Can’t let it go? Lost Sheep and “Free-Willers”

Funny, I write here how I am going to let the Sovereign God /Free Will debate go and in less than a week it is thrust back into my face.  The subject came up at least 3 times this week. Friends of my daughter made a couple of statements regarding our inability to believe unless we are called (implying that unbelievers are therefore not called.) My family met to celebrate my dad’s 85th birthday and somehow it came up again. I do not recall how, or why, but I remember stating that I simply do not see or understand the point of it…. that is Calvinism and its 5 TULIP points of doctrine. I do not see it taught in scripture and no one has shown me a single scripture that has led me start to think along those lines. (See previous posts for my discussion of the scriptures I have investigated.)  Finally, I am sitting at my computer minding my own business when my wife asks a question she is reading from hers.  She was reading something someone had written declaring that a “free – will” believer (I believe she used the word “free-willer”) could have no answer to Matthew 18 – the parable of the lost sheep.

My first thought was why WOULD a  “free-willer” need an answer to the parable of the lost sheep?  What does that parable have to do with free will?  I tried not to engage, but my wife clearly wanted my thoughts so I gathered my first thoughts and they were as follows:

1) Jesus leaves the 99 sheep to go after the 1 who has gone astray. All of the sheep are his. All 100 sheep are His. One of His sheep is lost and He is going after it.  These sheep, all 100 of them are obviously already his, they represent those who are already believers.  The parable says nothing about how Jesus chooses sheep for His flock or about how a sheep chooses to join it.

2) Furthermore, if you are going to read into the parable that Jesus going after the one is His calling of the one, that it is His choosing of the one for grace, belief and salvation; IF you read into it that way you are left with the implication that there are other sheep who have gone astray and Jesus does not go after them.  This is my biggest problem with the reformed doctrine. The 5 points lead to the one point – limited atonement – that is that God chooses not to save some – that God creates people, born into sin, helpless to keep from sin, and then condemns them for it.  The Bible clearly teaches that God is just and loving to all. He cannot be unjust and unloving in this way.

Today, I have obviously chosen to write about this. I went searching for what my wife was looking at. I found it on the Facebook wall of a friend. A friend who disagrees with me on all of this, but who is still my friend.  I also opened the scripture to investigate it a little more clearly.

Let’s look at the context.  You cannot learn from a parable without knowing why Jesus taught it. The context of this parable stretches from the very beginning of Chapter 18. You can tell because of Jesus use of the phrase “little ones.”  Here is a synopsis of the parable in its context:

The disciples ask Jesus who would be greatest in the kingdom. Jesus replies that to be great in the kingdom you have to become like a little child. He then goes on to talk about those who would make the “little ones” stumble. He gives a stern warning to anyone who might do something to cause a “little one” to stumble. He then says that He would leave the 99 to go find that one.  He concludes His thought with the promise that God is not willing to let any of these “little ones” perish (Matthew 18:14)

So, my first thought on this parable seems to be correct. Jesus is talking here about how He seeks after those who are already His and have been led astray. The “lost sheep” portion does not address how to become one of His sheep. Earlier in the passage it says that we have to become like a “little one” to enter the kingdom of heaven. So, to become one of his sheep we have to become child like. We have to have a simple faith, child – like, trusting.  We also have to be willing to humble ourselves to the lowly position of a child.

There is one interesting side note within the parable. It says “IF” He finds the sheep, not “WHEN” He finds the sheep. He has left open the possibility that that sheep is never found.  How can an all powerful God fail to find something? He can’t. The only way God can be all powerful and not find the sheep is for God to choose to give the sheep the choice of being found……

Here is the heart of the problem. Reformed thinkers cannot reconcile God willing people to have will.  They equate man’s choice with a reduction in God’s power.  I don’t get it.  I see no problem with an All Powerful, All Knowing, All Loving God CHOOSING to let His creation have a choice.  It seems to me that God displays even more power, knowledge and love by letting us have our choices, letting us do the things we are designed to do, yet still working out the billions of billions of things that could happen to actually happen in a way that suits HIS purpose.

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