As we struggled over the doctrines of original sin and limited atonement and other fancy words that make people think we loose our hearts, we turned to Romans 8 and the moment built.
There are moments teachers plan for, moments we seek to create, moments we let ourselves believe we control. But sometimes, God actually moves and we get to watch and know we had nothing to do with it.
There is great pain in the Gospel—without it, the Gospel is meaningless. There are big words to describe it, but the truth is difficult: God will save some. Many others will perish eternally. We all deserve to perish; not because we have all sinned, but because Adam did and in some mysterious way, we participate in his sin. We’re guilty.
(Before you react to that, it’s a doctrine older than the Reformation and we have all held it for centuries. Those who didn’t were considered heretics. There is debate over total depravity, but not over original sin. But this is not the point.)Some will be saved. Many will perish. Forever. And…God chooses. Read it. Romans 8.28-30. Those who love him were called. Those who are called are justified. Those who are justified were foreknown and predestined.
(The big debate here is over how He chooses and not whether He chooses—that’s true among the Cavinists, the Arminians and the Weslyens. Those who say He doesn’t choose must do so without the support of the Bible.)That’s when the moment came. It was visceral and sincere. With tears and a quavering voice, she pleaded, “But how can he be just? What about my friends—the non-elect—who will go to Hell? I'm not okay with this!” Others chimed in and rang out. She wasn’t the only one crying. Dr. K was silent and moved, as he allowed the moment to find its footing. And then Dan spoke.
Dan’s voice was kind and empathetic and passionate, if not slightly trembling. He started to read from Romans 9. That’s when it all came together. Paul is writing through pain—perhaps even through tears—as he explains God’s love for Jacob and rejection of Esau. Paul feels the weight of verse 19—if it is God who decides, then all are in accord with the will of God.
Here Paul turns the corner. He doesn’t answer the question. Instead, he pulls the focus back to the God we do not nor can not fully comprehend. Although it reads like a rebuke, Paul tenderly returns us to our place as humble and undeserving sinners. Sinners who have been given mercy by the Potter. But it comes with a burden: mercy reminds us of the wrath.
Paul calls it unceasing anguish. I saw it today at seminary as I watched a class weep for the lost. I continue to find my heart here. I hope I never get over it.
• There’s a great article here on the confusion over U2’s use of the phrase “coexist.”
• We’re going to the beach in July—we’re camping again and pretty excited ($15 a night and a much shorter drive and thanks again to T. H. for use of the camper)!
• Dad had his first epidural yesterday (yep, an epidural for a problem in his low back). So far, he’s out of his wheelchair (which I didn’t think would happen) and he asks that we keep praying!