Summary: God is supremely sovereign and we are responsible for our response to Him!
How Do You Explain Election and Free Will?
Rev. Brian Bill
August 17-18, 2019
I often post the sermon topic on Facebook as a way to engage people ahead of time so they’ll consider gathering with us for a service or watch the sermon online later. Some topics in our Glad You Asked series have generated more comments than others. Our question today, “How do you explain election and free will?” now has over 45 comments!
Here’s the picture I posted of my desk on Monday morning. Unbelievably, the first series of comments involved potshots at the Packers.
• The coaster is prime evidence of a fan with the inability of choosing good.
• That Packers thing is quite the blotch on this picture of studiousness!
• Packer coaster...Packer book. I wonder if J.I. wishes he had a different last name during football season.
I was pleased when an astute Packer backer theologian made this application.
• We were clearly all predestined to be Packers fans; some choose to accept and many choose to deny.
Here are few more comments.
• Can’t wait!
• For me an understandable concept of truth, just hard to explain sometimes.
• Not in one sermon.
• Aw c’mon. Pick something hard!
When I asked one EBC member for his thoughts on the topic he said, “Why are you picking a fight?” When I told an Edgewood leader about the sermon, hoping for some encouragement, he simply said, “Good luck!”
Veteran Edgewood missionary George King is 87 years old. Along with his wife Ellen and daughter Ruth, they have been missionaries in Japan for 58 years, having been supported by the generous givers of Edgewood all those years!
When George saw the sermon topic for this weekend, he sent me an email, “Would it be an imposition to request a copy of your sermon notes for this sermon? This topic is the source of conflict between fellow workers on every mission field. It looks as though your material will be very helpful to me. I am always endeavoring to keep my messages clear, short, and simple. You seem to be making the same effort.”
My aim today is to hit two out of three – to communicate as clearly and as simply as I can…but I make no promises on brevity. If you’d like to dive deeper we’ve posted some resources on the Edgewood app. Click on the “Worship Guide” image on the bottom menu, and select “Sermon Extras.”
I’ve been pondering George’s sad statement all week: “This topic is the source of conflict between fellow workers on every mission field.” When I followed up to get more details about how this controversy has caused friction and fractures among missionaries, George offered this assessment: “The school and Japanese churches suffered greatly. We ended the situation with a big official debate, before the entire fellowship in Japan. Of the missionaries, I was the only one with the Japanese ability in theological terminology to debate…I have much more that I would like to add, but it is 3 AM. By the way, I cleaned house and led the school and fellowship into great revival, and sending of missionaries to many other fields.”
I’m not sure why Christians go to war over this but I’ve seen it first-hand…and you probably have as well. This subject has caused friendships to fracture, churches to split and divided Christians into doctrinal tribes. Too often, the debate between those who celebrate election and those who celebrate free will has failed to glorify God, promote evangelism or build up believers.
Instead of creating more controversy, let’s commit to act Christianly toward those with a different view. Instead of dividing, let’s become more devoted to each other. Instead of whacking others, let’s be filled with wonder and worship. Instead of fighting, let’s ask God to grow our faith. Instead of battling each other, let’s bind together to reach people with the gospel. It’s my prayer we will grow in awe of God and in grace toward each other.
George shared some closing wisdom which helps explain why he is still serving strong at 87 years old: “I don’t expect to agree on everything with anybody… Likewise, I don’t expect anybody to agree with me on everything. Even my wife, of 64 years, doesn’t agree with me on some things, but I love her just the same.”
I recognize some will try to put a label on me. I can’t stop you from doing so, but I have always resisted saying I follow a certain strain of theology. My aim is to simply go where the Scriptures take me.
I’m reminded of what a Greek professor told his seminary students when they were translating every verse of the Greek New Testament over three years: “Better to be at home with your Bible and not your theology, than to be at home with your theology and not your Bible.” When reflecting on this statement, Randy Alcorn writes, “I try to allow God’s Word to surprise me and change my mind and modify my positions. I like to learn. If I come to God’s Word unguarded, with my shields down, God uses it to grab me, taking me where he wants me to go. If the Bible never changes your mind because you’ve already got everything figured out, you’re missing the joy of discovery.”