Is everything that happens God's direct will? Human beings cannot thwart God's plan for the world; but they can and do thwart His plans that they, as individuals, should have a part in. Men cannot prevent God's ultimate plan achieving its end. The Kingdom of God will come upon the earth as it is in heaven, and the glory of the Lord will fill the earth whether they want it to or not. In this sense, we may well cry, "Hallelujah, the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns!" But what men can do is personally drop out of this Kingdom or from their appointed places in it. God ordains that the Kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdoms of our God and of His Christ; however, He does not ordain which particular individuals will accept His plan for them in His Kingdom.
1. What is recorded in Isaiah concerning God's predetermined purpose in the earth? (Isaiah 46:10-11) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2. As individuals, how did the Pharisees and lawyers respond to God's purpose for them? (Luke 7:30) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Even though God's plans for the universe certainly succeed, an individual may still reject God's plan for his part in it. The reason for this is that God does not want mule-like servants who have to be forced to obey Him all the time. He wants those who will freely accept His instruction and counsel. As a man or woman desires for his marriage partner to want his companionship out of love and free-will, not out of obligation, so also God wants relationships with His creation based on mutual affection and love, not relationships based on "force". God desires for all men and women to repent and enter a free love-relationship with Him. But, if He "forced" men to repent, then their allegiance would not be freely given. Therefore, God leaves man with a free choice. He does not "force" a man to repent who chooses a path that does not delight Him.
Let us now search the Scriptures to discover more about man's responsibility and his free will to defy the will of God or to follow that will.
3. In the story of God choosing a wife for Isaac, what was God's plan, and what part did the woman have in that plan? (Genesis 24:7-8)
4. What was the woman's choice? (Genesis 24:57-58) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
5. Judas was also called by God. For what was Judas called, and what was his choice? (Acts 1:24-25)
The office, the calling and the task to fulfill for Rebekah and Judas were ordained by God alone. Rebekah, through the act of her will, chose to fulfill her calling through the power of the Spirit. Judas did not. It was his own choice. It was not that he could somehow "unchoose" or "uncall" himself -- for both calling and election were Jesus' decision. What Judas could and did do was to fall away from the ministry he had been given and so forfeit the blessing he could have brought and enjoyed.
6. As a result of Rebekah's choice, what blessings did she receive? (Genesis 24:60) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The New Covenant Church of God has been called to establish 12 cities of refuge in the last days, microcosms of the Zionic culture that will prevail in the Millennium. It is also to supply the first rulers of the Millennial Zion. Each person called into the New Covenant has a choice, like Rebekah and Judas, to respond to that call or reject it -- to receive blessings or to lose choice opportunities for spiritual service and growth.
7. The Lord established this principle of free will very early in Israel's history as a nation. What choice was set before Israel? (Deuteronomy 30:11-20) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
8. What was God's desire for them? (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
9. Was this commandment too difficult for them or impossible for them to follow? (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
God set this principle of free will before Israel in its early life as a nation. He has done exactly the same with the New Covenant Church of God in connection with its special calling, as He has with other Christian churches and theirs, although in our case He has bequeathed two different Church orders in order to preserve the Covenant (three in the 1988-92 phase) should the majority fall away or apostatise.
In New Covenant Church history this is exactly what happened in 1992 when the lower two degrees or orders (which were then one single order) rejected the Covenant and fell away. The faithful remnant belonging to the Holy Order became the foundation of a new outer Church which was reorganised and re-established. The same thing happened in 1995 with the outer Church being disorganised and the faithful remnant continuing through the Holy Order.
We will now look into the Scriptures to see this principle set before them by God again and again, and we will see how Israel responded.
