The series of sermons at Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood, Minnesota, currently being taught is titled, “Twisted Scripture.” This first one is from June 1, 2014. Following is the scripture basis of the message:
18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
The focus behind the series is on unveiling difficult scripture that has been misunderstood, to the point even of having devastating consequences to all of creation. Though Greg does not talk specifically about creation in this sermon, it is a good idea to listen to all sermons and read all of the Bible with ALL of God’s creation in mind; Jesus died to redeem ALL of creation to Himself; the Bible’s central message, though it may be about us because we are the part of creation responsible as Heirs to the throne, as Co-Workers with God made in His Image with the task of mercifully caring for, protecting and overseeing all of His other creation (the earth and animal kingdom), the central message of the Bible is nonetheless about ALL of creation – not a single part of it was made for us to rule over as tyrants or to destroy!
This Romans 9 passage has been used for centuries to support a deterministic view of the world, where God determines before we were born who we would be, what we would do, that all things are predetermined. Calvinism in particular has used this passage to shape a view of Christianity that says we don’t “really” have free will, we don’t determine our future – it has been completely determined, every detail, by God, before the beginning of creation, and we don’t influence God.
In this sermon, Boyd will argue that the passage actually teaches the exact opposite!! So grab a cup of coffee, or refreshment of some kind, perhaps a note book and pen! I’ve watched the two “Twisted Scripture” sermons following this one as well; one is on the book of Job – I’ve never heard a better understanding of this difficult book; the other on Jeremiah 29:11, which says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Scripture must be examined in the context it was given; it was never meant to mean a subscription to prosperity, freedom from evil, complete peace now, and that a sound future is in store for us when we commit to the Lord. As with Romans 9, both of these sermons are equally as enlightening! Encourage you to check them all out.
Of course, there is nothing like seeing the message for yourself and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the message. This summary does not come close to what is said by Greg nor can it convey his special gift of expression!
Greg asks the question: Does scripture support the view that everything is predetermined by God, that He is in complete control, and all is happening as planned by God?
Four pertinent points are made to reading scripture correctly:
1. Start and finish with Christ crucified. The sacrificial love on the cross is our guiding point to determining what scripture is to mean, especially scripture that appears to contradict a sacrificial, merciful view of God. Read scripture “through the cross.” Who God is is found in Hebrews 1. Christ is God’s very essence, love is defined by the cross. In 1 Corinthians 1 the cross is described as the wisdom and power of God.
2. Pay attention to context. Why is Paul saying what he is saying in Romans 9? The answer is found in the beginning of the chapter. Paul is grieving over the fact that Jews are not believing in the Messiah. In v6, the answer begins to become clear – sharing in the faith of Abraham makes the true Israelite. It has nothing to do with lineage, birthright, or the keeping of the law. It has everything to do with faith in the God of Israel, the God of all people and of all creation. From this perspective, when reading Romans 9 from the context, reading into it the understanding of the True Israelite, we get a proper understanding of how God saves or damns individuals and peoples.
3. Look for the author’s own conclusion. In Romans 9, Paul gives us the summary conclusion in v30-32. Choosing righteousness – being rightly related with God. God’s hardening of peoples hearts is just God’s way of fashioning a people in a certain direction based on the decisions they make. The passage is not about individual salvation or damnation. God is saying, “If you choose to be this kind of a people I have to form you in this way.” God’s judgment is done out of love. He is hoping that in suffering the consequences of their own choices, these consequences will then turn them to Him – God’s judgment is always for the purpose of redemption.
4. Look at the context of Old Testament analogies. “One lump of clay,” v21. When NT authors use OT analogies, they always apply them in the way it was meant then, though it may be a new twist on that meaning. Jeremiah 18 gives us the true meaning of “one lump of clay.” V1-11: God asks Israel, “Can I not do with you what this potter has done.” When clay becomes spoiled, the potter being wise and flexible reworks it to conform it to the kind of clay he is working with. God wants us to turn from our own evil ways and allow Him in His wisdom to remold us into the clay He made us to be; He is saying that the future is not determined for you, turn and I will turn! This is very good news!
What is also good news is that if Boyd’s arguments are true, and we have some passages twisted, there is much more that perhaps we have also misunderstood or that is twisted in some fashion; this is good news for animals! We know that they are more important to God than we have acknowledged from our limited understanding, and even twisted understanding, of scripture! We have often used scripture to validate our horrific treatment of them. What we have done is not Biblical; there has never been a theological foundation supporting our un-Christ like treatment of them. If any scripture that we have used to validate our not so Biblical use of animals is in contradiction to Christ’s sacrificial character, then something is askew with our understanding of the passage(s).
So as His people, let’s turn from our evil ways in the way that we treat animals. Let’s question any theological understanding that does not look like Jesus dying for His creation on the cross. Let’s be activists and do our part – let’s stop partaking in the systems that do animals harm, such as factory farmed food or clothing made from animal products, to name just two – and allow God in His wisdom to remold us into the clay He made us to be – the Good Stewards of His creation.
Thanks for reading! Your thoughts are welcome! ~ Kathy