The Deception of Free Will
Article #33
by – Stuart H. Pouliot
January, 2011
Some, not all, of what follows has been presented in several other writings, reedited, and
updated into this article. As Paul would say: To write the same things again is no
trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you (Philippians 3:1 NASB).
This article attempts to answer the questions: What is free will ? Is it necessary to
exercise free will to be saved? Is there a more correct and biblical way to explain how
both man’s will and God’s will enter into individual salvation?
As Christians, many of us have been taught that man has free will and that man makes a
choice to believe in Jesus or not.
As the teaching goes, many will exercise their free will by rejecting God’s Son, which will
lead to an eternity of torture in a fiery oven called hell because God’s love and justice
demand it. Others will exercise their free will by believing in Jesus and accepting God’s
free gift of grace, which will lead to an eternity in heaven, not on earth.
Just to be clear, I unequivocally reject such a teaching; it is false and unbiblical. I have
made my point on this matter numerous times in other writings, so I will not dwell upon
it here. However, merely stating that I reject such teaching does not make it correct.
So, let us consider a few points, starting with the concept of free will and what it means
in light of salvation.
Man’s will.
At the outset, it needs to be stressed that man does have a will that leads to making
everyday choices in life, whether they are big or small choices, good or evil choices.
One of the definitions of the word will is “the power of conscious and deliberate
action or choice: as, freedom of the will.”
This definition does not offer any indication of how freedom of the will works; it simply
implies that man has a freedom to make his own choices, that is, to act or choose based
on his own will or conscious reasoning.
I have no problem with this definition, even the concept of freedom of the will. Let’s face
it; we make choices all day long, whether about food we eat, clothes we wear, activities
we pursue, places we visit, and the list goes on indefinitely.
It is hardly necessary to make the point that in open and free societies, people generally
have the freedom to make their own deliberate or choices or take action in their daily
lives. However, can or should this concept be carried over to individual salvation, as if it
depends on free will ?
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So that you know where I am going with this discussion, the answer to the above
question is no. I believe the term free will is a deceptive term that should not be
included in the doctrine of salvation. It is much like the word hell . The concepts of free
will and hell that are held by evangelicals of our day misrepresent God’s plan to bring
about His ultimate purpose of the ages. But, even more importantly, I believe the whole
concept of free will is invalid, even when it comes to the exercise of man’s will. Simply,
there is no such thing.
Free will.
The term free will is rather strange, for it could imply that the will comes without cost. If
this were how it were viewed, which I do not believe it is, then it would be incorrect, for
the exercise of one’s will often has a cost attached to it. For example: “For whoever
wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will
find it” (Matthew 16:25). Or, going back to the beginning, when Adam and Eve
exercised their will and partook of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, death
passed through into all mankind (Romans 5:12 CV). Hardly anything free about
the curse of death! Obviously, this cannot be the intended meaning of free will .
Referring back to the definition of will , we could conclude that free will is a simplified
way of stating freedom of the will; that is, man has the freedom to choose or not to
choose any course of action in his life, including whether he wants to be saved or not to
be saved, or to believe or not to believe, or to partake of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil or not to partake. However, as we will see, there is more to free will than
this.
As I see it, there are two possible views or explanations of free will . I believe only one
view can rightly be labeled free. However, in actuality, there is no such thing as free will .
I will explain as we go along.
One view says that free will means one exercises his will apart from any and all
external influence ; that is, the will is exercised without any external input. The
answer is within man and nowhere else. This view is clearly seen in the dictionary
definition of free will , which is “able to choose for itself; not restricted by
anything except its own limitation or nature.” In other words, the entire process
of exercising the will begins and ends in man alone.
The other view takes the opposite position by acknowledging that external influences
can come into play in the exercise of one’s will. Man acts based on his analysis or
reasoning of external inputs. But then, could this truly be called free will in light of the
above dictionary definition? No!
However, the common element in these two views is that man alone makes the final
decision as to what action or inaction he will take. The difference between the two is
based on the question of whether one allows or does not allow for input from other
sources before a course of action is taken.
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Let us look at both options and their outcomes, starting with free will apart from
external influence.
Free will without external influence.
If free will requires that it be exercised apart from any external influence, then it makes
man a free agent that is capable of making god-like decisions. Simply, he is free to make
any decision he wants, independent of any external reference point. Carried to the
fullest extent, of necessity, man would have to be free from any influence from his
Creator as well.
Over the years, I have heard it taught that man is a free-will agent . After all, God did
not create man to be a robot. Obviously, He didn’t create robots, for man was created in
the image of God.
But, did He create man to be an independent god unto himself? Most, if not all,
Christians would probably recoil at such a thought; nevertheless, it is the only rightful
outcome of exercising one’s will without external influence. Under this type of free will ,
man must be his own free-agent god. This view is based in humanism , which has its
roots in a material-energy worldview, not a biblical worldview.
Material-energy worldview.
Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984) was one of the most profound intellectual Christian
thinkers of the last century. In his book A Christian Manifesto , he wrote that at the core
of all beliefs there are two worldviews , and all aspects of one’s life will be based on
which view one holds.
[ A Christian Manifesto , Crossway Books, 1981. The following quotes were taken from
pages 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25.]
I have no understanding of how Schaeffer viewed free will , and this article is not a
review of his teaching. However, he offers some valuable insight on two worldviews and
humanism that, in turn, shed some light on free will .
It is not uncommon to hear people refer to one’s worldview. A worldview is the overall
way people think and view the world and life as a whole. It is their reality. According to
Schaeffer, one’s worldview is based on one’s view of reality or total reality.
