PASADENA, Calif. (ABP) – A Southern Baptist pastor told a California audience June 26 that the notion that God foreknew which believers would freely choose to accept Christ is false.
Steve Lawson, pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, Mobile, Ala., said it is, theologically speaking, “grossly ignorant” to believe that “God looked down the proverbial tunnel of time to see who would choose his Son” and then “in a reflexive manner” chose them for election.
“God has never looked down the tunnel of time and learned anything,” Lawson said during a four-day Resolved Conference sponsored by Grace Community Church in Pasadena, Calif.
“God knows everything immediately, eternally, perfectly, completely,” he said. “God has never received a report from anything that is going on on the earth. God’s knowledge is infinite. It is perfect. So God has never looked down the tunnel of time to see anything, and whatever God does foreknow, it is only because he has already foreordained it.”
Lawson said mankind has a “moral inability to believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ.” He quoted John 6:44, where Jesus said “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.”
“Can is a word of ability,” Lawson said. “May is a word of permission. Jesus did not say no one may come to me.”
Lawson said that God the Father “drew a circle around our names in eternity past and passed over other names and left them to their just condemnation.” Continuing, he said, “God could have chosen none and we would have all gone to hell and God would have been just and perfect in his holiness, for the wages of sin is death.”
Yet, Lawson said, God has chosen “a vast multitude of sinners” for salvation. He said in eternity past God made a “determinative, discriminative” choice to set his love on a “peculiar people” described in Ephesians 1:11 as “having been predestined according to his purpose who works all things after the counsel of his will.”
“The word predestined means the destination is determined before the journey begins,” Lawson said. “Predestination means that God has marked out on the horizon of time the destination by which he is bringing all of human history to an appointed end, and God has predetermined and pre-scripted everything that would come to pass.”
Lawson said there is “nothing harsh or offensive” about the doctrine of predestination, but it is rather “God exalting,” “joy producing” and “humbling.”
“If salvation begins with me, if it is initiated by me, if it is within myself to be able to believe unaided by God, then I should pat myself on the back and share some of the praise with God and take some for myself,” he said. “But if I understand that it is all of God -- that before time began God chose me and set his heart upon me and put into motion by his Son and by his Spirit all that would be necessary to bring me to himself and bring me to glory -- then all praise and all glory goes to God.”
Lawson said God offers not only “saving grace that washes away our sins” but also “believing grace that has enabled us to believe upon his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Why do some believe and others do not believe?” he asked. “Why is it that you have believed and others in your family have not believed? Why is it that you have believed and others who are friends or classmates have not believed? Is it because you are smarter? Is it because you have a higher IQ? Is it that you were more spiritual when you were lost? Is it that you are wiser? Do you have greater insight? The answer to all of these is no. The reason that you have belief is because of the grace of our God and the saving work of the Holy Spirit of God.”
Lawson also said that Jesus’ death atoned only for sins of the elect.
“He did not die for an anonymous, nameless group of people, but specifically he died for you and me who were chosen in him from the foundation of the world,” Lawson said. “It was a very particular death. It was a very specific death. Not one drop of his blood was shed in vain. Upon the cross, Jesus accomplished all that he came to do. Upon that cross Jesus did not merely make us save-able, Jesus actually saved us.”
Lawson said that “every molecule in this universe was pre-scripted by God in this eternal, sovereign will.” That includes details such as “the means by which we would come to hear the gospel and come to a saving faith in Christ” and “when we would be born in history and who our parents would be and where we would grow up, what our gender would be, who would live next door us, who we would go to school with.”
“There are no accidents in our life,” Lawson said. “There is no such thing as blind fate. There is no such thing as good luck or bad luck. Those are all pagan myths.”
Lawson says since humans cannot know which people are predestined, they have a responsibility to preach the gospel to all people. He closed the sermon with an invitation to anyone in the audience under conviction to accept Christ.
“You may say I don’t know if I was chosen, I don’t know if I was predestined,” he said. “You may know that you are chosen and you may know that you are predestined if you will believe upon his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.”