1 Timothy 2:4 and Free Will

 by John Piper

“…Some people read into 1 Timothy 2:4 (God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”) the necessity of free will as an explanation for why all are not saved.

…This is not owing to anything in the text, but to a philosophical presupposition brought to the text. The presupposition is that, if God will in one sense for all to be saved, then he cannot will in another sense that only some will be saved.

In fact, the wider context of the Pastoral Epistles points away from free will as a solution.

Paul uses the very language of 1 Timothy 2:4 again in 2 Timothy 2:24-26: “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

“…Paul here is explaining why some do not “come to the knowledge of the truth.” The ultimate or decisive answer is that God himself may or may not “grant … repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.”

-John Piper, Does God Desire All to Be Saved? (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013), 40-41.

What Keeps God from Saving All People?

If God desires all to be saved, what keeps Him from saving whom He desires to save? If God genuinely desires for all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), why doesn’t God save all people?

John Piper gives an answer:

“[The answer] can be illustrated … by reflecting … on 1 Timothy 2:4, where Paul says that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” What are we to say of the fact that God desires something that in fact does not happen?

There are two possibilities, as far as I can see.

1. One possibility is that there is a power in the universe greater that God’s, which is frustrating him by overruling what he desires.

Neither the Reformed nor the Arminians affirms this.

2. The other possibility is that God wills not to save all, even though he “desires” that all be saved, because there is something else that he wills or desires more, which would be lost if he exerted his sovereign power to save all.

This is the solution that I, as Reformed, affirm along with Arminians. In other words, both the Reformed and the Arminians affirm two wills in God when they ponder deeply over 1 Timothy 2:4…. Both can say that God wills for all to be saved. And when queried why all are not saved, both the Reformed and the Arminians answer the same: because God is committed to something even more valuable than saving all.

The difference between the Reformed and the Arminians lies not in whether there are two wills in God, but in what they say this higher commitment is.

What does God will more than saving all?

1. The answer the Arminians give is that human self-determination and the possible resulting love relationship with God are more valuable than saving all people by sovereign, efficacious grace.

2. The answer the Reformed give is that the greater value is the manifestation of the full range of god’s glory in wrath and mercy (Rom. 9:22-23) and the humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (1 Cor. 1:29).”

-John Piper, Does God Desire All to Be Saved? (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013), 38-39.

God’s Will: Moral Standards and Sovereign Control

by John Piper

“…The Scripture leads us again and again to affirm that God’s will is sometimes spoken of as an expression of his moral standards for human behavior and sometimes as an expression of his sovereign control even over acts that are contrary to that standard.

This means that the distinction between terms such as “will of decree” and “will of command,” or “sovereign will” and “moral will,” is not an artificial distinction demanded by Reformed theology.

The terms are an effort to describe the whole of biblical revelation. They are an effort to say yes to all of the Bible and not silence any of it. They are a way to say yes to the universal, saving will of Ezekiel 18:23 and Matthew 23:37, and yes to the individual, unconditional election of romans 9:6-23.”

-John Piper, Does God Desire All to Be Saved? (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013), 35-36.

The Preciousness of New Covenant Sovereignty

by John Piper

One of the most precious implications of … confidence in God’s inviolable sovereign will is that it provides the foundation of the “new covenant” hope for the holiness without which we will not see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).

In the old covenant, the law was written on stone and brought death when it was met with the resistance of un-renewed hearts. But the new covenant promise is that God will not let his purposes for a holy people shipwreck on the weakness of human will. Instead, he promises to do what needs to be done to make us what we ought to be.

“And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Duet. 30:6). “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezek. 36:27). “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jer. 32:40). “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).”

-John Piper, Does God Desire All to Be Saved? (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013), 34-35.

Why Was Jesus Unintimidated by Pilate?

by John Piper

“Ponder with me the lesson of Pilate’s authority over Jesus.

Pilate said to Jesus, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:10–11)

Pilate’s authority to crucify Jesus did not intimidate Jesus.

Why not?

Not because Pilate was lying. Not because he didn’t have authority to crucify Jesus. He did.

Rather this authority did not intimidate Jesus because it was derivative. Jesus said, “It was given to you from above.” Which means it is really authoritative. Not less. But more.

So how is this not intimidating? Pilate not only has authority to kill Jesus. But he has God-given authority to kill him.

This does not intimidate Jesus because Pilate’s authority over Jesus is subordinate to God’s authority over Pilate. Jesus gets his comfort at this moment not because Pilate’s will is powerless, but because Pilate’s will is guided. Not because Jesus isn’t in the hands of Pilate’s fear, but because Pilate is in the hands of Jesus’s Father.

Which means that our comfort comes not from the powerlessness of our enemies, but from our Father’s sovereign rule over their power. This is the point of Romans 8:25–37. Tribulation and distress and persecution and famine and nakedness and danger and sword cannot separate us from Christ because “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:35–37).

Pilate (and all Jesus’s adversaries — and ours) meant it for evil. But God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20). All Jesus’s enemies gathered together with their God-given authority “to do whatever God’s hand and God’s plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:28). They sinned. But through their sinning God saved.

Therefore, do not be intimidated by your adversaries who can only kill the body. Not only because this is all they can do (Luke 12:4), but also because it is done under the watchful hand of your Father.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6–7).

