Everybody responds

wedding_singerIn the film The Wedding Singer, there’s a scene that captures the story of God’s relationship to us.

A waitress called Julia is preparing for marriage but she’s marrying the wrong guy. We know it and eventually Julia begins to realize it too. What she doesn’t know is that the right guy is closer than she thinks. He’s a singer who works the same weddings where Julia waitresses. This guy is crazy about her. He thinks about her all the time and he’s torn up that she’s chosen the wrong guy.

But everything turns out fine in the end. On an airplane ride to Vegas, the man who sings at weddings sings of his love for Julia. She responds by declaring her love for him, they kiss and then they wed. Pass the tissues because it’s a great story.

Humans were made to make choices. The reason The Wedding Singer and a thousand other stories resonate is because they are about a choice. Will she? Won’t she? I hope she does.

When God first made man, he said, “You are free to choose what you eat.” And the first thing God asked man to do was choose names for all the animals. The freedom to choose is what makes us human. Take away our God-given freedom and we will fight to get it back. And if we can’t live free history has shown we’d often rather not live at all.

And this is why I have a problem with certain teachings that suggest God has wed us against our wishes. He’s not a wedding singer serenading us on the plane to Vegas. Apparently he married us already, without asking, and without our permission. It’s a bad story.

The arranged marriage of inclusionism

The doctrine of inclusion states that you, I, and every person who ever lived, was saved 2,000 years ago and as a result, we are all in union with Christ, whether we believe it or not. Think of the least godly person you can imagine – say that guy who designs shoe bombs for Al-Qaeda, or Anders Breivik the Norwegian who shot a bunch of children. These men, apparently, are your brothers in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, and seated in heavenly places with Jesus.

I honestly don’t know how people can say this stuff without blushing. And yet, some are saying exactly this.

Yesterday I got two emails asking for my thoughts on inclusionism. I get asked about this all the time. Here is my response:

Those who claim humanity was saved at the cross are saying, God wed us without asking us. In a shotgun wedding God imposed his will on us and now we are married to Jesus whether we like it or not.

This is an unthinkable and inhuman proposition. And it leads to an obvious question: If God was ever going to take us against our will, why didn’t he do it in the Garden before Adam fell? Why wait until we had made a mess of things?

No, God did not coerce Adam and he will not coerce you. The invitation to trust him is a choice we all get to make. Indeed, it is…

The Choice we were born to make

“But Paul, you are making faith into a work. Nobody is saved by their works of believing.”

It’s true that some define faith as a work and make themselves susceptible to DIY religion. But faith is not a work. Faith is a rest. Faith is a positive response to what God has said or done.

Now here’s the thing: Not everybody responds positively to Jesus but everybody responds. Some respond with love and awe (think Peter and the apostles); others respond with hatred and murder (think Herod and the Pharisees). And some respond with hatred first and love later (think Paul).

What about the agnostics who say, “I haven’t decided yet?” My view is everybody gets a chance, and sometimes many chances, to respond to God’s grace. (I’ll talk about babies and others who are incapable of responding another time.)

If you are old enough to read this, you are old enough to respond to love and grace. This is not rocket science. All of us need love. We were made for it. We crave it. We were hardwired to respond to the unconditional love of our Father. His love is something we need and actually want to receive.

Everybody responds

Inclusionists do one of two things with faith; they either dismiss it or say everyone has it. What they should say is everyone has a choice. You can respond with a smile or a frown, a “yes please” or a “no thanks,” a “thy will be done” or a “my will be done.” It’s your choice. Much of life is making choices.

Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. (Act 28:24)

When Paul proclaimed the gospel in Rome, everyone responded. Some positively, others negatively. How did Paul respond to those who responded negatively? Did he say, “It doesn’t matter. You are guys are saved and seated with Christ anyway.” No, he said things like, “Your blood be on your own heads” (Acts 18:6). In Rome he rebuked them for not believing (Acts 28:25-28).

The true wedding singer

Jesus is the wedding singer. He has come to your door to serenade you with the sweet songs of his love and grace. You may respond by opening your heart or shutting your ears but you will respond. In the final analysis, everybody does because this is the Choice we were born for.

Don’t let anyone tell you God smashed down your door and took you against your will and don’t let anyone tell you that responding to grace with gratitude is any sort of work. No, the real work is in resisting the testimony of creation, the miracle of life, and the persuasive pull of the Holy Spirit. Those who open their hearts to Jesus are those who are done working and are ready to put their feet up in the presence of the greatest Lover of all.

Adam took away our choice, but Jesus won it back. It is for freedom that Christ has set you free so stand firm and let no one deprive you of your God-given freedom to choose.

wedding-singer-serenadeThe gospel is not the perverse announcement that you were married against your wishes to a stranger. It is the happy declaration that God loves you and will give up everything he has to have you.


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86 Comments on Everybody responds

  1. Thought provoking piece again Paul. Ah, if only it were that simple. Maybe it is. LOL Blessings!

  2. So when Jesus said, Father forgive them for they know not what they do, then the Father replied :Yes I’ll do that, if they will believe in you, or if they will accept my love and forgiveness. If not, unfortunately I can not answer your prayer.

    …Jesus also spoke of a sheep that had gone astray. The sheep had a very limited ability to think and make his own decisions. But the shepherd was looking until he found the sheep. When he found the sheep, he did not ask the sheep if it would like to come home or not. He did not say, Well it’s up to you to make the right decision. I can save you, but if you don’t want to, I can not override your “free will.” I have been searching for sheep who have gone astray in RL. And I can tell you that sometimes when we find them, they are so scared that they will run away from you, even if you came to save them. You know what we do then? We run after them to catch them. And then we bring them home – even though it was clear that it was against their will.

