
            But that’s not what Calvinists believe – they believe that people cannot come to God – that God must come to people. They believe that people are only God’s when God makes them objects of irresistible grace. It is his decision not theirs. They believe it works likes this:

            FULLNESS OF GRACE > REPENTANCE AND FAITH

            It is the non-Calvinist that believes that salvation involves us having to come to God to be saved (as mentioned in John 6:65):

            PREVENIENT GRACE > REPENTANCE AND FAITH > FULLNESS OF GRACE

            As verified by Romans 5:2
            ESV
            Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

            What is the grace that you (if you are a Calvinist) believe we don’t gain access to until we first have faith?

            Finally you mentioned Acts 12:48 but that verse doesn’t exist.

            You didn’t say whether you were a Calvinist – I think it’s important as part of engaging that you reveal whether you are or whether you are merely presenting arguments on behalf of a possible Calvinist.

          • Hi Benjamin

            I am calvinistic in outlook. I avoid taking labels because they tend to. Be divisive and stereotypes, I’m familiar with the arguments you present but I’m not persuaded by them. However, we can differ on this in love,

          • Hi John,
            Can you advise me? You say that we can differ on this issue in love. I can see why the Calvinist might take that view. However not the non-Calvinist – if our difference reaches to the very heart of who God is revealed to be in the gospel – if I believe that Calvinism completely undermines the central message of the Bible of a God who reaches out to all – how can I treat this issue as an agree to disagree issue? I don’t see how I have that opportunity.
            I believe that a primary doctrinal error is one which has the power to undermine either people’s salvation or sanctification – and a secondary one is one which has no such power. So if for example I believed that eating hamburgers was wrong this would not be a primary issue because it undermines neither – although if I began to eject people from the church because they ate hamburgers it then becomes a primary issue.
            For me Calvinism is a primary doctrinal issue because of what I have explained about the heart of God and also because I believe that Calvinism forces its adherents down one of two possible paths (please keep reading to find out what the two paths are).
            The Calvinist believes God’s reason(s) for saving some and not others is/are not disclosed. This places a question mark over the character of God revealed in the cross – there being no other way in which to come to know/experience God’s character than through the cross. Since this is the case the Calvinist must respond in one of two possible ways. Either:
            – he must be a logical Calvinist and conclude that God’s Spirit’s testimony to his spirit is not conclusive – whatever it appears to reveal about God’s character. So even if the Calvinist for example experienced what appeared to be God’s mercy he cannot conclude from this that God is merciful because in the circumstances of his intellectual beliefs there is reason to believe that God is not merciful to others (since if God is unchanging in mercy there is no reason to explain why this would not lead him to be merciful to all people and in all events) OR
            – the Calvinist must ignore what God says to his mind and instead favour what God reveals to his Spirit.
            The first is Pharisaism – word without presence (John 5:39). And the second is liberalism – presence without word (John 14:15). Whichever he chooses the Calvinist then must continue living as one of these. Or switch constantly between the two.
            I therefore conclude that Calvinism is a primary doctrinal error – one which has to undermine the necessary co-existence of word and Spirit. I believe it is an issue over which at least non-Calvinists should choose to change their church. However if you believe that my analysis is faulty either in my reasoning for not being a Calvinist – or my reasoning as to what makes a doctrinal error primary – I remain open to feedback/correction.

          • I wouldn’t consider my brother guilty of a primary doctrinal error without first explaining my reasons and giving my brother time to consider them. I think that much division exists in the church because of lack of clarity (especially because a lot of teaching is floating in mid air – it’s left divorced from the character of God) instead of wilfulness.

      • Here is the first half of my intended post in case it was the length which was the issue.

        So your argument in respect of Acts 10 is that if God divides people by nation that that would make him partial but if he divides people individually before they are born that that does not make him partial? To prove that that distinction is artificial I ask – what if all of those who are predestined for salvation became Jewish citizens – so the only people who could be saved were Jews? Would God be partial then or impartial?

        You say that Calvinism is the belief that along with everything else God is sovereign over who is able to come to him but it is the non-Calvinist whose belief in God’s sovereignty is most extensive – in believing that God has also incorporated free will into his creation plans. He can theoretically create an infinite number of universes and only has to choose one in which free will and his purposes co-exist.

        You mention Romans 9 as if it supports the Calvinist view. But the whole thrust of scripture is about a God whose love is GRACIOUS. His grace is his reaching out to the undeserving as one willing that anyone come to him. So any interpretation of Romans 9 that fits in with this heart of God revealed on every page of scripture makes more sense than one that does not – as long as it is not irresponsible with the passage. Below are links to two videos which present a non-Calvinist view of Romans 9 – they explain that the passage is about God closing the door to ethnic Israel so that both Jews and Gentiles can come to Jesus by faith.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOA1p3NaJ1c
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y4yjSwEkfY&t=1s

        I will respond to your other verses in a different reply.

        Reply
  6. Reply to S,
    The first thing that comes to mind is that verse that states “their works go before them”
    It may be in some profound way that that is the very fabric of the new Jerusalem to which we belong in a very real way. Those who do not produce fruit/ works will only have the vapid , crumbling, old creation to inhabit when True Life reveals Himself.
    Ps. Please acknowledge having read this. Ta

    Reply
    • Benjamin

      I’ve written out a reply but I can’t seem upload it to the reply box here, not even in small sections. I don’t feel like writing it out. Do you have a blog or somewhere I could post it to you?

      John

      I’ll have another go at uploading but don’t expect success

      Reply

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