Some people set out to impress with ‘big’ ideas. Others develop ‘big’ ideas in response to new knowledge upon which they arrive, knowledge they arrive upon sometimes rather stumblingly, as opposed to via active, premeditated search.
Martin Luther, the Reformer ‘stumbled’ on his theological challenges to the mother church of his time. In course of his study of Christian Scriptures (the Bible), he arrived at the recognition that church traditions were not in conformance with Christian Scriptures. Martin Luther was excommunicated from the mother church, the Bible got printed for all to read, educated Christians studied the Bible, found out Luther was right. Today, no Christian in his or her right mind challenges Luther’s interpretation of ‘salvation by grace through faith’, not even the church entity that is descendant of mother church of his time.
John Calvin (1509–1564) lived about the same time as Martin Luther (1483–1546), also contributed significantly to understanding of Christian Scriptures. In his bid to be original perhaps, Calvin made a mistake, asserted God predestinates some people to damnation, such that they cannot be saved.
The problem? In today’s world, there are Christians who believe they can gang up to determine that some persons of whom they are aware, some neighbors far or near are not fit for salvation, hence they are at liberty to concoct evil, hellish destinies for such persons. These people see themselves as agents of God, as arbitrators of God’s will on earth because they deliberately misinterpret Jesus’ words that, “if you retain the sins of any, they are retained (John 20:23).”
The same Apostle who reports Jesus’ words in John 20:23 quoted above declares, however, as follows in 1 John 1:9.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The harmonization? Only sins that are unrepented of can be retained or forgiven by the church. The church, however, does not have the power to forgive or retain all sins. This clarification is important because only some cadre of ‘non-deadly’ sins qualify. This is evident in the following words by same Apostle John in 1 John 5:16–17.
If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not unto death.
The God in whom these Christians who believe in planning evil claim to believe — Jehovah, Father of Jesus Christ — of course sits in the heavens and laughs (Psalms 2:4), plans the necessary judgment for their decision to inflict evil on others.
How do we know it is impossible for Jehovah, Father of Jesus Christ to command Christians to plan evil for others (James 1:13, 16–17)?
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”, for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. Do not be deceived my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is not variation or shadow of turning.
God, Jehovah Father of Jesus Christ only gives good gifts and perfect gifts. How then can He command those who believe in Him to do evil to others?
It is easy and straightforward to demonstrate fallacy of Calvin’s teaching on predestination. In 1 Timothy 2:3–4, 1 Timothy 1:15, and 1 Timothy 3:16, we have the Apostle Paul, who is accused of proclaiming doctrine of predestination declare:
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.
In another passage (1 John 2:1–2), Apostle John declares,
“…But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
The sum of it all, God desires every person to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3–4); Christians are in the world prior to being saved(1 Timothy 3:16); believe in Jesus while sinners in the world (1 Timothy 1:15); are saved out of the world in a spiritual sense, such that while they remain in the world post conversion (John 17:15), they no longer are of the same spirit as the world (John 17:15, 16; 1 John 2:15–17; 2 Peter 1:3–4).
Saved or not then, in God’s view, everyone resides in the world. While Christians are in the world, they differ in their spiritual make up from those who are of the world (those who subscribe to lusts and pride — 1 John 2:15–17). This difference in spiritual make up is evident in character, not in manifestation of some spirit or supernatural phenomenon. The difference in spiritual make up is the reason Christians are referred to as ‘citizens of heaven’ in Christian Scripture (Philippians 3:20).
The spiritual difference between Christians and those who are of the world is character (Galatians 5:16–26), not some manifestation of a spirit, or spiritual manifestations.
Prior to his conversion, quite obviously Saul who became Apostle Paul desired to be a great Jewish Pharisee. Upon his conversion, he gave up on seeking greatness by his own strategy, went to live in the city of his parents. Then came Barnabas seeking him, bringing him to Antioch, from where he commenced his missionary journeys. If Saul had remained a Jew, probably no one outside of Judaism would know he ever existed.
By not strategizing for greatness, alongside Apostles Peter, John, James, and Matthew, Apostle Paul became the main articulator of what exactly it means to have faith in Jesus Christ. There probably is no major city in the world today where Paul’s writings are not read.
Some people strategize for greatness by attempting to prove they can come up with ‘big’ ideas, others seek for truth, truth which cannot be attained to without accumulation of pure motives, knowledge, wisdom, discipline, and perseverance, stumble on ‘big’ ideas, become great.