    Jesus came to save the world. He did not come to give the world an opportunity.

    • So, you’re not a believer in freedom then. Two thoughts: (1) God dos not need our permission to forgive us. The sins of the world were forgiven (carried away) at the cross. Forgiveness doesn’t equal salvation. No one is lost on account of sin, but unbelief. (2) The shepherd takes care of his sheep and won’t let them go. Good news for sheep; not necessarily good news for goats.

      • So, the Good News of the gospel are only for the sheeps, not for the goats?

      • pilgrim66 // August 19, 2013 at 4:04 pm //

        There is a lot of sentiment in that short post Paul that I don’t understand. Anyway…I suppose I’ll start with the most obvious (to me at least!).

        As I see it, you’ve set yourself up for this absolutely ludicrous conversation (my opinion of course – don’t shoot me!) with wiggo regarding universalism (inclusionism) because of the 1 dimensional gospel you espouse. For example, you say, “no one is lost because of sin?” Now, I realize that being consistent with your understanding of the gospel forces you to this.

        The problem, in my opinion, is that the scriptures, quite assuredly, teach that people are indeed lost because of sin. In Revelation 21 “unbelief” is listed (not even first in the list) among several sins that result in being lost.

        First post…thanks for allowing comments! I find it a bit difficult to discuss scriptural concepts while not being allowed to post scripture…surely a quirk on my part. Anyway…best to you and yours!

      • If you were to take Rev 21:8 (or Rev 22:15 or 1 Cor 6:9-19) as a list of sins that result in being lost, no one could be saved. These scriptures are not qualifying exams for heaven. They are pictures of those who don’t make it. Fact is, every type of person listed in Rev 21:8 – murderers, cowards, idolaters, etc. – is represented in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith – every type except the unbeliever.

        Best to you and yours too, and welcome to E2R.

      • Thanks for the link to this post.
        We were all goats once.
        But the question is what determines whether the goat becomes a sheep.
        Is it ALL God’s doing or if it is a combo of God’s invitation and our acceptance why does one accept while another doesn’t?
        This is the question- what determines our choice that is not God ( or it is no choice at all)
        What deficiency do those who are not included have and how can they be responsible for it?
        If there is some decision making part of us that does not simply respond predictably to our experiences then what causes it to vary between people without being due to how God made us?
        Does this issue cause a dilema for you ? It certainly does for me.
        Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Jesus did come to give the world an opportunity. in john 9:39, He says just that: “For judgement I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” there is one choice, but depending on the decision made, there are 2 different outcomes… not one (it doesnt say ‘the blind will see and those who see will see.”) the greek word for judgement in this verse – ‘krima’ – means “a decision” and the use of this word “stresses the results that go with a particular judgement (decision) – depending on the CHOICE made”
      Jesus IS the Choice… the Way… the Door…

      • pilgrim66 // August 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm //

        I wanted to reply to your reply, but the option is not given.

        I surely didn’t state that Rev 21 is a “qualifying exam for heaven.” If I implied it, I apologize for being unclear. Like you, I don’t believe Rev 21 to be a qualifying exam either.

        It seems like you want to have it both ways. You state that Rev 21 is “a picture of those who don’t make it.” I agree and assume that you mean “don’t make it to heaven.” Yet, you argue that those murderers, cowards and idolaters allegedly listed in Heb 11 do “make it.” This seems like a contradiction.

        To make my question simple: Do you affirm that practicing murders and/or idolaters will be lost or just _unbelieving_ practicing murderers and/or idolaters?

    • Mike Jarvis // August 14, 2013 at 3:42 am // Reply

      This article begins with a fatuous statement, that says an Adam Sandler film contains the mystical truth of Gods relationship with Man!… in fact Choice in its noblest form would be defined as the discerning of right from wrong, something God was at pains to warn Adam and Eve against; the Knowledge of Good and Evil….We were not Created for Choice, its tantamount to saying we were created for an IKEA Catalogue. We were Created to Create! …scripture does not suggest that we are married but in Union… It is not a freedom to choose that Jesus supplies but a freedom that puts us beyond choice. The Nature of the New Creation actually puts us on a course where choice is irrelevant Faith will only take you where God wants you to Go. All analogies are limited. Jesus is not a door but He Is “A Door”, we are not sheep but we make up the flock. He is the Bridegroom in an analogous manner, the collective body of believers are The Bride, but not a bride. Inclusion in the Gift of reconciliation is again Plain, If someone buys you a gift it is yours when it is chosen and purchased by the giver, it will sit wrapped with your name on it until you receive it and unwrap it and take full possession but it was yours from the beginning.

      • Mike, you have a choice to abide by E2R’s comment policy or not but you don’t have the choice to create an essay. If you do, you give me the choice of trimming it or deleting it. You may not be happy with either of those choices so please take away my freedom to choose by playing by the same rules as everyone else. 🙂

  3. Paul – I hate to gush. I read your stuff and never comment to you how important it is to my life right now. But, I’ll say it now – how I’m so grateful for your writings. This piece was especially beautiful and solid.

    • Remember betterthan, “solid” is in the eye of the beholder….thanks for suggesting this to me by the way!!

  4. lucky Obioma // August 13, 2013 at 1:25 am // Reply

    Truly its a matter of choice and I have chosen the right path and that is receiving Christ and all that He has accomplished for me.

