According to the Concordance ... It's NOT Predestination!



(Part of the "Predestination vs. Free-Will" series)
As I have studied this issue of “predestination vs. free-will,” I have found it immensely helpful and clarifying to look up certain words in Strong’s Concordance.  The concordance lists each word of the Bible, what it means in the original Greek or Hebrew, and how the word is being used in that particular verse. 

I used to be really scared of looking up words in the concordance.  I was afraid that I would learn that my “free-will” view was wrong all along.  But I was determined to learn the truth, even if I didn’t like it.

But, thankfully, the more I have looked up words and their meanings, the more convinced I have become that the Calvinist view of "predestination" is not correct.  That salvation is a choice, that it’s not predetermined for us by God.  God has made salvation available to all.  We have the responsibility to choose whether to believe in God or to reject Him.  And we will justly reap the consequences that go with our choice. 

This post is a quick overview of some of the words that I have looked up and what I learned about them.  (I did cover most of these in other posts too.)  However, due to copyright laws, I cannot quote directly from Strong’s concordance.  So I will do my best to explain it in my own words.      





1.  “Hardens”
“Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” (Romans 9:18)

I already looked at this one in other posts, but I will restate here that the concordance says that “hardens” in this verse is basically a punishment from God for hardening our own hearts first.  He does not arbitrarily harden hearts, against our wills.  In His patience and love, He bears with our own self-chosen hardness for so long . . . before making it permanent.  This is what He did with Pharaoh during the plagues.  Pharaoh hardened his own heart for the first five plagues . . . and then God made it permanent. 

God does not arbitrarily harden hearts.  If He hardens a heart, it’s because that person first hardened their own heart, resisting God’s truth and His attempts to reach them.



2.  “Ignorance” and “Blindness”
“They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”  (Ephesians 4:18-19) 

The people hardened themselves, became ignorant and darkened in their understanding, lost sensitivity to God, and then gave themselves over to sensuality. 

Calvinists will say that this verse means that God caused them to be ignorant by hardening their hearts.  That He “forced” them to be blind to Him. 

But actually, the word in the concordance is not “hardening” of heart but “blindness” of heart.  And according to the concordance, “blindness” in this passage involves the idea of being callous toward something.  And it comes from a word which is used of the Israelites who deliberately refused God’s ways and His Will. 

It’s not that God chose to harden their hearts and make them ignorant; it’s that they chose to be callous toward Him, to deliberately refuse Him.  And this led to their ignorance, their darkened understanding, and their insensitivity to God. 

And “ignorance” is not just “not knowing” or “being unaware,” as though God never revealed Himself to them, never gave them a chance.  According to the concordance, it is a deliberate, willful decision to be blind. 

Refusing God’s way.  Willfully blind.

This is basically saying, “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because they have willfully chosen to be blind, due to their callous refusal of God’s Will and way.”   

Once again, the decision to believe or not believe lies with mankind.  We choose to either submit to the truth or to be blind to it!

And that’s why we can justly be held accountable for our unbelief.  Because we choose to not believe.  To be resistant Him.  To walk down the path to hell by refusing His offer to get us off of it.  He does not make that choice for us.


One more example of “ignorant” is Romans 10:3 (RSV): “For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” 

Paul says that the people are "ignorant" of the righteousness that God gives (through salvation in Jesus).  But once again, "ignorant" in this passage does not mean "God never told me" or "I had no idea because God blinded my mind."  It means to deliberately ignore something, being unwilling to see it.

Paul is saying that the Israelites knew the truth and chose to ignore it.  It is a deliberate ignorance.  They were unwilling to see it.  They chose to resist it, to be ignorant of God’s way.  And they created their own way instead. 

This does not sound like “predestination” to me, like God made them this way.  It sounds like they were responsible for their choice.  And Paul knew it.  And it’s why he grieved and why he worked so hard to reach them.  



3.  “Believe”
“Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes . . . Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  (Romans 10:4, 13) 

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, . . .”  (Ephesians 1:13)

We have to hear and believe.  “Hear and believe” refers to a responsibility on our parts to accept and embrace the Truth that we hear. 

“Believe” in this verse does not mean “to believe, as though God has caused you to believe, with no effort or thought on your part.” 

In the concordance, “believes” is active, not passive.  It involves a conscious and willing action on our part.  It is being persuaded by something, choosing to commit to it, and placing our confidence and our faith in it.  You can only be "persuaded" by something if you have the ability to think about it, to reason through it, and to choose to believe in it, to accept it as truth.  If God forces you to believe, there is no "being persuaded" by it.  It would be "being forced into it."  