The Christian worldview starts with the living God, the Creator of all things. We could
call this the creationist worldview .
The total reality of Christianity begins with “the central reality, the objective existence of
the personal-infinite God.” All things that are in existence came forth from a personal
God who is the Creator of all things. Nothing that came into existence came into being
apart from Him. Consequently, total reality is based on a living God, and this reality is to
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engulf all aspects of one’s life. Schaeffer saw true spirituality as engulfing all aspects of
life: “True spirituality covers all of reality.”
On the totally opposite end of the spectrum is the worldview that has overtaken much
thinking in our day that he called “the material-energy, chance concept of
reality.” This worldview is “based upon the idea that the final reality is impersonal
matter or energy shaped into its present form by impersonal chance.”
We could call this the evolutionist or pure-chance worldview .
In other words, what we see with our human eyes, including our own physical bodies,
came about by pure chance and evolved from chaos to order. Material and energy that
make up the universe came together or took shape into some form purely by chance.
Thus, we have the theory of evolution and mankind evolving from some primordial
ooze. There is no personal God who loves and creates or even saves out of His love.
Consequently, reality is seen from two opposing views, one which begins with the living,
personal-infinite God and the other which begins with impersonal-finite material and
energy. One view has grace; the other view has no grace. One view has order emanating
from God; the other view has chaos evolving into order.
Humanistic free will .
One of the consequences of the material-energy worldview is humanism , which is
defined as “the placing of Man at the center of all things and making him the
measure of all things.”
According to Schaeffer, “the term humanism … means Man beginning from himself,
with no knowledge except what he himself can discover and no standards outside
himself. In this view, Man is the measure of all things….”
Accordingly, man is the last word on whether God exists or not, and if man believes God
does exist, then he also has the last word on what God is like and how one can or must
approach Him. This is humanism.
Paul best sums up the scriptural worldview that is diametrically opposite to the
humanistic worldview: For from Him and through Him and to Him are all
things (Romans 11:36).
At any rate, it should be obvious that the concept of free will , based on not being
governed by any external influence, is embodied within the definition of humanism.
We could carry this one step further. If man’s will is truly free, that is, free from any and
all external influence, then man’s will must be absolute, which again is what humanism
demands because man has the first and the last say on any matter. We could call this
humanistic free will .
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I find the word absolute to be one of the most misused words in the American
vocabulary today. It is commonly used as an acknowledgment of general agreement over
the matter at hand, where the use of a simple yes or, perhaps, the word definitely would
be more appropriate.
The word absolute means “perfect, pure, not limited, not conditional, unre-
stricted, not dependent on anything, considered without reference to
anything else.”
The last part of the definition seems to capture the heart of the concept of humanistic
free will . It is a will not dependent on anything and has no reference to anything else.
This type of free will is the power of self-direction or self-control. It sees man as a free
agent who lives in the realm of the absolute. Humanism!
The next time you hear some expert or news pundit use the word absolute or, perhaps,
you or a friend use it, ask this question: Did they (I) mean that they (I) came to a
conclusion on the matter without reference to anything else?
You see, I believe that the spirit of humanism , which is the spirit of the world
that Paul and John warned against (1 Corinthians 2:12; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 2:15-17;
4:3), is so pervasive and, at times, so subtle in our world today that many, including
Christians, easily get sucked into it, and their words and, in some cases, their doctrines
are an indication of it. We need to be on guard!
Carried to its extreme, humanistic free will demands that whatever man chooses to do
or not to do is the right and perfect choice for him. How could it be anything other than
this, since there are no external reference points by which to judge his exercise of free
will ? The concept of good or evil does not enter into the picture, for what matters is
what is right for man. In fact, good and evil are defined however man sees fit to define
them, and when and how they are applied. It is calling evil good and good evil.
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for
light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for
bitter! (Isaiah 5:20 NASB)
Have you noticed how much of this is going on in our day as men vie for power and
control of the world? Humanism is at the heart of it.
Consequently, there is nothing outside of man that makes a difference. What he sees
and does is right in his own eyes. He is on the top of the mountain as the king of the
mountain. Scripture warns about doing what is right in our own eyes.
Through Moses, the Lord warned the sons of Israel: “You shall not do at all what
we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes
(Deuteronomy 12:8 NASB).
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But they did not heed this word. In the days of when there was no king in Israel, it is
recorded that every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6 NASB).
Later, Solomon offered some wisdom on the same matter: The way of a fool is right
in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel ; and E very man’s
way is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts (Proverbs 12:15;
21:2 NASB).
Interestingly, some time back, the following editorial comment appeared in a
newspaper: “My wife and children are my world, and other family members are simply
satellites around that world. If they refuse to recognize my world, then to me, they’re
just insignificant comets flying through my universe.” This quote is a great illustration of
humanism. This person’s worldview is obviously centered on self, and I would imagine
that he believes in free will as well.
If man has humanistic free will as presented so far, then man must be his own god.
Why? Because only a god can make a choice apart from any external influence! Only a
god exercises his will according to what is right according to his own standard. Only a
god can determine what is good or evil. Only a god has no one higher than himself.
The fact of the matter is that mankind, in general, seems to act and think this way. But
the bigger question pertains to Christians. How many have fallen into the trap of
accepting and even, unknowingly, teaching humanistic free will ? Of course, when
confronted with this prospect, most would deny it.
However, the problem is that the material-energy worldview and its offspring,
humanism, are so pervasive today that it has infiltrated into some Christian thinking
and teaching, if not in whole, at least in part. It is so diabolically deceptive that the same
ones who vehemently hold to this concept of free will also vehemently argue against
Darwinian evolution, even though both have their roots in the material-energy
worldview and are manifested through humanism.