  5. riparianrecht // August 13, 2013 at 1:26 am // Reply

    No, the truth is that God chose you or He didn’t. You were either chosen for salvation or damnation. You cannot choose God unless He chose you first. He introduces Himself and then you accept…but that’s not the same as you chose Him willingly and on your own. Geusamenous. You cannot taste and see that the Lord is good without the introduction of Himself to you first. No one would seek God or believe if it were not for God pursuing us first and indeed creating every circumstance in life so that we will choose God in His timing. It does not help for Christians to be loaded up with guilt to go and throw a bunch of Scriptures at people to choose God b/c they cannot choose God unless they were chosen by God. And then of course they cannot do it unless the time (kairos) is right b/c it will be foolishness otherwise. Nothing about salvation is possible with man if it were not for God’s decision in advance. The problem with your version of eternal security is that it’s not really possible. Double predestination is the only way that eternal security can actually work…but then I don’t think you’ve ever really thought it through or you couldn’t possibly have come to this conclusion.

    • So you are ok that God purposely creates people with no choice but to go to hell? God is not evil. Creating a person simply so that they have-to sin so you can judge them for being a sinner is beyond stupid it is grossly EVIL! God is not and never will be evil. Damming someone for being exactly what you created them to be is not holy, just, pure or innocent.
      (Don’t both with the usual “election” verses I know them quite well and they only say what you say when you ignore a lot of other verses)

      • Robert Tague // August 13, 2013 at 11:00 pm //

        Well said Colleen – especially that last line. I remind people every day that it is foolish to make a doctrine based on a few verses (that seem to support predestination) while ignoring the greater body of evidence that proves free will. The bible, from Genesis to Revelation is an account of God’s plan for our salvation if we choose to except his free offer. God’s desire is for all human kind to be saved if we accept his offer. Any other doctrine makes a mockery of the larger body of text that expresses His desire. Verses like John 3:16 and Romans 3:21-26 would make no sense if we did not have the free will to reject or accept His offer.

      • Hi Colleen
        Only Adam Eve, as well as you, and every other believer, is, or has been reborn to be exactly what God intended them to be and for these there is no judgement. the others are dead.

    • thekingskid1128 // August 23, 2013 at 9:49 am // Reply

      The Lord God has chosen us ALL at the cross. He already made that decision, it is now left up to us to accept His choice or turn from it. What kind of god would say, “Okay, I love you all but only choose to save SOME of you. All the rest of you are headed for hell and there is NOTHING you can do about it so enjoy life now!” That is absurd. That would not be the kind of god I would like to serve.

    • Squawks 5000 // July 25, 2018 at 6:18 am // Reply

      God chose everyone — it’s just that not everyone accepts it.

  6. Someone once said that Christianity is at the same time the most inclusive and most exclusive religion. It includes the “whosoever will” but excludes the “whosoever will not” believe in Jesus. Thought that was rather neat. Definitely implies that we make a choice to believe or not to believe.

  7. Paul, Thank you! That has to be one of your best post. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  8. wonderful comparing this movie with God’s love for us. it is very refreshing to read this article. have been bombarded with the “no choice” stuff for months. have not seen this movie in long time so looking forward to seeing it again with that in mind.

  9. The greatest power God has bestowed upon humanity is our free will, the power to choose and make our own decisions in life, whether good or bad.

  10. What if we were predestined and adopted into sonship (Ephesians 1) –because the Father wanted a Son and to present that Son a spotless Bride — and that is the inclusive part, but we still have a choice to accept the marriage? Is there an opportunity to hold the paradox and mystery in dialectical tension?

    • Aitee Abraham // August 21, 2013 at 11:59 pm // Reply

      Your acceptance or response is to thank Him for the finished work but if you don’t that will not change the factual reality of your salvation or that you have been saved at the cross even before your gratitude,you still remain save.the difference is that you will not enjoy the realities of your salvation but you will not be condemn to Hell fire nonsense because when Jesus died,He died for all human,when He was buried he went to Hell for everyone.so no one will go to hell for unbelief or not responding to the goodness of God.

  11. Amen! God offers His grace freely, but He doesn’t force anyone to accept it. Love without choice isn’t real love and isn’t reflective of the choice He made to create and love us.

  12. An arranged marriage, if it is this, doesn’t have to be a bad story, especially if the Father who arranges it knows He has in fact chosen the best husband for the bride. Are we really ever free outside Christ? It seems we are either in darkness or in the light, slaves to either sin or righteousness. Did he make us alive when we were dead and unable to choose? Aren’t we thrilled to discover that we have been divorced from Mr. Law and married to Mr. Grace. Can we be single? If Adam choose us into bondage and Jesus redeemed us into freedom, are we only really free being married to Him and will of course choose him as we see Him as the only one true and good God, and lover of our soul? Lastly, the two men whose heinous acts are mentioned, isn’t the cross level ground for all who are a wretch like me? Not saying saved as unbelieving, but perhaps yes equally loved and forgiven with the same dark backgrounds we all have until the blindness turns to sight. Faith comes by hearing the good news preached to the worst of what Jesus has done for all mankind.

    • Some hate God with every fiber of their being and spend their lives trying to delete Him from society. They would be horrified and appalled at a forced marriage. Not saying they cannot change but as they are right now a forced marriage would literally be living hell for them.

  13. janet cadieux // August 13, 2013 at 6:34 am // Reply

    AMEN….I cannot fathom how someone can claim that the ‘love’ of God is by force, or without choice. The very nature of God demands we choose to love Him back. While it is true He first loved us, it is His Will and Desire that we return it. This is why He created us.

