Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on Feb. 11, 2007.
"Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name" (Isa. 49:1, NIV).
Isaiah knew that God had called him from the womb, had made his mouth "like a sharpened sword," and had made him into "a polished arrow" (49:2). Whether he was born knowing it, or more probably, grew into it as he walked with God, the knowledge of his calling gave him the courage to make sweeping pronouncements of God's judgments of Israel and her ultimate blessing. He prophesied to King Hezekiah, "The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon" (II Kings 20:17). The NIV Study Note observes, "Isaiah's prediction of Babylonian exile at least 115 years before it happened is all the more remarkable because, when he spoke, it appeared that Assyria rather than Babylon was the world power from whom Judah had the most to fear." Likewise, he prophesied, "Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children" (Isa. 66:8-9). If, as some believe, he was prophesying about the creation of the nation of Israel in 1948, he made that pronouncement more than 2,600 years prior to his words coming to pass. Without his absolute belief in the sovereignty of God, he could never have spoken about these events as though they were. The name Isaiah means "The Lord saves," and without doubt God fulfilled this prophet's name and his words in the nation of Israel, even unto the present time.
Lenny and I enjoyed some phone fellowship with a pastor in Oklahoma City recently, and one of the things we discussed was the fact that you cannot just go around and say "God is going to save everyone," without backing it up with scripture. When He sent me to Medicalodge, the Lord told me to tell them they need not fear dying and going to hell because He was going to bring them all to heaven when they die. At the time, I thought, "Oh swell, and they are just going to believe that because I say it?" I needn't have worried, for God painstakingly showed in book, chapter, and verse, the truth of what He had told me to tell them.
I've done a lot of teaching and writing about the unconditional covenant God made with Abraham, which is the scriptural basis of God's ultimate reconciliation of all. In that covenant, the Lord told Abraham that in His seed, would ALL NATIONS be blessed (Gen. 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:8). Paul identified who the seed is: "The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ" (Gal. 3:16).
In Christ, are all nations, all people, blessed, which is exactly what Jesus said of Himself: "As for me, if I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32). The reason so many Christians do not believe God can ultimately save everyone is because they have never been apprehended by the absolute sovereignty of God. It's one of the first things He began to show me decades ago, but there are still areas which He uncovers from time to time where I wrestle with what is His responsibility and what is mine.
The church has watered down the gospel to a weak doctrine that basically declares that God's hands are tied by man's free will. "God did His best for you," preachers declare, "but your eternal destination depends upon what You are going to do for him!" I've heard that all my life, believed it for a time, but early on, God showed me my inadequacies up close and personal. He demonstrated clearly to me that my self achieved holiness is full of holes and my own righteousness is built on dead men's bones. I'm not beating myself up here because He also showed me that everything depends upon the finished work of Christ, rather than upon any work I could do for Him. Clearly, I am not alone in wrestling with the absolute sovereignty of God. If you could see the e-mail we get daily, you would know as we do, how brainwashed Christians have been by religion, church dogma, the doctrines of men, the carnal mind.
Again, this is not something to beat your breast over, for it is a hold over from Adam's fall. This is why I'm going to start in the Garden to explain God's salvation of all, rather than with Abraham as I have in the past. I read the first two chapters of Genesis aloud to Lenny today, emphasizing the authority God gave Adam from the beginning: "And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth" (Gen. 1:28). God gave Adam, whom He created in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:27), the authority to rule over the earth and the creatures which moved upon it.
Adam had power and authority from God to tend the garden, care for the animals, and live in peace with nature. When he decided to cast his lot with Eve and eat the forbidden fruit, he probably did not understand what his disobedience would cost him and all of us. And yet, each of us, the seed of Adam, have within our psyches the urge to take control over our world. With all due respect to our Father, I say we are "a chip off the old block; like father, like son." We are fashioned after His image and likeness, with the same urge to create and control that God Himself imparted to us in His spiritual DNA, and therein lies the rub, UNTIL the Spirit brings us into submission to God's will.
Meanwhile, we often fall prey to the same deception which brought down Adam's house: the idea that we have free will to do as we please. As Jonathan Mitchell pointed out in a writing, Adam's will was NOT free! He could NOT decide and choose to do whatever He pleased. He had been given a position of authority by God to do ONLY as GOD had ordained. When Adam went his own way, he found out the truth of the scripture, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death" (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). John Gavazzoni has also written powerfully about free will, pointing out that God is the only being in the Universe whose will is truly free. God held Adam and Eve accountable for their failure to follow orders; He held the people who lived in Noah's day accountable for their failure to do right in His eyes.
Fast forward the tape to the time of Moses, who brought the Law to God's people, Israel. It codified for them what God expected of them, and what would happen if they failed to comply, in horrifying detail. I think Lenny's explanation of this is good so I'm going to share it again. Under Law, it does appear that Israel had limited free will, because they were given a choice to obey and be blessed, or disobey and be cursed (Deut. 28). However, there's no free will in that either, for free will implies that man can decide what to do and then do it with impunity, which was NOT the case. Because of poor translations, the New Testament obscures this truth by translating so much into the imperative mood (command), rather than a statement of what is (indicative mood). The same people who rejoice over the salvation bought by the blood of the Lamb, also lay upon anyone who will listen, that you can disobey if you want to pay the price and spend eternity in hell. The Law has a tendency to make people extremely neurotic, anxious and fearful. Law creates Cranky Old Things (cranky because they are living by Law, not grace, See Link at End).