At the center of humanistic free will is man who is at the helm of his own ultimate
destiny and who denies God ultimate sovereignty over and responsibility for His entire
creation, without exception.
The word ultimate is injected to emphasize that we are not dealing with man’s
aspirations or desires or plans; we are dealing with a much higher and greater issue that
relates to God’s purpose and plan that includes all of God’s creation, but especially
everyone born of Adam’s race.
To conclude this section, it appears that humanistic free will is most closely aligned with
and explained by the dictionary definition of free will , that is, “able to choose for
itself; not restricted by anything except its own limitation or nature.”
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Affected [free] will .
Now, let us put aside humanistic free will and turn to the second possible type of free
will , namely, that which is exercised based on external influence.
This could be called affected [free] will (my term). The adjective affected is used
because it means “influenced, acted upon.”
However, I propose that once the word affected is attached to free will , the word free
loses much of its meaning, if not validity, especially in light of the above definition of
free will . It seems to me that once external influences come to bear on the will, the
exercise of the will is no longer entirely free, for now restrictions come to bear before
action is taken or not taken. It is simply affected will .
The basic and essential question is this: Does anyone truly exercise their will
apart from external influence or restrictions? Experience says, no!
Consider Adam and Eve; they did not exercise their will apart from external influence or
restrictions. They had two forces working on their conscious that day in the garden. God
had commanded them not to eat of the forbidden fruit, for they would die, and the
crooked serpent called the Devil tempted them to go ahead and eat it, for they would not
die. They had a choice to make, but it was not without two external forces tugging on
their conscious. Some would call this exercising free will , but it cannot be if we are to
hold to the dictionary definition of free will .
Besides, I do not believe Adam actually had a choice in the matter, for he had to attempt
to redeem Eve who was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. She was of his body, and
love for his body demanded that he try to save his wife. Anything less than this would
have led him to break the highest and overruling law of God, the law of love . If you are
unsure of what I am stating, then read Ephesians 5:22-33 in light of Genesis 2-3, asking
the Holy Spirit to guide you.
This is sort of off the subject, but if you are interested in learning more about Adam’s
body love affair, please see The Upward Call , issues #01-0714, November 6, 2007,
Loving Their Wives as Their Own Bodies ; and #01-0724, November 13, 2007, No One
Has Greater Love than This .
Back to the question: Is there any area of our lives in which we exercise our will
independent or absent of any external influence or restriction? Of course not!
Everything we do or do not do is based on some influence in our lives, whether we
directly know these influences or not. We could say that our whole life experience and
the environs around us come to bear on our will.
When we exercise our will, we are making choices based on all the external influences
that might come to bear upon the matter at hand. It is like weighing all our options
before we decide to act or not act.
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Again, as they stood in the garden, Adam and Eve weighed the options as presented by
God and the crooked old serpent and decided to eat the forbidden fruit. Their choice;
our loss!
The fact of the matter is that nothing has changed since Adam and Eve. Our lives are
directed every which way we turn. Not one of us makes decisions independent of some
external influence. There is always something that comes to bear in the exercise of our
will.
For example, governments of today expend a great deal of energy and money controlling
the lives of its people. I cannot drive a car legally unless I am of age and have a driver’s
license. I cannot own a car and drive it legally unless I have insurance, pay taxes, and
have it inspected once a year. I might choose not to do any of these things, but then I
would be a lawbreaker and eventually my actions would lead to trouble. Thus, as a
citizen of the US, I do not have the freedom of the will to do anything I want to do
without consequence.
Further, to carry it to the sublime (at least it is sublime to me); I love ice cream, but the
“food police” and doctors say it is not good for us; high fat, loads of sugar and
cholesterol. By the way, it isn’t ice cream if it isn’t filled with these things. Don’t even
think about feeding me fat-free and sugar-free ice cream. So, when I go to the frig and
pull out that carton of premium ice cream, the dire words from the food police and
doctors (what do they know?) scream at me not to do it, or if I must do it then take only
a small scoop. A small scoop; you have got to be kidding! That’s like telling me to eat just
one pistachio. Ok, so I compromise; instead of eating the whole pint of premium ice
cream, I eat half of it. Happy?
Do you really think this is free will , according to the definition? Of course not! Is it
affected will ? Of course, yes! Actually, my personal example is far from free. If anything,
it has every potential of producing a convicted conscious that says I am guilty of
breaking some rule imposed upon me by some anti-ice cream fanatics.
Throw out the term free will .
Based on all that has been presented so far, what are we to conclude?
I believe we must conclude that there is no such thing as our will being exercised free
and clear of any and all external input or restriction. It matters not if we are a humanist
or a free-will Baptist. The fact of the matter is that the concept of freedom or, we could
say, absolute freedom , as it applies to exercising the will, did not exist with Adam and
Eve, and it does not exist with us 6,000 years later.
Yes, we make choices for ourselves and others. We could even say that we often, but not
always, have the freedom to make these choices; however, we can also be wooed,
steered, nudged, coerced, restricted, and even forced or mandated into these choices or
actions. Of course, we also have the choice to fight external influence or submit to it.
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On the one hand, as much as the humanists might like to think they are their own gods,
humanistic free will , as we have defined it, does not exist. Whether the humanists know
it or not, they do not exercise their will apart from external influence. They are deceived
to think so. Actually, what they are doing is trying to ignore the influence upon their
lives of the Creator and Sovereign God. As hard as they might try, and as convinced as
they might be of their freedom, ultimately God will prevail upon their will to their good
and to His glory.