  14. Connie Neason // August 13, 2013 at 7:36 am // Reply

    This is a great article. But my first thought was the singer loved her enough to marry her before she responded..and had she never noticed him, he would have still longed to be wed to her ……right?

  15. Your posts minister to me greatly with a clarity that often makes me respond with a sure “yes” in my spirit. Thanks for this. Have shared your blog about guilt on my blog because it was so clear and so needed for people to hear.

  16. I’ve been following your blog for a long time now and you really stand up for what’s true! =) Thank you!

  17. I will continue to say it… thank you Paul!!! this has been troubling me lately.

  18. Keep it up Paul, the Uni’s, Ultimate Reconciliationist, Inclusies and other distorted views seem to be increasing. FB seems to be increasing the spread.

    • janet cadieux // August 14, 2013 at 5:43 am // Reply

      I agree! Where there is love there is freedom. A forced marriage, or love affair can never equal the agape love of God. It denies the very freedom that they try to spread, and as I see it is a very misleading doctrine. It is not even ‘grace’ in mho…and, I do not say that to be too confrontational, but where there is freedom, I also want the freedom to express it.

    • Aitee Abraham // August 22, 2013 at 12:07 am // Reply

      God’s love is by far bigger than this marriage relationship we all used for an illustration here.for God so love the world is too big to compare with human relationship or any parable in the four gospel.the gospel is so clear here…..all is saved by Christ finished work and all still remain saved.2cor5:14-17.

  19. Andre van der Merwe // August 13, 2013 at 6:50 pm // Reply

    I’m also a firm believer in free will. But what if our opportunity to “choose” does not run out when we exhale our final breath in THIS life? What if God knows that some people will just not “get it” during their blink-of-an-eye-lifespan on earth due to Him being misrepresented by Christians or other religions? What if people who never fathomed how loving and awesome God can be, woke up on the other side of the grave and for the first time saw Him for who He TRULY is, do you think He will show them away then?

    • Andre – I know a man named Howard Storm who died an atheist at age 35 and had a hellish experience after death but called out to Jesus on the other side before being permanently banished to hell and then had a wonder heaven experience. Then came back to life on the e-room table. Became a Christian and pastor. I read his book then happened to be visiting Cincinnati (where he lives) so I went to meet him and hear his story in person. His book is My Descent into Death. I’m hopeful that we can have a chance to call to Jesus on the other side.You can also hear Howard’s story on you tube.

  20. Phillip Waite // August 13, 2013 at 10:37 pm // Reply

    I though it was about hearing and seeing. But not as the world sees, because that does not require faith. But seeing, with our eyes of understanding. Hoping, believing. Opened by the Holy Spirit. After he comes by the hearing of Faith. The Gospel. Until I heard the goodness of God, I resisted with all my strength. I was so successful. At times I cursed and ridiculed Christians. Dumb. Bring it on buddy. My choice.
    But then I heard the Gospel. I no longer wanted to resist. I did not feel I was being coercied. Made to go against my will. I was free to believe that Jesus died for me. I felt different and new. Who can resist God? I will always be ready to share the Gospel. The power to save. A simple message. A wonderful message.

  21. If you do want to have anything to do with Jesus while you are on earth; how can you enjoy His presence through all eternity.

  22. Thank you Lord for Paul; a timely gift to the body of Christ!

  23. Aitee Abraham // August 14, 2013 at 6:46 am // Reply

    Paul,thanks so much for this post but the problem is that it contradict itself.l want you to review the post again.Jesus saved everyone at the cross 2000years ago and what is left on our side is to see it or wake up to it.unbeliever were saved 2000years ago but they don’t know it.

    • The doctrine of inclusion says everyone was saved 2000 years ago. I do not say that. I was saved the day the lights went on and Jesus turned me around. I was saved the day I met the Holy Spirit.

      • janet cadieux // August 14, 2013 at 9:27 am //

        Hi Paul,

        I think there needs to be an understanding between the salvation of the Lord, which was the ‘work’ of salvation and was made available to all men, and even given to all men, without the aid of any human hands..but, this salvation must be made complete, ….and, the distinction of when this salvation is made complete, is when we come to beileve. In how I view it, our salvation is a free gift/ through His work, and His work alone, but that work must accompany our choice to believe in what He did.

        All men have received this free gift, for Jesus did remove the ‘sins of the world’, as defined by the old covenant and the law. Yet, that free gift, can be taken away…and, we can be cut off if we do not believe. So, as I see it, all were saved from the curse of the law, and, all were made to be on the Vine…but, God has said through Paul, that IF we remain in unbelief, we will be cut off.

        To believe the good news is what secures us, or makes us ‘complete in Him’… but it is not what puts us in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, for He did that Himself for all men…and, as I see it, ‘without the aid of any human hands’. Unbelief is what will cut one off from Him now. No one is being judged by ‘sins under Moses’, or the old covenant ways anymore.

        Saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, has made all men to be free. (There was no freedom under the first Adam, or no choice). Old covenant, of bondage. All men are now free to choose, and this choice to believe is what makes our salvation complete. He does not force anyone to accept what He did, nor will He. He simply will blot out the names of all who of their own freewill, choose to deny the gospel.

        At least this is how I now view it. So, on one hand, we really did nothing to be saved, but we must believe to remain saved.

      • Hi Janet, thanks for your comment. Here are three problems I have with inclusionist thinking: (1) It suggests God takes away his gifts when Paul says he doesn’t (Rom 11:29), (2) it says all men have received the grace of God when Jesus the NT writers repeatedly invited them to receive, and (3) it suggests the horrifying proposal that we can lose our salvation.