The word “believe” is used in a way that implies that we allow ourselves to be convinced of the truth, to be convinced that Jesus is the truth.  This supports the idea that we are responsible for being willing to believe in Him or not. 

And the opposite of this would be to resist God, to reject the truth that we have heard and that we know deep down in our hearts.  Willful blindness! 

This is why no one will have an excuse for why they didn’t turn to God (Romans 1:20).  Because God has made Himself clear to all, in His creation and deep down in our hearts.  And we will be held responsible for our refusal to respond to this knowledge, for refusing to be persuaded by it.



4.  “Unbelief”
“ . . . They were broken off because of unbelief . . . And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in . . . ”  (Romans 11:20,23)

According to the concordance, “unbelief” is along the same lines as dis-believing something or being unfaithful to it.  It is not just an ignorance of God, as though He blinded us or never revealed Himself to us.  It is a refusal to believe in the God who calls to us and who has made Himself known.  You can’t disbelieve something you never knew about.  So this word “unbelief” refers to the idea of hearing the truth, but choosing to reject it.  If we are “broken off,” it is because of our unbelief, our unwillingness to believe what He has revealed to us.  But if we will choose to believe, we will be grafted in. 

Another word along these same lines is “disobedience.”

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”  (Ephesians 2:1-2)

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”  (Ephesians 5:6)

In the concordance, this “disobedience” implies the idea of not allowing yourself to believe something or to be persuaded by it.  Instead of being persuaded by God’s truth, you deliberately and stubbornly refuse it or reject it.  You choose disobedience by refusing to believe Him and obey Him. 

It is not that God makes people to be disobedient or to not believe; it’s that we choose it by refusing to be persuaded by the truth.  Once again, it places the responsibility on man to choose to believe or to choose to resist. 



5.  “Called”
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle . . .”  (Romans 1:1)

“And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”  (Romans 1:6)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.”  (Ephesians 1:18) 

If you look up this word in a concordance, you see that it involves the idea of being invited.  We are invited to accept God’s offer of salvation.  “Called” does not mean being “forced” or “compelled.”  It does not mean God has pre-determined it and that we are just fulfilling a pre-written role.  It means we are invited to believe, to have faith.  And being invited means that we can refuse.  (Look even at what Jesus said about the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 22 - the guests were invited to the banquet but refused to come.)

We can choose to agree with God, to put our trust in Him, to respond to His call.  Or we can choose to resist.  The responsibility lies with us.

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself . . .”  (Romans 2:5)

“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die.”  (Romans 8:13)      

There is an element of human responsibility in these verses, the idea that our choice of what to believe and how to live affects our eternity.  God does not arbitrarily elect people to heaven or hell; it is based on our decision. 

He calls to us all.  He invites all of us to believe in Him.  But He does not force us to believe or not believe.  We choose to respond to the invitation or not. 



6.  “Receive”
“Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship . . .” (Romans 1:5)

“through whom we have received reconciliation.”  (Romans 5:11)

“For if, by the trespass of one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”  (Romans 5:17)

The concordance says that the word “receive” involves the idea of deliberately grabbing ahold of something, of consciously accepting what is offered.  Like the word “believe,” it’s active, not passive.  It is intentionally reaching out and grabbing something, as opposed to passively acquiring something.  There is a responsibility on our parts to grab ahold of grace and salvation, to not let it pass us by.

Let’s say you are sitting in a room with lots of people, and someone walks in and places a golden ticket into the hands of 10 of them.  Then they say, “If you have received a golden ticket in your hand, you are going to the chocolate factory.”  This is like predestination, the idea that God decides who gets the tickets and who doesn’t.  And in this case, “receiving” is passive.  It involves no effort or decision on your part to get that ticket.

But “receiving” in these verses (according to the concordance) involves the idea of reaching out and grabbing, of willfully and deliberately accepting what is offered.  It would be more like someone walking into the room, placing a golden ticket down on the desk before each person, and saying, “Anyone who reaches out and grabs the ticket in front of them - who receives this gift - is going to the chocolate factory.” 

This is more like the kind of “receive” we read in these verses.  It is active.  It involves a response on our part, our willingness to reach out and take hold of the gift that is offered to us.  This is free-will.  We choose to accept or we choose to reject.