On the other hand, as much as evangelicals might like to think that man has a will that is
free to accept or reject anything it wants, including God and His Son, in real life it just
does not work this way; and as we will see, in relation to individual salvation, it is God’s
will and plan that matters, not man’s.
So, I propose that we throw out the term free will . If we need to attach an adjective to
the word will , then I further propose it should be the word affected . We have affected
will , not free will .
Danger of free will .
When it comes to salvation, I see a real danger to the whole concept of free will because
I believe that those who use it do so in the absolute sense of “not restricted by
anything except its own limitation or nature.” They have unknowingly bought
into the philosophy of humanism.
Normally, I avoid mentioning specific denominational groups, but I must make an
exception when it comes to free-will Baptists. Besides, generally speaking, it is so
commonly known that Baptists believe in free will that I am not divulging some big
secret or even trying to malign my fellow brethren. Perhaps, some reading this might be
helped.
I once heard a Baptist pastor who preached free will and a literal, fiery hell announce to
his congregation that one of their members had died. With sort of a perplexed look on
his face, the pastor went on to say that this same man had come to him some weeks
before his death questioning whether he was saved or not. I could tell that this bothered
the pastor, and it seemed that he had no answer to why this man who had been in his
congregation for so long had these doubts. I felt for the pastor because he could not see
that his very teaching had planted the seed of doubt in this man.
Think about it; if you are taught that you have the choice to walk the aisle or kneel at the
altar or do whatever in order to accept Christ, does it not follow that if you make the
decision on your own, you can also undo your decision? How often have you heard the
plea: “Make a decision for Christ!” ? Or, how often have you heard the newly saved
say: “I made a decision for Christ!” ? Both are unscriptural.
Add to this the fear of going to hell to be tortured for ever and ever if you do not accept
Christ, and you have a mighty powerful force tugging on you to walk the aisle that even
produces a lingering sense of uncertainty or doubt. The person might be saved but never
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has the full assurance because the seed of self-direction has been planted in his
experience. After all, the man was at the center of “making a decision for Christ,” and he
was coerced into making this decision through pleading rhetoric and fear that he had to
act or face a fiery torture chamber filled with worms and burning sulfur.
This particular pastor would cry out that if he could walk the aisle on his knees on
broken glass to get just one person saved and keep that person out of hell, he would do
so.
I cannot state so emphatically, but it seems to me that humanism is at the center of free-
will Baptist preaching “to get people saved.”
I am open to a rebuttal that they acknowledge that many external influences might come
to bear in making a right choice (i.e., the Holy Spirit, or perhaps, fear) or a wrong choice
(i.e., the flesh and/or the Devil).
However, if this is so, then the word free should be dropped. At best they hold to
affected will , but even this misses the mark when it comes to salvation. Mind you; I am
trying to be generous, but I believe they actually and literally mean free will , as it has
been defined, and unknowingly preach humanistic free will . Their emphasis is placed
squarely on the individual and not on God who wills.
The sad part is that they do not realize what they are doing, and worse, they adamantly
defend what they preach because they are “preaching the word” straight out of the King
James Bible. But are they really preaching the word, or are they preaching a tradition of
men taught in the seminaries that is unscriptural? I vote for the latter.
Can we not conclude that when it comes to salvation, humanistic free will is an
erroneous teaching that is part of the every wind of doctrine that has been worked
into the systematizing of the deception that has been introduced by the trickery
of men and that Paul warns us to be on guard against (Ephesians 4:14 CV)? Again,
humanistic free will is much like the modern-day view of hell that comes straight out of
paganism.
Salvation–Man’s choice or God’s will?
It all boils down to this one question: Is man saved by his own will, that is, by making a
choice to believe God about His Son, or is he saved by God alone who overcomes man’s
will with His will so that man can and does believe God?
In other words, does God’s will trump man’s will at the moment of being saved by grace
through faith? Or, worded in another way, is man’s salvation based on man’s will or on
God’s will? If many (by some counts, 50 billion since Adam) never exercised their so-
called free will to believe or were incapable of exercising their free will because they
never heard the good news, does this mean that they are forever damned and
condemned to eternal torment and torture in a literal hell-hole of fire, as many
preachers would have us believe? It is a sad commentary on our day that many who call
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themselves evangelicals would answer “yes” to this question. For us who hold to
universal reconciliation, the answer is a resounding “no,” for God our Savior wills that
all mankind be saved.
(3) For this is right and acceptable before God our Saviour, (4) who doth
will all men to be saved, and to come to the full knowledge of the truth; (5)
for one is God, one also is mediator of God and of men, the man Christ
Jesus, (6) who did give himself a ransom for all–the testimony in its own
times…. (1 Timothy 2:3-6 YLT)
Who saves?
I propose that the question is not whether we exercise our will in making choices every
day, for we most certainly do make choices all day long, but it is whether God’s will
trumps our will when it comes to believing in His Son. Another way of asking the
question is this: Does God’s will come to bear on our will to save us, or is salvation
totally up to our will?
Some will say that God does not want robots, so He will not interfere with our will in the
matter of salvation. Yet, our wills are influenced all day long by our spouses, our
children, our parents, society, and, most of all, by our government and its laws under
which we live. Not one of us lives in some protected bubble free of external influence.
We don’t live in a vacuum!
So, why is it that so many believe that our very Creator has no direct influence on us
when it comes to salvation? Who saves us, God or ourselves? Why is it that so many
seem to hold that God’s love cannot and does not woo our hearts to His Son? Of course,
love is another matter entirely; but isn’t love a powerful influence?
For a moment, let us consider Jesus’ will when He walked on this earth 2,000 years ago.