        As you say, forgiveness is a done deal. The sins of the world were taken away at the cross. No one is going to be punished for their sins. But forgiveness doesn’t equal righteousness. This is why the NT writers exhorted people who were already forgiven to receive the gift of righteousness and be saved (Roms 1:17, 10:9-13).

        Paul’s comments about being cut-off through unbelief refer to the covenant people of Israel (Rom 11:20). It’s a metaphor describing the change in covenants. Paul never says the Israelites were saved and became unsaved or that they were in Christ and then kicked out. (And for those wondering about his warning to “continue in kindness,” stay tuned to my ongoing study of eternal security.)

      • janet cadieux // August 15, 2013 at 3:31 am //

        Hi Paul!
        I would very much like to explain my points…(smile).

        1. Rom 11:29 is speaking to a born again believer, who has the indwelling Holy Spirit. Of course, God does not take away the gift of the Holy Spirit, or the salvation that began ‘without the aid of any human hands’. I am sure you are familiar with that text. I believe Paul also explains how those who are included, (all in forgiveness, all in being saved from the curse of the law and old covenant), must come to ‘believe’ or be cut off. Just as God cut off unbeieving jews in the old covenant, Paul explains it is the same today.

        We see this in Romans 11

        20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
        21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
        22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. I believe this is likewise why Jesus said in the parable of the Vine, that the ‘good for nothing’ branches would eventually be cut off. I do not see God trying to save anyone today, I do see God/Jesus allowing men to become rooted in the Vine, by believing. So, while I agree wholly with you that freewill is a free gift and it MUST be used to remain in salvation, I do not agree that we believe to be saved. I believe we ‘believe’ to be born again/receive the Holy Spirit, and I think this is why this issue is always argued, because I see that both sides are wrong in part. HEHE…just as I still am about alot of things, too.

        Points 2, and 3, I fully believe once we have our salvation ‘secured’ by believing, and receiving the indwelling Holy Spirit that you CAN NOT be cut off, cannot lose your salvation…but, we actually did NOTHING to have our salvation began. It was a work of HIS alone, and without the aid of any human’s hands. He saved us so that we could freely choose to love Him back, and to believe. If we choose not to, we are cut off. We would have our names blotted out of the book of life, but everyone is now in it…as I see it.

        I do believe God explained how He divorced Israel of the flesh. (those who never beleived). The remnant believed, such was Abraham…God married all of Israel, they all belonged to Him. Not just those who beleived. He saved ALL of Israel by shadow account, and later cut off those who did not believe. It says that here:

        James 1:5 .I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.

        Egypt is a metaphor for sin. Being saved from sin was done for all. Having that salvation secured; or completed, is done when we believe, and receive the SEAL of God. That seal assures our salvation. This is how I see it. We are not far apart at all, really.

  24. Some thoughts:

    “Saved” in the scriptures aren’t used to refer to heaven/hell but circumstances in life on earth.

    Perhaps God forced the marriage (which is only a metaphor). But if a person understood the truth, who in their right mind would choose not to marry Jesus? No one. It’s like a person is drowning and they refuse to ask for help and says they don’t want it when you offer it. Would you let them drown?

    I agree that everyone responds, but I believe it is not our response that saves us (which would be salvation by our work) but Jesus’ perfect response on behalf of humanity. Our response still matters, however, because it allows us to experience the reality of our salvation.

    There seems to be false dilemmas in this post that limit “inclusionists” to certain beliefs. I myself don’t fit in any of the categories described.

    • Who in their right mind would trust a serpent over a loving God?

      • They were deceived. You could say the same for those who don’t believe. The question then becomes, does Love leave a person to their bad choices even though they made them precisely because they were deceived? I say no. I don’t see any love in that.

      • That smacks of fascism: “Anyone who disagrees with me must be deceived.” However you dress it up, there’s no free will if people aren’t free to choose their own way. Love must be free or it’s not love.

      • Your basic paradigm for these thoughts is not spiritual, scripture says we are under the control of the enemy until we are saved but there is an appearance of Free Will even so. Salvation is a change of nature old mindsets being unlearned but truly free as a child of God. Choice and freedom and as you understand is changed. I do not stay a christian because of choice or that would make me my own saviour. I remain saved because of the work in me finished by Jesus, because He chose Me as scripture says, grace was not my choice but his. If you measure your salvation by performance and not Grace, then your choice is a point of success or failure if you are judging your self or others by choices and presumably their outcomes. We are to rest in Him and then all choices are taken care of.


      • @Paul: I never said anyone who disagrees with me is deceived lol. Wouldn’t you also claim that if someone believes that God is not perfect love or is only partially good that they are deceived? In fact I know you would (deceived meaning they believe something false). The point is, if Adam and Eve really understood that reality, they would have never trusted a serpent over God. I also never claimed that people can’t choose their own way; I also consider free will to be indispensable (like you said, love isn’t love unless its free). But I never claimed that God forces anyone to love (I don’t think he can). What I am challenging is the notion that choices in this life determine your eternal destiny and that God abandons us to our bad choices after some point

      • But don’t you see that’s the whole point? The issue is not “Will you make the good or bad choice?” but “Will you trust God?”

        If Adam and Eve had understood the serpent’s scheme and based on their own judgment made the right choice, the devil still would’ve won because they would’ve been relying on their own judgment. Don’t you see? They had to be in the dark to have any opportunity of trusting God. If we make the “right choice” because we’ve figured it all out, there’s no place for trust.