7.  “Chose”
Ephesians 1:4:  “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world . . .”  

Does this mean that if we are not preselected as one of the “chosen ones” then we do not have a chance of being saved?

When I look up the word “chose” in Strong’s concordance, I can see that this word basically means that God deliberately selects someone for something or that He chooses to favor them based on His loving kindness.  But importantly, according to the concordance, it does not necessarily mean that He rejects the un-chosen ones.   

To me, this seems to say that it’s not that being “chosen” means that God predetermined you’d go to heaven and being “unchosen” means He predetermined you’d go to hell.  Being “unchosen” does not necessarily mean you’ve been rejected.  The way I see it, the offer of salvation is open to all.  And anyone can become one of the “chosen ones” because God hasn’t rejected anyone from the beginning.  But He has chosen to favor those who choose to love Him, to reward them with heaven.  And anyone can choose Him if they are willing.      

Ephesians 1:13 says “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, . . .” 



8.  Prepared for Destruction
I already looked at this one in another post, too, but let’s do it again.

Romans 9:22-23:  “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction?  What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory . . .” 

When I was studying this verse, I was getting concerned that it really did mean that God deliberately prepared some people to be destroyed in hell. 

But as I researched it more, I learned that older Bible translations say “fitted” for destruction, not “prepared” for destruction.  And according to Strong’s, “fitted” in this verse indicates a strong correlation between someone’s character and their destiny.  It is written in such a way to imply that the objects of wrath prepared themselves for destruction.  Not that God fashioned them that way. 

Thankfully, this confirms what I think the rest of the Bible teaches, that we determine our eternal destinies by our choice.  We cause ourselves to go to hell or heaven based on whether we respond to God or resist Him.  Mankind was “prepared in advance for glory,” but we destine ourselves for destruction when we reject God’s offer of salvation. 

             



Update - A Few New Additions:

9.  "World" and "Whosoever believes"
(Taken from another post, with a small addition, "What The Best Way To Make People Agree With Your Calvinist Views?")  

You have to watch out for the ways Calvinists change the meanings/usage of words in the Bible.  For instance, I read of one Calvinist who decided for himself that "foreknew" (as in "Those God foreknew, He also predestined ...") meant "fore-chosen."  He decided to make it "fore-chosen" because that better fit his Calvinist views.  (How nice to be able to alter Scripture whenever you want, in order to fit your errant views!)  But the word "foreknew" in the concordance doesn't have anything to do with the action of choosing something.  It's about perceiving or having knowledge about something beforehand.  BIG DIFFERENCE!  


Sometimes Calvinists will even use the original Greek words to make you feel like they know more than you.  After all, if they know the Greek words (and you don't) then surely they must know the proper meaning and usage of the word in that verse, right?  

My dogmatic Calvinist pastor (from the church we just left) said that "world" from John 3:16 means "cosmos," as in the universal realm.  I suspect this is a deliberate attempt to stop people from saying that "'God so loved the world' means that Jesus died for everyone's sin."  And then he can more easily spread his view that "God didn't really die for everyone, only the elect."  

Really!?!  Do you really think God's love for the impersonal cosmos was so great that it caused Him to send Jesus to die?  For what ... the impersonal cosmos!?!  


Yes, the Greek word is "kosmos."  But when you look it up in the concordance, it can mean several different things, according to its usage in the verse - such as the earth or universe, or the earth in contrast to heaven, or "the human race, mankind," or Gentiles in contrast to Jews, or the present condition of people in relation to God, or all temporary possessions as a whole, etc.  


And the concordance says that John 3:16's "world" means mankind, the human race.  


But since that would mean that Jesus died for all of mankind instead of just the elect, I guess he is going to define it as "cosmos" because it doesn't contradict his view as much.  Even though "mankind" makes much more sense.



And since we're on the topic of John 3:16, Calvinists also say that "whosoever" ("whosoever believes shall not perish") doesn't mean that anyone can accept Christ.  They say "whosoever" means the "elect," as in "those who believe."  (They also say that "Jesus died for all people" means either "He died for all the elected people" or that "He died for all kinds of people."  But not truly "all people."  I read a line in a book by a strong Calvinist theologian once where he literally said, "Jesus did not die for everyone."  Freakin' mind-blowing how brazenly they alter Scripture to suit their views!) 