In regard to the purpose of God, Jesus executed God’s will perfectly, never executing His
own will. While on earth, He was under the will of another source, the will of His Father
in heaven.
The Son of God did not come to this earth to exercise His will. He came to do the will of
the Father. He had no intention of coming to do what He wanted to do.
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of
Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38 NASB; also Matthew 26:39; John 8:28)
It was designated beforehand that the Son would come to this earth in the form of man,
not to exercise His own will but to do the will of His Father in going to the cross to die
for all mankind. Even His second coming is in the will of His Father.
Now, concerning that day and hour no one is aware, neither the messengers
of the heavens, nor the Son; except the Father only. (Matthew 24:36 CV)
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The Son cannot decide on His own that He is tired of waiting, so He is going to return to
earth and seize His kingdom. The Father and the Son know the day and the hour, but
the Son cannot change the appointed time fixed by His Father’s authority (Acts 1:7).
Grace overwhelms.
Consider Paul the apostle. I use him often as an example of one who was apprehended
by Christ (Philippians 3:12). On the road to Damascus, Paul had no intention or desire
to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Paul did not apprehend Christ on that dusty road;
rather, he was out to destroy Christ. In fact, he considered those who did believe in
Jesus, the Way, to be his enemies and the enemies of God that needed to be wiped out.
Paul’s testimony is mighty powerful proof that his will was so set against the Lord and
His people that a power beyond him had to blast him out of his ignorance and unbelief.
(12) I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He
considered me faithful, putting me into service, (13) even though I was
formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was
shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; (14) and the grace of
our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found
in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:12-14 NASB)
By his own admission, Paul was in ignorance and unbelief. It was like a great mountain
in his life that was immovable. Nothing could blast this huge stumbling block from his
life. Even worse, Paul never knew that it was a stumbling block until the Lord Jesus met
him and blinded him on that dusty road.
But what overcame Paul’s ignorance and unbelief? Was it Paul’s will that all of a sudden
decided to accept Christ apart from any external influence? Hardly! A blinding light out
of heaven is a mighty powerful influence on one in unbelief. So what changed Paul’s
mind in that split second when Jesus spoke out of heaven? Paul tells us what did it. Yet
the grace of our Lord overwhelms, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.
It was the grace of our Lord that met him on that road and overwhelmed his ignorance
and unbelief with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Don’t miss the truth that Paul has left
us. It was grace that overwhelmed him with faith and love. It was not Paul’s grace; it was
not Paul’s faith; and it was not Paul’s love. It was all from the Lord Jesus. When he
wrote his epistle to the Galatians, Paul declared that it was not his faith; it was the faith
of the Son of God .
I am crucified with Christ, and no longer live, I, but Christ lives in me; but
in that I now live in flesh, I live by faith, the faith of the Son of God, who has
loved me and given himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 DNT)
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in
me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of
God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 KJV)
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I can testify that it was neither my will nor my faith that led me to believe in Jesus. One
day as I was in unbelief and ignorance, Jesus broke into my life, and by His grace He
gave me His faith to believe, and He saved me. My boast is in Him alone, for I did
nothing to save myself; I had no faith of my own to believe; and my will was
overwhelmed with the grace of God so that I bowed the knee to Jesus. Was my will
exercised when Jesus met me? It most certainly was. But did I make a choice
independent of any external influence? Absolutely not! Then what happened to my will?
God came in and trumped my will with faith and love and brought my will into
conformance with His will.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How
unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Romans 11:33
NASB)
Does this make me or anyone else who believes in Jesus into a robot for God? Absolutely
not! We continue to make choices all day long, but now we are free to make right choices
for God and His kingdom under the influence and guidance of the spirit of God.
Where is your boast?
Again, let us consider Paul’s testimony.
(15) But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and
called me through His grace, was pleased (16) to reveal His Son in me so
that I might preach Him among the Gentiles [ethnos; nations]. (Galatians 1:15-16
NASB [CV])
Where is free will in his testimony? There is none. Paul was called through grace. He
never boasted that he made a “decision for Christ.” Christ apprehended him; a fact he
later testified to the Philippians.
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I
follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended
of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12 KJV)
The Greek word for apprehend can have the meaning of “to seize.” Paul was not simply
spoken to; he was seized by Christ. Again, his will was overcome by the will of the Lord.
Paul made no boast that he had anything to do with his salvation. It was all of grace, the
free gift of God. His boast was in the grace of God. Period!
(8) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God; (9) not as a result of works, so that no one
may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB)
If we believe that we made a free will decision for Christ, do we not have a boast in
ourselves? Yes, we might proclaim “Jesus saved me,” but it is based on us figuring it all
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out on our own and making the decision according to our own will. Simply making the
claim that “I made a decision for Christ” is a boast.
Does not “our decision” become a work of “our” faith; something of which we can boast?
In other words, we have a boast that by our free will we made a right choice for God.
After all, we tragically and even arrogantly think we are not like the billions of others
who, based on their free will , refuse to believe in Jesus.
We might have walked the aisle or knelt at the altar or heard a preacher or simply cried
out to God when we were saved so that we knew it within our heart, but where do we
think the grace through faith came from in the first place to even lead us to God and His
Son? If we were in ignorance and in unbelief one moment and bowing the knee to Jesus
in the next moment, then what precipitated this change in our life? What removed our
blindness and opened our eyes? Do we honestly think that we did it? Can we take any
credit for bowing the knee, as if it were our work? Where is our boast, if not in God
alone?
Where I believe many evangelicals go off the rail is in their denial that God’s will trumps
man’s will when it comes to salvation. Again, they have bought into the lie of humanism
in which man gets the credit. Their boast becomes their decision for Christ.