        Jesus said Come as a child. Children don’t have it all figured out. They understand little of the reality in which they love. Doesn’t matter. That’s irrelevant and can actually impede faith. We don’t trust him because it’s the smart thing to do or because it’s a way of avoiding bad choices. The root of trust is always love. A&E’s fall was not the problem but a symptom of a far graver problem.

        You say God never forces anyone to love him but doesn’t abandon us to our own bad choices. These two statements cannot both be true. You cannot conceive of people not loving God as you do. Frankly, neither can I. But Jesus and history say otherwise.

      • Is not trusting also a choice people make? I don’t see any essential distinction between the two issues you give.

        But in a person’s deceived state they do not know God. And how can they trust someone they do not know?

        I’m not saying bad choices don’t have consequences; they obviously do. I’m saying God never gives up. History has yet to bear this out (there is eternity before us), and Jesus said exactly this in the parable of the lost sheep – Jesus searches for it *until* he finds it.

      • I think Adam knew God pretty well, personally and face-to-face.

        Jesus also had things to say about goats.

  25. This is a great post. Excellently written with so much merit. Lots to chew on. Well done Paul. I haven’t made my mind up yet on inclusion. But I trust Mom (Holy Spirit) to lead me into all Truth as my Big Brother Jesus promised She would. 😉

  26. I am new to ER2. I have read most of your post, and I am thankful that I found ER2. I really enjoyed, Everybody Responds. I was wondering if I could some of your work from that post? I wanted to share it with a small group of youth.

    thank you for this site

  27. Wonderful post, Paul! Here’s a couple verses that support your positions…Gen 1:26 & 28: God gave man Dominion. What does that entail if not the right to choose? Then Rom 4:16: It is of faith that it might be in accordance of grace… So, faith and grace are fully compatible. Therefore faith is not a work.

    God bless you and your ministry!

    • Right there is the biggest problem in Christendom A mix of covenants!

      • That seems an odd thing to say. God gave Adam grace (Gen 1). God gave Abraham grace (Rom 4). God gives us grace. Where’s the mixture?

        Adam chose poorly and rejected God’s grace. Abraham chose wisely and received it by faith. You have the freedom to follow Adam or Abraham. No one is forcing you to swing either way. How is this not good news?

      • Paul says the new nature makes us slaves to righteousness, where we had been slaves to sin, but the power of sin was the law. Grace and Faith were and are a Gift. It was God that chose me Jesus says so. John 15:16. Where the Law kept us sinners, Grace must keep us saints, Where the law made opportunity for Sin, Grace abounds with freedom to live in the new nature. You cannot transgress where there is no longer an active law…

        Adam was gifted his dominion he did not choose it, and they Adam and Eve were deceived and manipulated out of it. A choice was not made between two things but they believed wrongly for an instant and they fell. To pretend that this is a straight choice is to ignore the text, they were subverted.

        If the power is in our choice then we are reliant on good performance which is a manifestation of a Law mindset, Old thinking.. If we are reliant on The Shepherd to be kept, resting in Him and being careful for nothing, That is Grace and the New creation living from the bliss of knowing Him. Not seeking to measure how good or bad we are but living in the fathers eternal approval. As He Is so are we. I stay a saved not by my good choices but by a new nature and the benevolence of the father. Grace is undeserved favour. We are Favoured by God into being His righteousness because that’s what he did for us, He is our righteousness and we became His. I never chose this stuff He chose me.

      • You’re combining separate issues (free will, God’s grace, eternal security) to say one thing – we’re all puppets of a tricky devil and then we become puppets of a manipulative God who forces his “gifts” on the unwilling. Since none of this is actually true – because we do, in fact, have the freedom to choose – you are free to say what you like and I am free to reject it as deterministic and graceless nonsense. Isn’t freedom wonderful?

        The God you portray is mysteriously sovereign and selective. He can force his grace onto anyone and everyone yet for some reason he doesn’t. The God Jesus reveals loves the whole world and freely invites us all to respond to his love.

      • janet cadieux // August 21, 2013 at 2:32 am //

        Amen Paul. (we are all now free to choose). That is one of the things that Jesus accomplished at the cross. He came to set the captives free. God included the whole world held in captive to the evil one, before Jesus came. I think that is why this topic can be so confusing, because on one hand, under the law and old covenant, no one was free. Not even those who walked in faith during their day. They saw the day coming, but, they did not receive it, until Jesus set the world free. So, while God did specifically ‘call and choose’ a remnant during that old time, that no longer applies. Now, all men are without excuse…but, what has happened is, as I see it, man has confused what was with what now is, and cannot seem to rightly divide it.

      • janet cadieux // August 21, 2013 at 2:34 am //

        There is an active law. It is the Eternal law. It is called the law of the Spirit. All men are now responsible to either follow it, and repent, or deny it and reject what Jesus, through His death gave as a free gift to all men.

      • It is called the “Law” of liberty as in No Law folks! Its an Ironic term used by Paul.
        Paul also asserts that the Law was the Power of Sin, If you try to live from a precept it will become the power of sin in you. However Living by Grace will keep you pure! all who have this hope Purify themselves by it. It is a new nature we have been given that leads away from sin, where the old nature gravitated to it. Paul said that prior to Grace “the good that I would do I would not do, and the evil I would not do I committed” his free will kept letting him down. So we were Slaves to sin, in the same way we find in the new birth that we want to follow the Son and that we are able to! If you struggle to do well, by Paul’s definition you are still under law and thinking and behaving like a sinner.