Anyway, they will say that John 3:16 means "For God so loved the elect (or "cosmos," as some say), that He sent His one and only Son, that the elect would believe in Him and shall not perish but have eternal life."

Interesting!  Because the concordance says that "whosoever" is made up of two Greek words, which are essentially "all/any/every/whole" and "the/who."  There is nothing about the "elect" or "believe" here.  "Whosoever" simply means exactly what we think it does: "Any who" or "All who" etc.  


And
... if "whosoever" in John 3:16 is talking about the elect, then "whosoever" (sometimes translated as "anyone" or "everyone") in these verses also has to mean "the elect" because the concordance says they all use the same Greek word:


"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement ..." Matthew 5:22  

"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."  Matthew 5:28

"Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery ..."  Luke 16:18

"Everyone who falls on that stone [Jesus] will be broken to pieces ..."  Luke 20:18

" ... a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God."  John 16:2

"Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father ..." 1 John 2:23

Does it sound like it means "the elect" in these verses?  No?  Then it can't be said that "whosoever" in John 3:16 means "the elect" either.  

"Whosoever" means exactly what we think it does - "anyone/everyone who."



"Oh, but wait," says the Calvinist, "you have to include the 'believes.'  'Whosoever believes' means 'all the believers' - the elect, those predestined to believe."

Well ... that wouldn't work either because "believe" in this verse is not a noun, as in "the believers, the people who believe."  Nor is it an adjective, as in "the believing people."  


It is a verb, as in "to be persuaded by something and, consequently, to commit to it, to put your faith in it." 

"Whosoever believes" means exactly what the Bible says ... "Anyone who believes shall not perish but have eternal life."  

  
Why ... WHY! ... must Calvinists keep twisting Bible verses and altering the clear, consistent, rational teachings of Scripture!?!  Why must they keep reading into it things that are not there!?!




10.  "Elect"

(From the post "Predestined For Salvation? Or For Something Else?")  

1 Peter 1:1-2:  “To God’s elect . . . who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.” 


As I sought to understand this verse more accurately, I learned that the Revised Standard Version of this verse says this:  “. . . To the exiles of the dispersion . . . chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for the sprinkling of his blood . . .”

The NIV's "elect" is simply translated "exiles of the dispersion" in the RSV.

To me, it sounds like Peter is not writing to the “elect,” as in “those predestined by God for salvation,” as Calvinists would view it  But it sounds like he is writing to those Christians of the day who have been scattered under the persecution they were experiencing, to “dispersed exiles.”

The NASB uses the word "aliens" and the KJV uses the word "strangers," which, according to the concordance, refers to those who are sojourning in a foreign land, away from their own people.  The concordance says that in this verse, it's a metaphorical reference to those who are residents of heaven but who are sojourning on earth.  


This has nothing to do with being chosen or predestined for anything.


Calvinists make so much of the word "elect," but it's not what they think it is.  And this isn't a "predestined to go to heaven" passage at all.  




11.  Predestined for what?

Since we are on this topic, what is it in 1 Peter 1:1-2 that we have been "chosen" for?  What is it that we are "predestined" for in various verses?  (This is taken from the same post as #10.)

Predestination is definitely a biblical concept.  But I think there are other ways to understand it than "God predestined people to heaven or hell, and there's nothing we can do about it."

I believe the 1 Peter passage isn't saying that we are predestined for salvation, but that we who are believers are chosen (predestined) for obedience to Christ.  God foreknows who will believe in Him, and He has determined that believers, through the help of the Holy Spirit, will grow in obedience to Christ.  It's not our salvation that was predetermined, but the path we take after salvation.   



Likewise, the Revised Standard Version of Ephesians 1:11-12 says this:   "In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory."

This goes right along with what I've been saying.  We are not destined - specifically pre-chosen - to be saved.  But we who are believers are destined to live for His glory.  The path of a believer has been predestined, but who becomes a believer has not.


Also, to get even deeper, (hang in there, this is important!) this 1 Peter greeting sounds a lot like Paul’s greeting in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14:

“But we always ought to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.  He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”



This could definitely sound like God hand-picked who would believe and who wouldn’t.  And it would sound especially so if the verse simply said, “God chose you to be saved!”  

But in various translations of the Bible, it doesn’t just say “from the beginning God chose you to be saved.”  There are translations that say something like, “God chose you as His first-fruits.”  This "first-fruits" adds a whole new meaning.  And I believe it could be saying that they were chosen to be the first to believe in Jesus, simply because their lifetimes coincided with His.  