Without a mighty external influence, none of us would ever be saved! It matters not if
we have humanistic free will or affected free will and how we define these terms; the
fact of the matter is that the will of God is supreme when it comes to His creation.
I apologize for the repetition, but we must see that the issue is not about our will, free or
otherwise; it is about God who wills and whether His will can and does overcome man’s
will to save him. God does not wish it or merely desire it as if it might not happen; He
not only wills it to happen but also makes it happen to His glory.
(3) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, (4) who
will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1
Timothy 2:3-4 DRB)
If you still have some doubts, then consider some other points.
As You will.
When people are first saved, they are often told by some pastors that they must obey the
Lord; and this comes by reading His word, knowing His will for them, and obeying what
He speaks to their hearts to do. They might even be told that in the garden of
Gethsemane, Jesus cried out to His Father, “Yet not as I will, but as You will”
(Matthew 26:39), and that this is to be their prayer as well.
Those of us who have gone on with the Lord for a few years can testify that knowing and
doing the will of God is not as easy as it seems. After all, even Jesus was in distress as He
prayed to His Father, contemplating the sin that He was to bear and the cross that He
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faced. Doing the will of God is often taking up our cross (Matthew 16:24), and this is not
an easy thing to do, for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38).
Now, this poses a question: If for believers, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,
then how does an unbeliever, whose spirit is dead to God and whose flesh is in control,
exert his or her will to believe in Jesus? Stated another way: If believers face challenges
to do the will of God and they have an earnest of the spirit of God (2 Corinthians
1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14), then how do unbelievers break through these same
barriers on their own without the spirit of God? The answer is that unbelievers cannot
break through, for they have no means within them to do so; their flesh is in control,
and the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63).
Simply, doing the will of God that leads to salvation is impossible for an unbeliever.
Sinners need the grace of God and the faith of Jesus (His faith) to break through the
barrier of unbelief, and this requires the Holy Spirit to move upon their hearts of
unbelief. We all start from this same point, whether we are 4 or 80 years old when Jesus
breaks into our life.
As Christians, let us hold to the worldview of a personal God, the Creator of all things,
who is the Supreme and Sovereign over the affairs of His creation. God Himself is
responsible for His creation, including mankind. Let us shun anything and everything
that comes forth from the “material-energy, chance concept of reality,” including
anything that has its roots in humanism .
When we were ignorant and in unbelief, by His grace, God broke into our lives and
saved us by giving us the faith of the Son of God!
Let us not be persuaded by a worldview that robs God of His glory. We do not live by
pure chance but by the loving care of a personal God, the Creator of all things, who
speaks to men and declares His way for mankind.
(24) “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of
heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; (25) nor is
He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He
Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; (26) and He made
from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth,
having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their
habitation, (27) that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for
Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; (28) for in Him
we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For
we also are His children.’ (29) Being then the children of God, we ought not
to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image
formed by the art and thought of man. (30) Therefore having overlooked
the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people
everywhere should repent, (31) because He has fixed a day in which He will
judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed,
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having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24-
31 NASB)
Notice that God alone arranges the appointed times and boundaries for mankind. Why?
So that men would seek God! In other words, God arranges things so that mankind will
seek after Him. God is the one who pursues mankind. What proof has God provided
mankind? He raised Jesus, the Son of God, from the dead. The Creator God is the God of
the living, and by His grace, love, and faith manifested through His Son, He alone gives
life. This gift is not dependent on man’s will but on God who wills that all mankind be
saved. Give God all the glory, and let your boast be in the Lord.
Let us be encouraged that He overlooked the times of ignorance and has overlooked our
ignorance and unbelief. Yet the grace of our Lord overwhelms!
Does not depend on the man who wills.
If God’s will trumps man’s will, then why doesn’t He simply save everyone at the same
time or at some specified age? Why is it that He wills not to save some during their
journey in mortal bodies? Doesn’t this mean that they are lost forever if they die without
believing?
To answer these questions, we again need to turn to Paul, for he offers the clearest
answer.
(10) And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived
twins by one man, our father Isaac; (11) for though the twins were not yet
born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose
according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of
Him who calls, (12) it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE
YOUNGER.” (13) Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I
HATED.” (Romans 9:10-13 NASB)
Two brothers came out of the same womb minutes apart, but according to God’s will,
one was chosen and the other was not. Notice that while still in the womb, having done
no works, either good or bad, the Lord chose one brother over the other. It was God’s
choice according to His purpose. He even reversed the order of birth and gave the
birthright of the firstborn son to the younger brother. He applied the law of the
second by taking away the first in order to establish the second (Hebrews 10:9).
God loved Jacob but hated Esau. This might seem out of character for God who is love,
until we realize that hated simply means that God loved Esau less or rather showered
less blessing on him than his brother. It was His purpose to bestow on Jacob special
favor because He chose him to be central in His plan. There was a blessing on Esau; it
just wasn’t the greater blessing that was part of God’s plan for Israel. By faith Isaac
blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come (Hebrews 11:20 NASB).
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(14) What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it
never be! (15) For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I
HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE
COMPASSION.” (Romans 9:14-15 NASB)
Paul brings the whole matter into sharp focus. He knew the charge against God that He
is unfair and unjust. Paul is emphatic; there is no injustice in God. God will have mercy
on whom He wills to have mercy.
So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but
on God who has mercy. (Romans 9:16 NASB)
This one verse refutes every argument in favor of free will . Everything depends on the
God who has mercy and not on man’s will. It is hard to imagine how anyone who claims
to know the word of God can preach that free will enters into salvation, based on this
one verse.
(17) For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I
RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY
NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.”