10. What did Israel desire Samuel to do for them? (1 Samuel 8:6-8) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
11. In desiring a king, what did the Lord say they were actually doing? (1 Samuel 8:6-8) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
12. Was it God's will for Israel to have a king? (1 Samuel 12:12-18) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
13. Briefly summarise the warning that the Lord gave them concerning the actions of the king who would reign over them. (1 Samuel 8:9-17) _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
14. What did the Lord say that Israel would do because of their oppression, and what would be His response? (1 Samuel 8:18) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
15. After hearing this, what did Israel choose to do? (1 Samuel 8:19-20) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
16. As a result of Israel's choice, what did God choose to do? (1 Samuel 8:21-22) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Israel rejected God's perfect will for them. They defied God's plan and frustrated His purpose. It was never God's will for them to have another king besides Himself. Israel missed God's perfect will for themselves as a nation and moved into His permissive will. They could not, however, prevent God's ultimate plan from being achieved. He now has a kingdom, a holy nation, and He is the King. Because of God's loving kindness and mercy, He continues to try to work with Israel to being forth His ultimate purpose. However, because of their choice, they reaped the fruit of it and brought upon themselves all the sorrow and misery that God warned them of.
Very much the same pattern was repeated in the first New Covenant Church. Because the majority of people rejected the narrow way required of the Covenant, despite many warnings not unlike Samuel's, He permitted an alternative outer Church organisation and priesthood to become established, an imperfect vessel not entirely in accordance with the divine plan. The result was rejection in 1992. Those who were the instruments of disobedience who did not subsequently repent returned to the world. Those who did repent, and re-entered their covenants, today enjoy the richest of blessings in Zion. The fullness was restored in 1996.
Let us now examine the life of Saul, their King, to see an example of God's purpose and the free will of the individual.
17. Who chose Saul to be King over Israel? (1 Samuel 9:15-17) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
In God's action toward Saul we learn a very important principle about agency and the divine will. If an individual, nation or church rejects one level of light or truth, then God works through that individual, nation or church within the boundaries of obedience that they are willing to follow. The result is a world full of individuals, nations and churches at different levels of light.
18. What choice was set before Saul? (1 Samuel 12:24-25) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
19. What did Saul chose to do? (1 Samuel 13:8-13) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
20. What was God's will for Saul? (1 Samuel 13:13) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
21. Because Saul chose to disobey God, what happened? (1 Samuel 13:14) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
In the case of Saul we see that the Lord was willing to enter into a covenant with him. The higher covenant -- a theocracy ruled by judges (= Holy Order) -- had been rejected by the nation of Israel and therefore a lesser covenant was established, making Israel a theocratic kingdom (= Middle Church). Despite this covenant being on a lower level of light, obedience to it would have resulted in blessings, even though in the long term it would eventually have had to be replaced by a higher covenant, viz. a theocracy ruled by judges.
The same principle applies in the Christian world today. Almost all churches have rejected one or more principles of the Gospel and chosen to go their own way. Rather than reject them completely, the Lord has blessed each church denomination according to its obedience the Gospel principles. Some churches, which have become thoroughly pagan, have been rejected altogether. In every case, the Lord seeks to reform the churches, to make them conform more and more to the divine pattern.
22. What did the Lord tell Saul to do in battle with Amalek, and what did Saul choose to do? (1 Samuel 15:2-3) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
23. Because of Saul's choice, what happened? (1 Samuel 15:22-28) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Saul's calling and office were ordained by God alone. What God did not ordain was how he would respond to the task He had allotted him.
24. What was God's reaction to Saul's disobedience? (1 Samuel 15:11,35) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
25. What is the reason for God's testing of man? (Deuteronomy 8:2) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
This is why there are periods of heavy testing before God gives a man responsibility. Through the way men react through trials and temptations, God determines faithfulness. It is required of a steward that he be found faithful.
Throughout history individuals, nations and churches have been tried and tested by God to determine their faithfulness. Wherever there has been the greatest light, God has worked. Most of the existing traditional Church denominations have passed through periods of great light, been blessed by the Lord, rebelled and then spiritually declined. Some denominations have witnessed revival, but more often than not when a denomination has passed a certain point of stagnation and decline, recovery is impossible. Just as Israel sunk into total apostasy and was scattered, so churches depart from the truth and are "spiritually scattered". Because the church as a whole is unrecoverable, God will take out righteous individuals and form new fellowships and build upon them. Though this is far from the ideal -- just as dividing Israel into two nations was far from the ideal, and just as appointing a monarch in Israel was far from the ideal -- it is necessary to save and preserve what light there is in the world, because there is usually so little of it.