Pilate has authority. Herod has authority. Soldiers have authority. Satan has authority. But none is independent. All their authority is derivative. All of it is subordinate to God’s will. Fear not. You are precious to your sovereign Father. Far more precious than the unforgotten birds.”

-John Piper, http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/why-was-jesus-unintimidated-by-pilate

20 Reasons I Don’t Take Potshots at Fundamentalists

1. They are humble and respectful and courteous and even funny (the ones I’ve met).

2. They believe in truth.

3. They believe that truth really matters.

4. They believe that the Bible is true, all of it.

5. They know that the Bible calls for some kind of separation from the world.

6. They have backbone and are not prone to compromise principle.

7. They put obedience to Jesus above the approval of man (even though they fall short, like others).

8. They believe in hell and are loving enough to warn people about it.

9. They believe in heaven and sing about how good it will be to go there.

10. Their “social action” is helping the person next door (like Jesus), which doesn’t usually get written up in the newspaper.

11. They tend to raise law-abiding, chaste children, in spite of the fact that Barna says evangelical kids in general don’t have any better track record than non-Christians.

12. They resist trendiness.

13. They don’t think too much is gained by sounding hip.

14. They may not be hip, but they don’t go so far as to drive buggies or insist on typewriters.

15. They still sing hymns.

16. They are not breathless about being accepted in the scholarly guild.

17. They give some contemporary plausibility to New Testament claim that the church is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth.”

18. They are good for the rest of evangelicals because of all this.

19. My dad was one.

20. Everybody to my left thinks I am one. And there are a lot of people to my left.

John Piper, June 2, 2008
-John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis,MN) and the founder of Desiring God.
http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/20-reasons-i-dont-take-potshots-at-fundamentalists

Open Letter to the Star Tribune

“Dear Editor,

Are you aware of the fact that the same day the Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved the unconditional permission to terminate the lives of 24-week-old fetuses, the neonatology unit at Abbot Northwestern was caring for a 22-and-a-half week-old (500 gram) preemie with good chances of healthy life?

Now that is news and calls for profound reflection. Instead, your lead editorial the morning after (Feb. 26) glossed over this critical issue and endorsed abortion because it is “one of the most personal decisions a woman can make” and because “the abortion decision is undeniably sensitive.” This level of reflection is unworthy of major editorials in good newspapers.

I assume you mean by “personal decision” not: having deep personal implications; but: having deep personal implications for only one person, the mother.

But abortion is emphatically not a “personal” decision in that limited sense. There is another person, namely, the unborn child. If you deny this, you must give an account of what that little preemie is at Abbot Northwestern. Abortion is a decision about competing human rights: the right not to be pregnant and the right not to be killed.

I assume you approve of the Committee’s action. But I also assume you would not approve of the mother’s right to strangle the preemie at Abbot before its 25th week of life. If so you owe your readers an explanation of your simple endorsement of abortion because it is “personal” and “sensitive”.

In fact I challenge you to publish two photographs side by side: one of this “child” outside the womb and another of a “fetus” inside the womb both at 23 or 24 weeks, with a caption that says something like: “We at the Star Tribune regard the termination of the preemie as manslaughter and the termination of the fetus as the personal choice of the mother.”

I have read in your pages how you disdain the use of pictures because abortion is too complex for simplistic solutions. But I also remember how you approved the possible televising of an execution as one of the most effective ways of turning the heart of America against capital punishment (a similarly complex issue).

We both know that if America watched repeated termination of 23-week-old fetuses on television (or saw the procedure truthfully documented in your paper), the sentiment of our society would profoundly change. (The Alan Guttmacher Institute estimated over 9,000 abortions after 21 weeks in 1987.)

Words fail to describe the barbarity of an unconditional right to take the life of a human being as fully developed as 23 weeks. You could never successfully defend it in the public presence of the act itself.

You can do so only in the moral fog of phrases like: Abortion must be left to the woman because it is “undeniably sensitive”. This is not compelling. There are many sensitive situations where the state prescribes limits for how we express our feelings where others are concerned. And there is another concerned. If you are willing, you may meet this “other person” face to face in dozens of hospitals around the country.

Sincerely yours,

John Piper”

March 2, 1992, Complements of:

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/open-letter-to-the-star-tribune

Boredom in Heaven

“If heaven were heaven because of streets of gold and gates of pearl, if that were all, you would attempt suicide within 10,000 years from boredom” -Paul Washer

“Everyone wants to go to heaven, they just don’t want God to be there too.” -Paul Washer

“The critical question for our generation – and for every generation is this: if you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasure you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied in heaven if Jesus wasn’t there? -John Piper

Biblical Exegesis

“An evangelical believes that God humbled Himself not only in the incarnation of the Son, but also in the inspiration of the Scriptures. The manger and the cross were not sensational. Neither is grammar and syntax. But that is how God has chosen to reveal Himself.

A poor Jewish Peasant and a prepositional phrase have this in common, that they are both human and both ordinary. Therefore, if God humbled Himself to take on human flesh and to speak human language, woe to us if we arrogantly presume to ignore the humanity of Christ and the grammar of Scripture.”

–John Piper, Biblical Exegesis: Discovering the Meaning of Scriptural Texts, as cited on http://www.desiringgod.org/media/pdf/booklets/BTBX.pdf (accessed November 10, 2009).