(18) So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He
desires. (Romans 9:17-18 NASB)
Here Paul injects the Exodus account of God hardening the heart of Pharaoh. It was
God’s purpose to harden his heart in order not only to demonstrate His power but to
reveal His purpose, namely, that His name might be proclaimed to all the nations of the
whole earth. Thus, Pharaoh was caught up in God’s plan, and it was necessary that He
harden his heart.
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His
will?” (Romans 9:19 NASB)
Again, Paul knew the charge made against God who, at times, seems to place blame on
people. But who resists the will of God? Herein lies the point of this article. God’s will
trumps man’s will. When God moves upon a heart to move it a certain way, no one can
resist His will. After all, He is the Sovereign of His creation. Should He not be able to do
as He plans to accomplish His purpose for mankind, as well as all creation?
(20) On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The
thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,”
will it? (21) Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from
the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?
(Romans 9:20-21 NASB)
Does the created answer back to its Creator, accusing its Creator of being unfair and
unjust? Paul drew his analogy from Isaiah and Jeremiah the prophets.
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You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the
clay, that what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; or
what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
(Isaiah 29:16 NASB)
(3) Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making
something on the wheel. (4) But the vessel that he was making of clay was
spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it
pleased the potter to make. (5) Then the word of the LORD came to me
saying, (6) “Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?”
declares the LORD. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in
My hand, O house of Israel.” (Jeremiah 18:3-6 NASB)
Just as the Lord has the right to raise up and tear down nations, so does He have the
right to choose one man for an honorable use and another for common use. Paul again
draws upon this concept in his letter to Timothy.
Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also
vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to
dishonor. (2 Timothy 2:20 NASB)
Again, this all comes down to the fact that it does not depend on the man who
wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
I have no doubt that some of what Paul taught and supported through the words of the
prophets might bother some people, especially those who hold to the flawed doctrines of
free will and hell . After all, it seems to go against man’s freedom to choose to go to
heaven or go to hell. To others, it still might seem unfair, especially for those who see
billions upon billions being cast alive into and remaining alive in a literal fire of hell for
eternity.
The problem with so much evangelical teaching is a failure to recognize that God wills
(intends) to save everyone born of Adam’s race, without exception. All are destined for
immortality through the Son of God, but all are not destined for it at the same time or in
the same age or even in the same way.
Some believers will come into it at the end of our present age through the first
resurrection (Revelation 20:5b). Other believers will come into it at the end of the
Kingdom Age through the second resurrection (Revelation 20:5a; 11-15); saved,
yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:15), that is, the fiery law of God.
Finally, the unbelievers raised up in the second resurrection will come into it through
the judgment of God’s righteous fiery law, the lake that burns with fire and
brimstone , which is the second death , a death of their unrighteous works or deeds
(Revelation 20:12; 21:8), that will lead to their full restoration by the consummation
of the ages . See The Upward Call , issue #05-1120, January 20, 2011, Brimstone–
Agent of Love .
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I have covered this ground throughout my writings, so I do not intend to go over this
ground in this article. More recently, during January 2011, I posted a series of issues of
The Upward Call that touch upon some of these points. In addition, I refer you to article
#17, January 2009, Snatched Away [The Rapture] , or my January 2009 book titled
That God May Be All in all New .
Absolute success of the cross.
It all boils down to one question: Do you believe that the cross was/is an absolute
success in saving all mankind? I use the word absolute in its fullest sense.
I imagine that most would answer, yes, but with the condition attached that it is so only
for those who exercise their free will and believe. What they really are saying is that the
cross potentially saved all mankind, but not absolutely .
I find it fascinating how close some pastor-teachers come to the truth of the absolute
success of the cross without arriving at its rightful conclusion in regards to the salvation
of all mankind.
Many will rightly declare that Adam’s one sin brought all mankind into death and its
companion sin, and that none of us has a choice in the matter; and yet, when it comes to
the last Adam’s one act of righteousness on the cross, very few will benefit from it
because each individual has a choice in the matter and most will fail to make the right
choice.
Further, most, if not all, agree with Paul that love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8), and
yet, they deny this truth by believing that the love of God will fail to reach the heart of
everyone born of Adam’s race.
How could Paul state that love never fails? He could because he knew that the love of
God manifested through the cross was an absolute, 100% success in undoing what the
first Adam brought upon his race.
Now, Adam successfully caused death and sin to enter into all mankind. In Adam all
die (1 Corinthians 15:22). There is no exception for any born of Adam’s race, which
means all of mankind. In other words, Adam’s one transgression was an absolute
success in bringing death and sin unto all mankind, and those born of Adam’s race have
no choice in the matter. All born of man must die. Most every student of scripture would
have to agree that this is true. In fact, even the unbeliever would have to agree that all
die, for it is an indisputable fact that all die, and we have a countless number of graves in
the earth to prove it.
However, when it comes to Christ’s one act of righteousness, many believers hold an
entirely different view. They see Christ’s one act of righteousness potentially leading to
life for all, but not all will attain to it because it is only possible if one believes of his own
volition ( free will ). In other words, mankind has a choice in the matter, and
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unfortunately, most will not make the choice while in mortal bodies, so they will die in
their sin and remain lost, rotting in hell forever.
Is there something odd about this reasoning? Mankind has no choice in the matter of
death and sin, but now must make a choice in the matter of life. Mankind had no free
will in becoming a sinner and ultimately facing death but now has a free will to
determine his destiny in heaven or hell.
