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John 15:1-16

I am the Vine (d(b)):
Predestination, Calvin

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This is the second part of a study that started HERE

Perhaps you could first briefly recap on Part 1. You will need Calvin's box later.

In the same way that you had a hat and Box for Calvin, similarly have a tray labelled GOD. Put on a hat labelled ARMINIUS. Put the following paragraphs onto the tray.

JACOB ARMINIUS remonstrated against Calvin (Hence Arminianism or Remonstrants) His arguments were that the world has been designed to work something like a clock – it has been set in motion and will continue to a predetermined end, and in that sense there is predestination.


It is true that the forces involved in nature emanate from God. The forces of Gravity, the atomic forces which control the electrons and which ultimately hold together every created object, rely continually on God’s power. If he were to withdraw, the World would cease to exist. But God’s initial design of the World means that it will work without his day to day control or intervention.


BUT – because of the nature of God he is able to override natural laws and processes – sometimes we would call these ‘acts of God’ and at other times ‘miracles’.


The way the World operates is generally planned by God, but since sin entered, God’s plan has been spoilt and what we now experience is not how God originally intended it.


Man is born sinful and unable to seek God, but God by his grace intervenes in man. His grace comes to all people, acts on all to convict them of sin, draws them towards salvation and enables the possibility of saving faith.


Man has free will. However man’s free will can always be limited by God’s sovereignty. God allows all men the free choice to accept Christ by faith, or to reject him. He can respond or resist.


Christ’s sacrifice of atonement is sufficient for all mankind, but man can choose to reject it.


All believers can have full assurance of their salvation, but they retain the ability to deliberately turn from Christ. Apostasy requires a conscious, deliberate, wilful rejection of Jesus and his salvation, and a renouncement of belief. (Hebrews 6:4-6)


Predestination is based on God’s foreknowledge.


Predestination does not apply to every individual activity but is rather the comprehensive purpose of God which is the structural context in which history moves.


As we are free to make choices God is not usually involved. But he does respond to our choices and actions in such a way that his purposes are ultimately accomplished.


These purposes could be accomplished through many different specific events. God’s plan is not a blueprint encompassing all possible future contingencies. It is rather a dynamic program for the world, the outworking of which depends in part on us.


That's all. Take off Arminius’s hat. Now point to Calvin's box

Calvin had a very tight and controlled theory of God. But because of the almost mathematical way his theory developed, he had no room for manoeuvre.

IF God is all powerful he must be in control.

IF he is in control he would not have allowed sin if he didn’t want it.

Therefore he wants sin and as God he controls it.

All sin is therefore from God and directed by God.

IF God is all-knowing he knows who will be saved.

IF he knows now, he knew before creation.

IF he knew before creation, then he created a few people to be saved, but most he created for damnation.

Ponder what that means

Let’s read five passages that are inconvenient for Calvin to read:

Ezekiel 33:11

11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’

1 John 1:5

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 4:8-10

8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

2 Peter 3:9

9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

1 Timothy 2:3-6

3 This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men.

Things like that don’t fit in the box. And perhaps for Calvin we should rewrite the Christmas story (Luke 2v9-10):

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said to them ‘so you should be. I bring you terrible news of great sorrow and misery that will be for most people’

Arminius also had some problem scriptures:

Look again at Ephesians 1:v4

4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will

And verse 11:

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

Arminius fudged the issue. He stated that election allows us to make a choice so that ‘whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’. And the plan by which this is accomplished is predestination – a general plan for saving all people.

Calvin tried to put God in a box. Arminius recognised that God was bigger than that and allowed him more freedom. Which we’ve represented with a tray.

But in comparison with Calvin’s box or Arminius’ tray, isn't God actually big enough to fill this room? Or this building? Or go outside and look out – and up! – It is impossible to contain God.

If what we understand of God limits him, it is our understanding that is flawed. If we find ourselves saying ‘God can’t do that’ then it’s us who are wrong.

Read Isaiah 55:8-9

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the LORD.

9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Does this suggest that we can begin to understand what God chooses to do? (his ways)

Can we even understand his thoughts?

Now let’s consider us and our choices.

Do we believe that we have free will?

Yes – but at the same time we want God to respond to our prayers and cause changes to occur which can limit the free will and choices of other people.

And God can and does intervene supernaturally whenever he pleases. However he never causes us to make choices which we would regret. Once we detect God’s hand controlling or directing us we respond in thanks and praise!

Genesis 45:8

8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.

What happens if I exercise my free will and choose not to do what God desires?

