Whether we choose to believe it or not, there is such a thing as an invalid question. It has been said that “There are no stupid questions.” however, since there are invalid questions, we could well say that knowingly asking an invalid question to elicit a particular response, is indeed ends up being a stupid question that is only designed to benefit the questioner, and not actually used to determine the truth of a matter. Such questions are like the following:
Please answer YES or NO:
Have you stopped beating your wife? (Presumes one beats his wife, regardless of the answer given.)
The last time you drank, were you violent? (Presumes one drinks, and one has been violent when drunk.)
Would you favor abortion over infanticide? (Presumes one supports the killing of innocent children.)
And the list could go on. Without getting into every example of an invalid question, it can be accurately stated that there are a number of questions that are designed to lead a person into unwittingly admitting something they know is not true, and do not even agree with. Hence, there are invalid questions.
The following questions are also invalid, as they presume things that are not in evidence Scripturally. They are asked knowing there is no answer to them (at least from the Calvinist perspective), and thus are given under the express condition:
I will admit defeat and repent, if you can answer these questions biblically. “I don’t know” is not an answer.1
And here are some of the questions:
Why is it that one unregenerate person believes the gospel and not another?
Was he able to generate a right thought, produce a right affection, create right belief, while at the same time man #2 did not have the natural wherewithal to come up with the faith to be saved?
If they both made use of the same grace, did one make better use of it than the other?
If God’s grace places us in a neutral state, then what motivates one man to believe and not another?
What principle in him made him choose what he did?
If all men are neutral in God’s grace was it by chance that one believed and not another?
Is it the grace of God that makes you differ from unbelievers or is it your faith?2
Now, we should understand that there are reasons why the LORD states some things plainly in His word, and other things he is totally silent on. Those things that are plain, those things that can be derived from principles and statements, and those things there is ample evidence for in Scripture, do belong to us, as the LORD stated through Moses:
The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)
Now, there are limitations to what each of us learn, as we are often not ready for the teaching:
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. (John 16:12-15)
But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24)
So it is that the LORD is actually the Teacher of His children, and He uses those He has gifted to teach and preach to accomplish that task, as the Scripture also instructs:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; . . . (Ephesians 4:11-14)
So it is that the education of the born-again child of God is accomplished by the LORD Himself, at a rate he determines we can handle. Since He truly does know how fast we learn the lessons He desires to impart to us, He is able to “tailor make” the lessons to fit each and every one of His children, and use both the Scripture, and the events of our individual lives to “drive the point home” as it were.3
However, there are things the LORD reserves to a set period of time, or even a stage in a person’s life. Nowhere is the LORD compelled to reveal any or all of His mind, except by what His own righteousness, love, mercy, and judgement bring forth from Him. We see this also in Scripture:
But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. (Daniel 12:4)
And, we see that the LORD has spoken things men have heard, but are not allowed to repeat at any time, in any context:
And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth, And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not. (Revelation 10:1-4)
It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (II Corinthians 1-4)
And, there are times the LORD has commanded men to record and disseminate everything He told them:
And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. (Exodus 17:14)
Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. (Isaiah 30:8-11)
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book. (Jeremiah 30:1-2)
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (Revelation 21:5)
And so it is that the LORD God retains full control over His word, and reveals it as He will, even to the point of sealing it up when people do not appreciate it and lay it to heart:
Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. (Isaiah 29:9-14)
Thus, we can conclude by the foregoing, that if the LORD has not spoken of something in His word, He has plainly chosen to retain that unto Himself, and we are never to be privy to it. This reservation of His word, and how the LORD God chooses to deal with individuals was aptly illustrated in the incident of the woman caught in adultery in John, Chapter 8:
They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? (John 8:4-10)
What I will state here is extracted from the article “The Impossible Command” and addresses directly this issue:
The writing upon the ground
Regarding what the Lord wrote on the ground, I note that many have made comment as to what the Lord wrote and have speculated much upon it. Personally, my thought is that the Lord did not see fit to tell us. Thus it is none of our business and we ought to leave it alone. We should remember that God is under no obligation to tell us anything, let alone what He writes during a particular instance.
We could, however, take some lessons from the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ wrote upon the ground, in full view of the accusers and the woman, but spoke not a word to the crowd and the disciples at large. It is also notable that it is not recorded that the apostles asked what He wrote. What can be drawn from this is that the Lord was dealing with those accusers and the woman, but what He desired to convey to them was no one else’s business.
It is clear, whatever He wrote had its particular effect upon those who saw it. We should note, whatsoever the Lord addressed to an individual or group of individuals frequently was for them alone. If we remember, the Lord rebuked Peter after the resurrection when he asked about John and what John was supposed to do, to wit: “Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?” (John 21:21) to which the Lord answered “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.” (John 21:22) Thus, the Lord reminded Peter (and us as well), what He has for one is not necessarily anyone else’s business. Those things pertaining to all, He has insured they are contained, in full, in the Scripture. Incidentally, anything that the Lord would lay upon any individual or group would not be contrary to the already completed Scripture.
Finally, what we do know about the Lord’s dealing with individuals is this: The Lord deals with everyone individually as they are able to understand what he must tell them. We also know the Lord does not deal haphazardly or randomly with anyone. Nothing the Lord does is ‘in isolation’ or unconnected with anything else, but all drives toward the purpose of reconciling that person to the Lord through recognition of their sin, understanding of who God really is, repentance of sin, and trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. To that end, we can understand that whatever the Lord Jesus wrote upon the ground was for those individuals and them alone. What He wrote did not and does not apply to us as He did not make us privy to it. In short, we need to learn to mind our place and not delve into situations the Lord has not seen fit to reveal to us lest we sin in the manner of Job and speak words without knowledge.4
Here now, we arrive at the point of the questions, having somewhat examined the LORD’s view on the handling of His word, which is the Scripture, and whether the questions can be answered, should be answered, and if the LORD God would honor such inquiry. Here again are the questions, which I have numbered to track the answering of them:
1. Why is it that one unregenerate person believes the gospel and not another?
2. Was he able to generate a right thought, produce a right affection, create right belief, while at the same time man #2 did not have the natural wherewithal to come up with the faith to be saved?
3. If they both made use of the same grace, did one make better use of it than the other?
4. If God’s grace places us in a neutral state, then what motivates one man to believe and not another?
5. What principle in him made him choose what he did?
6. If all men are neutral in God’s grace was it by chance that one believed and not another?
7. Is it the grace of God that makes you differ from unbelievers or is it your faith?
Bear in mind now that questions 3, 4, 6, and 7 all address grace and its operation in some way, and thus will be addressed together in a discussion of grace and its operation upon a person. This leaves questions 1, 2, and 5 to be discussed separately. However, questions 1 and 5 speak of the heart, and the secrets of a man’s heart, and thus will be discussed together. This leaves question 2 to be discussed by itself, and it will touch upon several areas, including faith.
To be continued . . .
- Private e-mail from Aaron referencing the following questions.↩
- There is a context in which this teaching occurs at its optimum, but the discussion of that is best left to another article.↩
- emphasis mine, not in the original article↩