Nobody Wins in A Tug of War

Have you ever played Tug of War? If you have you know that neither team really wins. When one team manages to overpower the other, more times than not both teams end up on a pile in the dirt. In winning both teams lose and need to head for the pool or the shower. All too often this is the result of the theological debate between staunch Calvinist and staunch Arminian Christians. They cannot agree and divide into parties.


If you are going to read this blog profitably, I must make a disclaimer. My theology is nestled in the Reformed theology. My ministry, however, in counseling and teaching runs the gamut of Christian denominations and theological commitments.


For some years running, it has been my practice to meditatively work through books of the Bible in my morning encounter with God. I am aware that chapter breaks were inserted by men, but nonetheless in most instances they provide logical breaks in the flow of the thought. Hence, I tend to assign theme titles to chapters. In the case of First Corinthians chapter one, the theme title I chose was The Priority of Election. There are two strands of reality that run through the entire Bible beginning in Genesis 1:26 through Revelation 22. These two strands are evident in this chapter.


Perhaps the simplest method to organize and interpret the observations is as follows.

  • Priority of Divine Election 1-9

In these nine verses Divine initiative is cited seven times. 

    • By the will of God 1
    • Saints by calling 2
    • Grace of God was given 4
    • In everything you were enriched in Him 5
    • Testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you 6
    • Who shall confirm you in the end 8
    • God is faithful through whom you were called 9
  • Priority of Human Responsibility 10-17
    • You are to choose to agree, and there is to be no divisions among you 12
    • Rationale for choosing unity 13–17
  • Priority of Gospel Preaching 18-25
    • Exclusiveness of the Gospel 18 & 24-25
    • Wisdom of God devised preaching 19-21
    • Human responsibility to respond to preaching 21-24
  • Priority of Divine Engagement 26-30
    • Calling of God 26-28
    • Elimination of pride 29
    • Confidence in God’s election (but by His doing) 30
      • For righteousness
      • For sanctification 
      • For redemption
  • Priority of resting in God’s work 31


In total, there are sixteen affirmations of God’s initiative set forth in just this one chapter of Holy Writ. Whatever theological framework is your identity, these marvelous strands must be woven together if you are committed to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. Some avoid election less they see themselves as marionettes. Those who embrace election are sometimes seen as fatalist. To my way of thinking, here is the problem. God elects to generate creation out of nothing. God elects to create Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve choose to attempt to become as God.

Ever since, man has either attempted to be as wise as God and explain all things to his own satisfaction or choose to deny God and become a fool. Thus, the bottom line is summarized in verse 21: 

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

The wisdom of God, that is the comprehension of God, is a capacity we do not have. God has revealed His character to us, but we can only apprehend it, not comprehend it. If we could, we would be God, and “we ain’t”!  However, as believers, we can apprehend His self-revelation sufficiently to trust Him. Remember Proverbs 3:5-6. May I suggest the following translation to drive home the point: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not trust your own understanding.

Again, the bottom line is expressed by Paul in Ephesians one. “Just as He choose us in Him before the foundation of the world…” Regardless of our theological framework, let us rejoice in God’s elective process and rejoice in foolish preaching which is the power of God to save those who believe (1:18-21).  


Let us embrace one another as Paul urged these Corinthians (1:10-17). Let us proclaim the Gospel expecting people to respond and be saved. Let us rejoice in God’s good hand upon us. Let us be obedient to his commandments and thereby attract others to Jesus just as those who were physically healed because Jesus chose to heal them attracted others to His message.


When the Lord saved me at a youth function at the age of seventeen, I knew nothing about God’s election. But as I heard the foolishness of preaching, I knew I desired to go to heaven. There was no doubt that I was a sinner. When I left that function, I told my date, “I think your Teenage Club has a new member”. That does not sound like much of a testimony. But I began attending church and God began to teach me and change me. 

Eighteen months later two roommates were arguing over election and free will. That was my introduction to this debate. What was important to me was the fact that God had saved me. More than sixty years and multiple seminary diplomas hanging on my wall, I am of the same ilk—God saved me when I responded to the preaching. Theologically, God elected me. The Holy Spirit regenerated me, and I believed. Koinonia wise, I have fellowship with many believers who would not so construe their theology. However, God has called them. The Holy Spirit converted them. They love Jesus and we serve in the Kingdom side by side, though not in the same organization, just the same organism.

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