There is an argument in many churches that Christians should stay with the denominations they were born or raised in and seek to serve there rather than to change churches. Whilst this may be desirable in certain instances where God gives a specific call to an individual, some of the greatest reformations in the Church would never have taken place if, for example, the Wesley brothers (who established the Methodist Church) had remained in the "established" Church of their day. New wine needs new wineskins and God must be permitted to act as He sees fit.
26. When Saul fell away from the office to which God had appointed him, what did God do? (1 Samuel 15:28) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
At any one moment in time there has always been one church denomination (sometimes more) which has come closest to fulfilling the divine plan, what one might call the "truest church" on the earth. To this church God has called the honest and true to gather. Some of these churches, lifted up in the pride of their hearts, have mistakenly come to believe that they are God's favoured pets and have been led by their own fallen natures to declare that they, and they alone, possessed God's authority and blessing to prosecute the work of the building of the Kingdom of God. We see in the example of Saul's kingship (and later in the "divine right of Kings"), and in other biblical examples, the fallacy of this position. Whilst a church may enjoy special privileges with heaven because of its truthfulness in confession, doctrine, and love, these privileges will always be conditional upon continuing obedience. In this instance, the nation of Israel is our rôle model.
27. Before God brought the judgment of Babylonian captivity upon Judah, the Lord had Jeremiah warn them of the coming judgment. What was God's desire? (Jeremiah 36:2-3) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What do you believe is God's desire for the existing church denominations in the world? What would He have the Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others do? Do you know what God is doing in these denominations today?
28. What was the choice of the King and his servants? (Jeremiah 36:24) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
29. The Chaldeans began to besiege Jerusalem. Again, because of His long-suffering and loving kindness, God did not desire that any should perish. God gave them an opportunity to repent (as He did the Ninevans in the day of Job). What was God's desire for them? (Jeremiah 38:2) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The people refused, and the Word of the Lord came to pass. Here Jerusalem is a type of the community of God's people, or the Church. Judah had apostatised and was about to be destroyed. The people were given a chance to leave Jerusalem and be saved.
When a denomination has sufficiently departed from the truth as to start leading its people to spiritual destruction, then the commandment to all its members is: Get out! Many Christian churches are, in our day, being overrun by New Age teachings and are leading souls to spiritual bondage and spiritual destruction.
Others, who will only obey the Gospel up to a certain point, are holding back those who wish to draw closer to Christ and live all the covenants and commandments. These too are called to leave their denominations and seek for a higher light. The rest should remain where they are and receive the nurture their denomination can give them so as not to be swallowed up by the world.
30. After the deportation to Babylon, there was still a small remnant of Judah in the land. What was the Word of the Lord to them? (Jeremiah 42:10-19) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Even after a Church has apostatised, there will always be a small, faithful remnant who are not a part of the "core" (= Jerusalem). To these God will give the same choice as He has always done, and as we have seen in this Study.
31. What was their choice? (Jeremiah 43:4; 44:16) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Very typically, the remnant, instead of following the covenants and commandments, go in another equally dangerous direction and spiritually perish also!
32. In giving Israel all these opportunities to repent, what principle of this loving kindness was the Lord operating under? (Jeremiah 18:7-10) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
33. Does God desire to change His mind about judging people? (Jeremiah 26:13; Ezekiel 24:13) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
It is man's free choice to defy God's Word or repent and obey it. It is God's hope that they will turn to Him and be faithful and enjoy the privileges of His Kingdom.
This has been the experience of the New Covenant Church of God which itself has had to repent of sin and will continually have to reform itself until it is perfectly conformed to the covenants and commandments of the Gospel.
34. What was God's perfect will and desire for Israel? (Isaiah 48:17-19) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
This is God's desire for the denominations of Christendom. Grace is always extended. However, the day of grace always expires when the call for repentance is persistently rejected. In the last day, before and during Antichrist's reign, most, if not all, existing Church denominations will disappear or be destroyed, leaving a small remnant. This remnant faces the same call as the remnant in Jeremiah's day did: to obey the Lord and stand firm in the Gospel, or depart to spiritual "Egypt" and be destroyed.