Does this make any sense to you? Isn’t it rather strange that billions upon billions of
people who had the spirit of life breathed into them made a free-will choice to die and
rejected God’s promise of life? Why is it that the majority (not the minority) of mankind
has chosen, according to their own free will , not to go the way of life? Isn’t it far more
logical that if man’s free will were operative in the matter of salvation, that most of
mankind would choose immortality? After all, most of mankind seems to fear death.
When we fear something, we generally desire to stay away from that thing. Think about
it!
Consider this question: Why is Adam’s one transgression more successful (in a bad
sense) than Christ’s one righteous act (in a good sense)? Has God ultimately failed? Is
God not able to save all mankind? Did He make the ultimate sacrifice knowing that
billions of His creatures, made to be perfected into His own image, are going to be cast
into a fiery lake to be tortured forever and ever and ever?
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all
men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification
of life to all men. (Romans 5:18 NASB)
Could Paul have made the universal salvation or restoration of all more clear than this?
All men! Life for all men!
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians
15:22 NASB)
Do you see any exception in this? All is an inclusive word, meaning everyone, not some
or most but all. See The Upward Call , issue 05-1126, February 7, 2011, All Things – The
All.
(14) For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died
for all, therefore all died; (15) and He died for all, so that they who live
might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again
on their behalf. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NASB)
Don’t let what you have been taught about free will get in the way; throw out the
concept and follow Paul’s logic. Christ died, and when He died, He took the whole of the
human race with Him into the grave; therefore, all died, no exceptions.
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Now, if Christ took everyone into the grave, how will anyone get out of death? They are
dead! How can they exercise free will to get out? If God is responsible for bringing all
mankind into death, then isn’t He responsible for getting them out as well? There is only
one way, and it is through the One who was raised from among the dead on behalf of all
the dead, that is, all mankind. This is the glory of the cross of Christ and His blood shed
for the sin of the world.
Some might read into the phrase “they who live” as referring only to believers, but the
context does not support this conclusion. All died, not by their own choice or free will
but by God’s doing; therefore, it is up to God to get them out of death not by man
exercising his free will but by God who wills. They who live refers to all mankind that
will eventually, but not all at the same time, live for Him who died and rose on the
behalf of all.
Add to all of this Paul’s word on reconciliation, and all remaining doubt must vanish.
(19) For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in
Him, (20) and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made
peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on
earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:19-20 NASB)
Notice how Paul carries reconciliation beyond man and earth to all things in heaven as
well. The success of the blood of His cross is all-inclusive and universal.
This answers the question of why God chooses some over others during the ages, and
why He hardens hearts, and why He molds some as vessels of honor and others as
vessels of dishonor or common use. It is because each has a part to play in His plan, and
ultimately, when all is said and done, God will settle all accounts with each and every
one in a fair and just way as He saves them all into immortality through His Son so that
He may be all in all.
Paul makes it abundantly clear that all are actually on the same footing when it comes to
salvation. There is none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10), and all are locked
up in stubbornness or disobedience.
For God locks up all together in stubbornness, that He should be merciful to
all. (Romans 11:32 CV)
See my book The Purpose and Plan of the Eons , Volume 1, Chapter 5, Restoring the
Whole Creation , and Chapter 8, Locks Up All Together in Stubbornness .
Paul places all of us, believer and unbeliever alike, on the same level playing field before
God. God is going to shower His mercy on all because He has shut up or locked up all.
Whom do you want to exclude from this all?
Are we to conclude that it is His will that there are exceptions to His all ?
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If it is true, then we must conclude that God will fail to achieve His purpose, and the
cross was not able to undo all that Adam did. Without doubt, some will argue that it is
man’s failure, not God’s. But this cannot be so, for if man fails to reach God’s end, it is
God who fails, not man. Man did not establish God’s purpose; God did! Man was
nowhere to be found before the ages of time when God set His purpose and plan
according to the counsel of His will.
But of God.
We need to be abundantly clear that if God did not, does not, and will not exercise His
will on behalf of man, then man will be forever locked in death and never find his way
into immortality. Thank God; it is not left up to man’s so-called free will .
(12) But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become
children of God, even to those who believe in His name, (13) who were born,
not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
(John 1:12-13 NASB)
Some might read into this that one must first make a choice for Christ before they
become a child of God, but this is not what John wrote. Do those who believe in His
name become children born of God because they are born of a certain bloodline or
ancestry? No! Do they become children of God because they exercise their will, as in the
will of man or free will ? No! Then how do they become children born of God? But of
God! It comes from God Himself, not from the will of man, free or affected. Simply,
God acts in favor of man, even when he is dead in his transgressions (Romans 5:6-8;
Ephesians 2:5).
Man is helpless in his sin, so why do we make man a hero in his own
salvation, as if he can save himself by exercising his so-called free will ?
God the Creator alone is responsible for His creation, and He has taken on the full
responsibility to save all mankind through His Son.
We need to continually be reminded that it is God’s will that is being worked out in the
ages [eons], not man’s will, and that God will accomplish all that He wills through and
for His Son. In Christ all will be made alive! All things come forth through God.
There is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for
Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist
through Him. (1 Corinthians 8:6 NASB)
We need to stop holding to a small, impotent god created in our own image and embrace
the God of All who will be All in all.
Paul sums up the whole matter and makes it clear that God is all in all.
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For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. (Romans 11:36
NASB)
Who or what is left out of this glorious truth? Nothing, for God encompasses all things,
and at the consummation of the eons, He will be all in all when He has completed
making all things new (1 Corinthians 15:28; Revelation 21:5).
To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
Scripture Abbreviations:
CV
Concordant Version
DRB
1899 Douay-Rheims Bible
NASB
New American Standard Bible
YLT
Young’s Literal Translation
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KJV
King James Version