Maybe all along, it’s not saying that God chooses who to save from the beginning of time (that He elects certain people to go to heaven), but maybe it's saying that He chose that generation (Paul's and Peter's generation) to be the generation that would be the first of the “Jesus believers” - the first believers after Jesus’s death and resurrection, the first generation to have the Holy Spirit to help them grow to be more and more like Christ.

They were a chosen generation, chosen to be the first to see Jesus and have the Holy Spirit.    

And maybe this is the same kind of greeting we see in 1 Peter.  Maybe Peter is saying not that they were chosen for salvation, but that they were chosen to be the generation that saw Jesus’ death and resurrection.  They would be the first believers of history to have Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

This makes it so much clearer to me.  These interpretations above make so much more sense than the Calvinist idea that "chosen/predestined" means God predestines who to save and who not to save.  Their interpretation destroys the Gospel message, God's character, Jesus's sacrifice, God's grace and justness and love, etc.  Because it introduces too many contradictions and illogical, nonsensical conundrums.  It conflicts with the vast majority of what we read in the Bible, of how God acts in the Bible, and what He calls us to do.  (And yet how do they answer these contradictions and conundrums?  "Well, it's what the Bible says, and we don't have to like it or understand it; we just have to accept it."  Yeah, very rational and scholarly!)

But reading it the way I stated above - that God predestined the path and plan of salvation but that we have to accept it, and that God predestined which generation would be the first to have Jesus and the Holy Spirit - keeps the Bible and God's character intact and consistent.  He created the path and plan and destination, and He paid the price.  We just have to accept it, to believe and receive.  And that's not "working for salvation," like Calvinists say.  It's simply accepting all the work that someone else did on your behalf.

God has done it all, put all the pieces in place.  He's predestined the means of salvation, the path of salvation, the sacrifice for our sins, the fact that He will have an eternal family with Him in heaven, the destination of those who believe (where the path of a true believer takes them), etc.  But our role - our one responsibility - is to decide between accepting it or rejecting it.  Following Him in His plans, or rebelling against Him.

It's like someone having planned everything out for a vacation and having paid for it all.  And they are asking you to come with them.  And all you have to do is say "yes" or "no."  You can go with them on the preplanned, prepaid vacation, or you can refuse to go.  The choice is yours.  And you will have to face the consequence of your choice.  If you say "yes," you will acquire all the things the Lord has planned for those who believe - forgiveness, salvation, eternal life with Him, etc..  But if you say "no," you will miss out on the vacation, eternity with the Lord.  Saying "no" or even simply refusing to make a decision means naturally missing out on the vacation.

This is how salvation works.  This is how to mesh a biblical view of predestination with mankind's free-will and responsibility to make a decision.

And it is very different from the Calvinist view that God alone predestines who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, and there's nothing you can do about it.


So while, yes, predestination is a biblical concept, the way Calvinists view it is not.  

Any and all "predestination verses" can be read in one of these other ways:  God has predestined Israel's involvement in His plans and their salvation as a nation.  He predestined Jesus's death for humanity because He knew we would sin.  He predetermined that Jesus's death is the only way to salvation.  He predetermined to have a family of believers with Him in heaven (but we decide to be part of that family or not).  He predestined people in general to know Him and have a relationship with Him (yet He allows us to resist that plan and to rebel).  He predestined which generation would see the arrival of Jesus and be the first to be saved through His death.  And He predestined the path that believers walk once they choose to believe in Him (a true believer will be led by the Holy Spirit to grow to be more like Christ, to grow closer to Christ, to be more obedient, and to bring God glory).

There are so many other ways to understand "predestination" than "predestined by God to go to heaven or hell."  And unlike a Calvinist's view of predestination, these other ways do not contradict the rest of the Bible and do not change God's character into something horrible, irrational, and contradictory.  They keep the Bible consistent, and they keep God's character intact.   



12.  "Saved"
Here's an interesting thing I found out about the word "saved" in the 2 Thessalonians passage we looked at above ("God chose you to be saved") ...

It doesn't even refer to "eternal salvation."  

According to Strong's concordance, it's referring to being saved from the wrath of God when He pours it out on unrepentant mankind at Jesus's coming, the end times.  (Overall, 2 Thessalonians is an "end times" book anyway.)  So it has nothing to do with God predestining who will inherit eternal salvation and who won't.  It's more about God choosing to spare the Church from His end-times wrath, starting with that generation, the first "Jesus believers."