        There Is hope though because of JESUS! Grace will set you free from the Law of sin and Death all your living is in Christ if, you have indeed been born again, reckon Him to be your Saviour and lean your entire personality on His righteousness and Love.

        If you are not Jewish the Law was never yours to keep anyhow, so you have been inducted into an oppression at the same time as being taught about the Christ who came to deliver the oppressed.

        Paul says wherever the Law is Taught a veil remains over the understanding of those who hear it. If your focus for life is law you cannot understand the Gospel of Grace.

      • janet cadieux // August 22, 2013 at 9:44 am //


        I know the ‘letter’ kills. I was not trying to reinforce the old covenant ‘letter’ again on anyone. You are wrong however that it was only made for jews. Paul taught that God used the jews to be a witness for the all, that all are sinners, all fall short, and the law of the letter shut the mouth of the whole world, because of that. Likewise, the law of God, was never the ‘letter’. It was given to Moses, to give to mankind, but, the eternal law as I said is the law of the Spirit, and Paul said it is still what we should call being obedient to God. There is no law of the letter contained in it. You have to understand the law given to man/letter, and the law that has always been eternal, called the law of the Spirit, also called the law of faith. Likewise called the law of Christ, and if you think you are without law or (spiritual law), you would be wrong on that, too.

        I won’t argue with you, however. The law of liberty IS the law of the Spirit, btw..and, against such there is no law of moses/letter. It was however, the law of moses/letter that condemned the world…NOT just the jews. The purpose was to bring in the new covenant, where Jesus would set the world free from that condemnation…or old covenant.

        Just one verse, because as I said, I do not want to argue with you brother, but just take this one in:

        Romans 3:19 – Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty[1] before God.

        If you would study this chapter, you would see that Paul includes all under sin. The letter/law of moses defined sin, for all carnal man. You would also see that God is not a respector of persons, and a teaching that would indite that only the jews were under the law of moses is bogus theology, that makes God out to be a condemner of jews, alone. It makes no sense, and it makes the whole bible a mess to understand, in mho.

  28. Aitee Abraham // August 22, 2013 at 12:27 am // Reply

    Your acceptance or response is to thank Him for the finished work but if you don’t that will not change the factual reality of your salvation or that you have been saved at the cross even before your gratitude,you still remain save.the difference is that you will not enjoy the realities of your salvation but you will not be condemn to Hell fire nonsense because when Jesus died,He died for all human,when He was buried he went to Hell for everyone.so no one will go to hell for unbelief or not responding to the goodness of God.Your response is a light that is done in your heart to see your salvation but you were not born again or save that day if not Jesus did not save you.is good to respond but that will not credit salvation to you but benefits of it.

    • janet cadieux // August 22, 2013 at 9:47 am // Reply

      The bible does not teach this. Do you believe that the bible is an old, outdated book, or the truth of God? God saved the world as you say, (from the curse of the law), but, in so doing, He now demands all men everywhere to repent. If they refuse, or reject Him, they are without excuse.

    • thekingskid1128 // August 25, 2013 at 2:56 pm // Reply

      So, you’re saying @Aitee Abraham that no matter what I do, or don’t do… I am saved regardless if I am grateful for the salvation or not? Well, in that case anyone can go out here and rob a bank, murder a child, or blow up an airplane and it wouldn’t matter because they’re already saved, correct!!?? That makes no sense to me at all.

      • Squawks 5000 // July 25, 2018 at 6:26 am //

        Technically, yes. There are Christians who love to walk in sin (Paul dealt with that in 1 Corinthians). However, “belief” is an inward and personal conviction and acceptance that we need Jesus because of how we are stuck in sin. “Belief” is NOT merely answering the “How do I get to heaven?” question right on HQ Trivia.

        Speaking of which, only God knows if one truly believes yet dives in sin or if one doesn’t believe at all — we shouldn’t be the one judging. I won’t be surprised if many “Christians” who did these things didn’t make it into heaven.

  29. I believe the good news of the Gospel is that we have a choice to accept salvation, or not. It really is very simple, man is what makes these things oh so unnecessarily complicated. The “church”, “sons and daughters” and “children” of God are those who have accepted Him or will. Salvation is very simple, you are acknowledging that without God, you are a filthy sinner and damned to hell. Jesus came to offer man a gift of salvation through grace, not by the ten commandments, not by religion, etc. You accept Jesus and make Him the Lord and Savior of your life because you cannot, by anything you say, do or pray… save yourself. The gift of salvation has been extended to every single person walking this earth. Every terrorist, murdered, adulterer, and small white liar has been offered the same gift. Until you make the choice in your heart and mind to repent from your SINS and turn to God, you are still lost. This is unbelief as well. The “sheep” that Jesus refers to are those who have accepted him already. God does not even hear or acknowledge the prayers of sinners, at all. And that is scripture! I’m not making this up. People are lost and going to hell not because they sin, but because they have no interest in God, have never acknowledged they needed Him AND they enjoy sin and will not turn from it. Heck, Christians sin! We ALL sin because NONE of us are Jesus. Sin in engraved in our DNA. But the difference is that we must repent from our sins, daily. We must acknowledge our sin and confess them before God in the name of Jesus, by His blood.

    • The truth is the Gospel is never offered as a choice but as a spiritual Truth, Ephesians is plain that when we were sinners and beyond choosing good things He included us in the resurrection whilst we were sinners and dead though we lived.

