I read John’s post entitled Bow and Confess earlier today with great interest and since he ended it with a series of questions, I thought it might helpful if I answer them. (If you haven’t yet read the original post, I suggest you do so now for best results) Before I do, I’d like to make it clear that John’s view is entirely his own and he is certainly entitled to it. Similarly, my view s are entirely mine, and neither of us is speaking for anyone other than ourselves, and I know that John would join me in saying that you, our readers and contributors are free to agree, disagree and freely express your own thoughts.
With that said, here are John’s questions and my answers to them. They are posed immediately after John stated this conclusion:
Here it seems Paul is giving clarification as to how anyone is ever able or confess Jesus is Lord—it is only by the Holy Spirit! It seems God’s plan is that at some point, every single person will willingly, honorably bow and confess Jesus is Lord, to the glory of Father, by the Holy Spirit!
Q: Do we really dare to hope in such a loving God?
A: The short answer would have to be “NO”. A more complete response would be to point out the fact that this conclusion is based upon a passage that was taken out of its context; that passage is Phil. 2:10-11. When we look at the entire passage, we see something quite different; here it is:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
When these verses are seen in context, a different picture emerges, a picture that involves Paul’s instruction to the Church in Philippi comprised of those who are followers of Jesus Christ. Paul is telling them that their attitude should be like that of the Lord Himself, who set aside the glories of Heaven to take on the form of a servant and serve His Father’s will, even to death, to redeem humanity from its sin. As a result He has been raised to the highest place, and given all authority, and every knee will bow before Him, for the day is coming when all doubt as to who He is will be gone. It’s interesting to remember that demons, as they were being driven out by Jesus knew exactly who He was, and were terrified of Him, for they were in open and deliberate rebellion against Him. Oh yes, they will all bow down on the last day, and nobody will need to force them, but many on that day will have a serious problem on their hands.
Q: Is God’s plan really to save everyone?
A: God’s desire is to save everyone, as John 3:16 so clearly tells us, and God is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to do so in sending His Son to die. Yet He created us with the free will to choose whether or not to follow Him; if we do, He welcomes us with open arms, if we don’t, we have made the choice, and since God is loving and exercises restraint, He respects our choice to reject Him, even though it grieves Him greatly.
Q: Is he really that powerful?
A: God is all powerful, but His most amazing attribute is His restraint; He does not force us to love Him.
Q: Would God allow someone the indwelling of the Holy Spirit just to bow and confess, then rip it away so they are lost for all eternity?
A: Certainly not! Sadly there is a logical problem in this question, for it is based upon the quotation of 1 Corinthians 12:3:
Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
Can you see the problem? It begins with the word “therefore”. When you see the word “therefore” the author is drawing a conclusion, thus the quotation is necessarily taken out of context. In this case, the verse falls within the larger context of 1 Corinthians 11-13 that deals with spiritual gifts, the immediate context looks like this:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
1 Cor. 12:1-3
Again, Paul is addressing Christians who are already followers of Christ, reminding them of their former status as Gentiles in a larger discussion of spiritual gifts that are given to Christians when they begin to follow Jesus, not to pagans who refuse to follow Him. We know from Acts 2:38 within its larger context of Acts 2:14 ff. that we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we believe the message of salvation acknowledge our faith in Christ and enter into relationship with Him.
If there is a connection between the Philippians 2 passage and the 1 Corinthians 12 passage, it is this: On the great Day of the Lord, every knee will indeed bow voluntarily, and every tongue will voluntarily have to admit that Jesus Christ is Lord! Those who have already done so in faith will be filled with joy and jubilation, and those who refused will be having a very bad day.
Bow and Confess, in my view, proves us with a wonderful opportunity to explore, to toss out ideas, to ask and to answer, and I want to thank John for posting it, for sharing a point of view and giving us a chance to examine the Scriptures together and come to the realization that our God is simply awesome in His love, and to see and recognize that His love is so great, that He allows us the freedom even to reject His grace.