All in all, there is far too much against the Calvinism in the Bible.  And even those few verses that seem to teach it can be read in other ways - in ways that uphold the rest of the Bible, the Gospel message, God's character, Jesus's sacrifice, etc..  Unlike Calvinism.

How about instead of altering the rest of the Bible to fit a few "Calvinist" verses, we start looking for better interpretations of those few "Calvinist" verses until they fit with the rest of the Bible?  And when we do this, God's Word will be consistent and make sense and be reliable.  Unlike Calvinism.




13.  And finally, "Faith"
(Taken from this post.)

Calvinists say that faith is a gift that only God can give us.  By this they mean God has pre-chosen some people to give faith to (the "elect"), but He withholds this gift of faith from others (the "non-elect").

But is faith a gift God has to give us (i.e. "force" on us)?  

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

One night, not too long ago, I was thinking about this verse, about how it sounds like a Calvinist verse.  Like God gives faith to people, like He decides whom to give faith to.  And so if He doesn't give it to you then you can't have faith.

But all of a sudden it dawned on me that I had always assumed that faith was the "gift" in this verse.  But what if the "gift" is actually referring to something other than faith?

And so I did a little research and found these posts on it.  Give them a read and see what you think:    
  





Apparently, in the Greek language, words are either female or male or neutral.  And if another word relates back to a previous word, they have to agree in gender.  Such as ... "faith" is feminine, so if the "this" (as in "this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God") is referring to "faith," it would also have to be feminine.  

But ... the "this" is actually neutral.  So it can't be referring specifically back to the word "faith."  Faith is not the gift.

And apparently, "grace" is also feminine, so therefore "this (gift)" cannot be referring specifically to that word either.  

So what is the "gift" then?

The thing that makes the most sense is that the whole concept together - the concept of salvation, of being saved by grace though our faith - is the "gift."

Salvation is the gift of God.  And it is a gift that is offered to all.  And we have to decide to either reject that gift or to accept it in faith, through our decision to trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

Faith is not forced on us as a gift.  It is not up to God who gets faith and who doesn't.  But He does offer all of us His gift of salvation.  And then He leaves it up to us to accept it or reject it.

(And even if faith was the "gift," I still say that the very definition of a gift is that it is offered, but the person has to choose to accept it or reject it.  If it is forced on us - if it is irresistible, and we are forcibly compelled to accept it, with no real choice - then it isn't a "gift."  It's would be a ... well, I don't know ... a mandate?  A life sentence?  A robotic programming code?  I don't know what it would be.  But it wouldn't be a gift!)     

(And of course, you can find Calvinists who totally disagree with these arguments above, who will continue to say that faith is a gift that God gives only to the elect.  But let me ask you, which view upholds the Bible overall and God's character better?  The one that teaches God only gives faith to certain pre-selected people and that everyone else is predestined to hell?  Or the one that teaches that God offers the gift of salvation to all, but only those who accept it in faith will acquire it?  Does God really only love a few selected people enough to save them, as Calvinism says?  Did Jesus only die for the elect?  Did God predetermine that most people would go straight to hell, with no chance to be saved, because it somehow glorifies Him?  Or does He really genuinely love all people, want all people to be in heaven with Him, and did Jesus really die for all people like it says in the Bible over and over again?)



In conclusion 
The more I study this topic, the more thoroughly convinced I am that Calvinism is wrong.  That it destroys the Gospel Truth.  That it's heresy.

And the more convinced I am that the responsibility lies with us to make our decision about God, His truth, and His offer of salvation.  He does not make the choice for us.  And if we refuse to make a choice, we remain on the path we were born on – a state of being separated from God.  Hell!  

I don’t get scared anymore when looking things up in the concordance.  Because the more I study it and the deeper I go, the more consistent it gets!  (When you throw Calvinism out, that is!)  

(I think that if Calvinists read the Bible alone with just a concordance - without the "help" of Calvinist theologians telling them how to read it - most of them would not believe in Calvinism.  Calvinism requires Calvinist theologians to find Calvinism in the Bible.  Because without their warped views filling your head, you simply would not find enough in the Bible alone to support Calvinism.  I challenge any Calvinists out there to take my "Defend Your Calvinism" Challenge.  But don't do it for my sake.  Do it for yours and for the sake of truth!) 



Next post in series:  God Set Pharaoh Up

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