The New Covenant Church of God is the organisation raised up in the last days by God as a place of refuge for the remnant who desire to stand firm in the truth. It invites all those who wish to enjoy a taste of the Millennium now to gather up and live all the covenants and commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ.
From this study, we have discovered that because of the free choice that God gives every man, the Pharisees, Judas, Saul, and the people of Israel, missed God's perfect will for their lives. All four openly defied His Word and rebelled against His counsel. Because they rejected the Word of the Lord to them personally, they fell from their office and their calling and missed their part in God's ultimate purposes for the universe. The Christian Church, with its myriad denominations, faces the same ultimate choice today too.
35. What exhortation does Peter give? (2 Peter 1:10) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________
36. What eight things are we exhorted to practice what will assure us of never stumbling? (2 Peter 1:5-9)
There are some who believe that passages like Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:5,11 indicate that salvation is completely predestined by God, meaning that those whom God predestined from the beginning of the world are those who will be saved whilst there is no hope for anyone else. Such an interpretation does violence to the meaning of the rest of Scripture and shows how dangerous it can be to take scriptures out of context.
One of the weaknesses of so-called "orthodox" Christianity is its total lack of understanding or acceptance of a pre-mortal life. This is not a doctrine of reincarnation but one of having lived as a spirit being before being incarnated into this world. One of the clearest affirmations of this doctrine is to be found in the opening verses of the Book of Jeremiah where the Lord tells the prophet: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations" (Jer.1:5, NIV). Before conception, therefore, Jeremiah had a personal relationship with God, and before his birth he was ordained a prophet.
To be predestined in this life means that we are living out mortal lives in which we reap the benefits of works done in our pre-mortal life. Paul says: "For (God) chose us in (Christ) before the (physical) creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will -- to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves...In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works our everything in conformity with the purposes of His will in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory" (Eph.1:4-6,11, NIV).
Remembering the passage cited in Jeremiah, further consider what Paul said: "For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified" (Rom.8:29-30, NIV; also see 2 Tim.1:9).
37. Most Christians assume that "heaven" is, always has been, and always will be, a place of "peace" and tranquility. Is there any evidence to suggest that at some time in the past a state of war has existed which may account for the fact that we are in some way predestined to salvation in this life? (Revelation 12:7-9) _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
We read of a war between "angels" in heaven. It is important to point out that the word "angel" can also be translated "messenger" or even "pastor" (see Rev.2:1,8,12, etc). Angels are not necessarily specially created beings different from humans as most Christians seem to assume. In New Covenant Christian theology (backed up by considerable experience in this area), many angels are, in fact, the spirits of men and women who have not yet been born or who have lived on earth, died and are now heavenly messengers. In a strictly Biblical sense, anyone who brings the message of salvation is an "angel". (There are, of course, demonic "angels" or messengers too, who attempt to mislead and enslave man).
It is important, therefore, to gain a true perspective of existence by understanding that we have lived before (in heaven -- not on earth) and that we have been walking the Path of Salvation from the beginning. Our earth life is a (vital) part of that spiritual walk.
Those whom God "knew" before they were born on earth are those who accepted Christ in the pre-mortal world (unlike those who followed Lucifer) and have been born on earth to be tested further. No-one born in this world is "guaranteed" Salvation -- it must be worked out to its completion (Phil. 2:12); having accepted Christ in the pre-mortal life is no guarantee of salvation at the end of one's mortal probation, even though God (alone) may know who will, and who will not, be saved at the last day.
The doctrine of "predestination" is a deep and complex one and the reader is advised, at this stage, not to try and arrive at too hard and fast conclusions. It is important when considering any doctrine to see it within the whole of what the Bible teaches. Too many Christians arbitrarily pull out scriptures and interpret them out of context. This inevitably leads to serious errors. A fuller treatment of this subject is given in the study materials of the New Covenant Church of God.
Copy and memorise the following scripture: Deuteronomy 30:19-20
The Pre-existence of Jeremiah in the New Covenant Christian Witness, No.7, December 1993, pp.49-55
A Question of Agency in Apostolic Interviews, No.2, 1993
God's Will and Human Free Agency in the New Covenant Christian Witness, No.10, June 1994, pp.28-31