- He may allow us to suffer the results of our rebellion

Jonah 1:15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.

- If we fail to be obedient to the Lord’s prompting he may pass us by and use someone else:

Esther 4:14

14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

God is sovereign and can force us to listen and obey (Acts 9:1-6.)

Usually we are free to make our own choices. We are free to accept Christ or reject him. So where does predestination come in?

As an introduction to some of the thoughts here it will be helpful for you to have looked at the study on 1 Corinthians 16 (You can link to it HERE). You will need a piece of dowel (or bamboo cane) about 3ft or 1 meter long. Mark on it about 16 divisions.

Place the stick on the floor (or on a table) in the center of the room. Explain that it represents the timeline of the Earth from God’s perspective – from its creation to its end.

Starting at the left hand end, each division is an important date – very roughly!

Creation, The Flood, Abraham, Exodus, David, Exile, Jesus. Then leave 4 gaps and indicate Today.

Note that there is still time before the end of the world but we don’t know how long. God, being in eternity can see the time before creation and also the time after the world has finished.

Encourage everyone to imagine that they are God. Get them to get up and move around. Tell them that they can look away from the Earth, or they can concentrate on one moment in time, in one particular location, and they can take as long as they like (perhaps look at young David selecting the fifth stone from the river – Ask ‘how much time have we as God in Eternity to watch him?’

As God we are not limited by Earth time, and eternity itself reaches far beyond Earth’s limitations – look out of the window!

This line on the floor is the world, from creation to the end.

In God’s eyes, has the world begun yet?

If yes, has it finished yet?

Where in eternity does God call ‘now’?

It’s hard to talk about time in eternity because time doesn’t exist, and God is free to move about in eternity. So he can be in a place where the world has not yet come into being.

Or he can be in a place where the end of the World is long past.

Or he can be spending an eternity considering the potential consequences of granting a prayer from our next prayer meeting. But of course he already knows that prayer before it is spoken.

Some more questions without answers:

Hand a pad of paper and a pen to someone farthest from the line on the floor. Explain that this person is writing names in the Lamb’s book of life.

When exactly is our name written in The Lamb’s Book of Life?

Is it compiled as the Earth progresses to its end?

Or is it left to the last day?

Or was it written before the World started?

And as there is no time in eternity could anyone say anyway?

Could God have known what would happen to his creation before he said ‘Let there be light’?

How much of eternity had passed before God decided it was still worth doing?

Knowing it would lead to the suffering and death of his only son, Jesus?

God knew every last detail of Earth’s history, but in his love and for his glory he created this world, and he created us to live for him. Even though he knew that one of his created beings would rebel against him and spoil his creation.

God knew everyone who would turn to him accepting the salvation he provided and the life with him that he had planned. God also despaired over those who would choose to reject him – though in his love he had given them all he could.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

We have spent some time looking into one small aspect of God – and we have not been able to understand. There are things which I find impossible to grasp. Things which my finite mind cannot reconcile and so I call it contradiction. That doesn’t worry me. It would worry me if I thought I could tie God down or put him in a box. But I can’t. God is too big!

The best way to live this life is to accept what God has revealed about himself and his dealings with the world without question. If some things are hard to understand, or even appear to be directly contradictory, accept that this is so! And never say ‘God can’t - - -’

Marvel in the fact that God loves us. That Jesus died for us. And that we were chosen before the creation of the world!

Show circle pictures from the previous study (15c). Be amazed that although we chose Jesus – and we have Jesus living in us, Jesus actually chose us and he has us living in Him!


If people still struggle with contradictions:

I want you to imagine for a moment - if it helps close your eyes – you are in a shop where a whole wall given over to a Pick-n-Mix sweet display. You are standing there with a paper bag in one hand and a plastic scoop in the other. What are you going for? Fizzy sherbet? Dolly mixtures? Toffees? Chocolates? Liquorice allsorts – being careful to leave the ones you don’t like? OK you can open your eyes.

The Bible is just like that. Calvin chose all the hard sweets and Arminius preferred soft centres. Actually we have to take the lot. We can’t be choosy. It’s best we don’t try to eat it all in one go – it needs to be savoured over a lifetime. And yes, you can go back again and again to your favourites, the display is refilled overnight! You can even say ‘I don’t like the taste of those’. That’s fine because we are all different. This display has been carefully put together to cater for the needs of everyone. And anyway, over time people’s tastes change and as you mature you may well grow to like something you passed by before.

BUT you have to just accept that Barley Sugar is not a Jelly sweet!

John 15da John 15e NIV Copyright