      Evangelical, Pentecostal Christian traditions has marketed Christianity as a choice but, it is not put forth that way Paul reveals the amazing Grace of God for our souls to fall in love with the Majesty and Grace of the intense love of the Father. Do we fall in love by choice?

      we may respond but we respond in a manner that is akin to an awakened spirit flowing to itself in Christ “as He Is So are We” No Man Comes to the Father unless the Father calls Him.

      God appeals to his spirit in us as he reveals his son to us we do not choose so much as we fall in the Arms of Grace as he unbalances us by his great compassion. Ephesians two says that “it is not the result of what anyone could possibly do, So no one can boast and pride himself in it or take glory to himself” We cannot claim that we made a good choice and claim any self righteous credit for what Jesus and the Father conspired together to do for us Before the cross we were (Eph 2:12) Remember that you were at that time separated living apart from Christ excluded from all part in Him utterly estranged and outlawed from the rights of Israel as a nation and strangers with no share in the sacred compacts of the Messianic promise. v.13 But Now in Christ Jesus You who were once so far away through the blood of Christ have been brought Near. v.14 and the verses following demonstrate our reconciliation to the Father by the Father by the blood of his son not our choices.

      We were Separated but now included in Jesus not by our efforts in any way. All is down to Him.
      Its a Gift guys for goodness sake throw a party already!

      • thekingskid1128 // August 24, 2013 at 8:55 am //

        It is a spiritual truth that I we must either accept or reject. Either way we have a choice and if we didn’t… well we could all do whatever we wanted without fear of consequence or punishment because we “all” are reconciled and saved? Yeah… I’m not really feeling that philosophy it makes no sense.

      • janet cadieux // August 24, 2013 at 11:00 am //

        I would agree all were included in His death. Being saved from death, (penalty of the law), is not what raises us to life, however. We must choose to believe, in order to be raised to life. Those who choose not to believe, although they were saved from the curse of the law, life itself is in being raised. This is why the bible says we are saved by His life…His death just made it possible. Of course it was not possible, unless He died, but when we are speaking of when WE gained life, it is when we believe.

      • Faith which is a gift not a choice.

      • Children are a gift from the Lord too. Since God desires to bless all of us and wants us to go forth and multiply, how is it that not everyone has kids? A: For the same reason not everyone has faith. Receiving his gifts is a choice.

        The children of Israel were given the Promised Land but they still had to take it. They didn’t, so they died without receiving the gift. Hebrews says this is a direct parallel to us and how we respond to the gospel (see Heb 4:2).

      • janet cadieux // August 25, 2013 at 3:00 am //

        Faith is a gift to all men. Given to all men on the cross, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ so that now, none are without excuse to USE it. Faith unused, is a void faith. Paul speaks of that, too. Those who make it void/will be cut off. Have you read that?

        I am in agreement with you that none had freewill AFTER the fall of Adam. I am in agreement with you that faith as a FREE gift was given to all men, through the work of Jesus on the cross and His work alone/ (without the aid of any human hands). It is in what God expects from mankind NOW that we are not in agreement on. He is the Father. He expects His children to put it into practice, and of their own freewill, if they choose not to, the result is cut off; not the work of God, but men.

        It is not God that makes a man’s faith void.

      • faith which is a gift we can choose to receive or reject…

      • Yes, @MikeHelen Jarvis Faith is a gift, but until the receiver accepts the gift, he cannot use it.

  30. Before we were saved we sinned without fear, had no choice in the matter Ephesians says as much, without care we transgressed, many strict religious people make the sin of striving in their own righteousness to “serve” god but it is all for their own benefit really Pharisees to a man. The Principal of Choice does not come from the Gospel but doctrines that suggest We suddenly have the power to be righteous where previously we had been slaves to sin. Jesus said He did not come to judge so we have no need to fear.

    By Grace we enjoy the favour of God Is Life or Death really a choice. We were delivered by Christ surrounded by Grace and changed by the Sacrifice of Jesus into a new creature that by its nature follows Jesus leading because there is no battle left between the knowledge of good and evil there is only the Mind of Christ in us and the knowledge of Gods approval.

    The choice thing is a red herring, You are simply offended that you cant take credit for even that. The potter and the clay analogy works here the Clay has no say, no choice, but the potter is completely benign.

    His choice is our life!

    • If there was no choice, why do both covenants repeatedly exhort us to choose life? Why does Jesus invite us to “come to me”? If there was no choice, Adam’s Fall was God’s fault and death entered the world not through man but God (cf. Romans 5:12).

      You are exercising your God-given freedom to tell us no one is free and you don’t see the irony in this?

      • Hi Paul,
        I know the heart of the Gospel but I cannot get my head around Romans 9 18-23.
        Has the Lord shaped your understanding of these verses yet?
        Thanks man.

  31. great post!Reading through some of the comments, i see that there are some who are strongly opposed to Divine election/predestination and in favor of free will….as if the two cannot go together. I believe Scripture overwhelmingly shows both to be a reality.While probably impossible to comprehend fully(like explaining the Trinity),it should not be something to trouble us,but be a source of comfort. As for those who think “predestination is unfair….one can only be saved if they were elected”…i think they are looking at it wrong.Instead they should be amazed and filled with awe and gratitude that God has chosen men! All of us are here by no choice of our own.We had no say in our birth,to whom we were born,where we were born,ect. Life is a grand display of the election of God,not the free will of man,though it is everywhere present.Christ at the crucifiction was mocked by those who by their free will wanted Him crucified.In the realm of their human experience they were conscious only of their desire and efforts to kill Him. But back of that,were the purposes of God,and Christ said “no man taketh my life from me,but i lay it down”.Salvation is like that…men are conscious only of their choice,but back of that was Gods choosing,

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