Most Christians I've ever met do not understand that when they bind conditions upon the salvation Christ died to achieve for the benefit of the whole world, they are living by law. I had a chance to watch the Midnight Mass at the Vatican on Christmas Eve, and it was remarkable to me on so many levels. Thanks to the generosity of my sister and her husband, Bob and Mary Blattner, Lenny and I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Vatican in 2004. It is astonishing and beautiful, and to be there on a most sacred occasion to Catholics, even by satellite, was a special treat for me. I was struck by the similarities between the Catholic religion and the Old Testament rituals, including the priesthood, the incense, the candles, the chanting of the scriptures, and the separation of clergy and laity. Some Protestants are quite proud that they broke away from Catholic tradition, but the similarities are still there, just more subtle.
Inherent in all religions runs the thread of what man must do to clean himself up, to change his behavior and then, maybe God will fellowship with him. That's law, my friends, pure law. Under the Old Covenant, man was held accountable in this life for how he responded to the written code. Even though Paul is very clear that God "canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross" (Col. 2:14), nevertheless, every Christian denomination has its own code of conduct; its own system of beliefs that must be espoused and obeyed, and its own sacrificial offerings given to appease the wrath of God and obtain His favor.
At the other extreme are those who take the verse, "..as he is so are we in this world" (I John 4:17), and run with it, declaring that "we are Christ." They believe that we need never be sick or poor, because Christ endured all of that in our stead. That's sloppy theology. He did not die in our place, because if He had, then all men would have ceased to die when He arose from the dead. He died as the sacrifice without blemish, the Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world. We are NOT Christ. We are the body, the bride of the One who accomplished every good work for the children of men: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed" (I Pet. 2:24). Some maintain that since He suffered and died, we don't have to. Again, this is childish theology, and failure to realize the sovereignty of God in all things, even sickness and physical death.
God gave Adam great authority and power over the creation, but it was UNDER the Lordship of Christ. When Adam overstepped his boundaries, God took from him the power and authority he had enjoyed, cast him and Eve out of the Garden and away from His presence, and put cherubim with flaming swords at the gate so that they might not get back in, in their fallen state (Gen. 3:24). Christ came to reverse that process, to rescue us "from the dominion of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:13). Paul warned that some would try to deceive us with "deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles OF THIS WORLD rather than on Christ" (Col. 2:8).
Paul goes on to say "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fulness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead" (Col. 2:9-12). In this passage we see that indeed we have been given fulness in Christ, but Paul also points out that CHRIST is the head over every power and authority. Remember that He told the disciples before He left them physically that "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18).
He still has all power in heaven and in earth. Our power and authority, great as it is, still remains under His headship and authority. If we step beyond those boundaries, we will soon find out that God is the one sitting on the throne, not man. God has a reason for everything He brings to us, and no matter what it may look like, good or ill, He has a purpose for it. The Hebrew writer said of Christ, "Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered" (Heb. 5:8). Experientially, I know that God uses suffering, illness, and privations of many kinds, to bring us through to the place where we see only Him in His glory. Someone asked me recently if I thought God brought all the suffering to Lenny which he experiences. When I answered, "Of course," he was shocked, but if God didn't do it, then we've got a worse problem than the suffering itself. We expect Lenny's healing, not because of what we believe, confess, or do, but because of God's word to him, in His time. God is absolutely sovereign over every person and every circumstance, and "He works everything after the counsel of His own will," not our will (Eph. 1:11). This is why Jesus taught the disciples to pray, "Thy will be done." Make no mistake, God does NOT need our permission to do what He has planned to do from the foundation of the world in our lives. It merely makes it easier on us if we don't fight Him on it. He will have His way with all of us, eventually.
This world runs on power, which control freaks always try to seize by whatever means they can, but the kingdom of heaven is fueled by the unconditional love and power of almighty God. I am coming to the place of knowing at a cellular level, that all power and authority in heaven and on earth rests with Him. When it is His will for me to do something, He will show me by the Spirit what to do, and then I can do it victoriously, to His glory.
Father, we bow before the depth of the riches of Your wisdom and knowledge. How unsearchable are Your judgments. Who has known Your mind? Or who has been Your counselor? Who has ever given to You that You should repay him? For from You and through You and to You are all things. To You be the glory and the power and the honor forever and ever. Amen. Jan Antonsson.
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Law, Grace, and Cranky Old Things
Back to Basics II: Sovereignty and Reconciliation
Back to Basics, III: A Practicum on Sovereignty
Back to Basics, IV: Out of the Box
Back to Basics, V: The Codependency Factor
Back to Basics, VI: The Tomb Is Still Empty
Back to Basics, VII: Where Is Hell?
Back to Basics, VIII: God Is Love
Back to Basics, IX: By Man Came Also
Back to Basics, X: Victory Over Death
Back to Basics, XI: Provision
The Glory Road
We're always happy to hear from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 02/01/07
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/02/08.