The Highway

God's favor

Posted By: Cal Gal

God's favor - Tue Dec 22, 2009 5:21 PM

Is it accurate to say that there is nothing we can "do" to prompt God's favor?

My pastor preached a message indicating that Mary prompted God's favor and that is why he chose her to be the Lord's mother.

I am having problems with this comment. My pastor said that Mary didn't prompt God's favor for her salvation, but that she prompted God's favor by her obedience and that we can choose to obey too (and as a result prompt God's favor toward us).

I do not look at either salvation or sanctification from this perspective. I believe we are saved by grace and that we grow by grace. I think this perspective is dangerous, but then there's the whole idea of "rewards" in heaven...

I am very interested in your thoughts.
Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: God's favor - Tue Dec 22, 2009 6:19 PM

I'm having a bit of difficulty trying to understand what is meant by the phrase "prompt God's favor". If I take the phrase literally, then I too have grave concerns about its adoption since there is nothing about us nor anything that we can think, say or do that would gain or even evoke God's "favor" since we are at best sinners, even after we receive that new enlivened nature in regeneration.

So, if you could possibly expand a little on that phrase "prompt God's favor", I for one would appreciate anything further that would clarify things for me.

Thanks! [Linked Image]
Posted By: Cal Gal

Re: God's favor - Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:11 PM


Here's a part of an e-mail that he sent to us when we asked him for clarification:

"Very often disagreements/arguments on the subject are generated more by a difference in how a people understand the meaning of words. As an example what I said was the ď6 things that prompted Godís favor,Ē but what you heard was ď6 things that merited or earned Godís favorĒ. I do not believe any favor we gain from God is earned or merited. These words imply obligation on Godís part. I want to be clear that there is nothing that anyone can do which will place God in the position of owing them His favor.


However, it is also true that there are some attributes, that we (sinners made in His likeness) can possess by making right choices, and certain actions that we can choose to take which God will look favorably upon, and for which He rewards us and is pleased to use us because of. Examples of these attributes are the six things that are evident in Maryís life (i.e. humility, faith, submissive obedience, fear of God, servantís attitude, knowledge of His Word). The reason this is true is that these positive attributes are consistent with His nature, His character, and His will, and therefore bring pleasure to Him. The corresponding antithetical negative attributes prompt (induce, result in) His displeasure/disfavor (e.g. disobedience, rebellion, etc.). An example of this is the case with Saul in 1 Sam. 15 where Samuel stated, ďbecause you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.Ē Here we are told that God responded to Saulís disobedience by rejecting him as king. In the same way it was because of the characteristic positive virtues found in Mary that God chose to favor her by using her to bear the Christ Child. Was God obligated to do so? Absolutely not. Did her character and virtue, which were a result of her choices prompt, or result in Godís favor? Yes! To state it another way, along the same line as the statement made by Samuel cited above, ďbecause Mary possessed the virtues of humility, faith, submissive obedience, fear of God, servantís attitude, and knowledge of His Word, God chose her as the vessel through whom His Son would enter the world.Ē He didnít have to choose Mary to be the recipient of this grace, but it was none-the-less as a result of her virtue that He did.



I know this brief statement does not clear up all the questions related to Godís sovereignty with respect to Mary, but perhaps it will serve to clarify my position and intended message regarding her."



Posted By: Cal Gal

Re: God's favor - Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:32 PM

I just have oodles of problems with this. Aren't we seen righteous because of the righteousness of Christ? Aren't our works as filthy rags? Doesn't putting the emphasis on Mary's qualities deminish the obedience of Christ? I also think he is denying unconditional election and total depravity. But I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so I wanted to ask your thoughts before I send him another e-mail.
Posted By: BibleRon

Re: God's favor - Wed Dec 23, 2009 2:50 AM

I'm not as gifted as some men on this forum. But i rermember John MacArthur aying that there was nothing man could do to bring Gods Favor. Have you ever had a "check" in your spirit but you don't know why? Thats what I get when I read your pastors statement. I don't believe that there was anything mary could do to bring Gods favor. She was chosen by Gods Grace Just as we were chosen to be saved. She was a chosen vessel for a specific task by no merits of her own but by the mercy and Grace of God.Was she obedient? Yes, very much so but I don't believe her obedience brought the favor of God. If this is so than I can "make" God bless, heal etc. ---------------Just the thoughts of an old man.
Posted By: Robin

Re: God's favor - Wed Dec 23, 2009 11:55 AM

There is no doubt that obedience to God's law brings blessings, and disobedience has its consequences as well.

The word favor, in most of the Scriptures where it is used with reference to God's favor, is equated with God's grace, not with the ordinary blessings that follow upon sincere obedience.

Let's define a new word: Superstition (noun): Any act not commanded in God's written word which is designed to obtain His favor. The operative phrase is "not commanded in God's word." We tend to invent all sorts of way to please Him, and we tend to put our faith in these superstitions rather than in the fact that it is Christ's favor alone, imputed to us, which pleases God and brings forth the fruit of obedience resulting in greater blessing. There are the more obvious "Christian" superstitions like making the sign of the cross, for example. But we Protestants are just as guilty of inventing and applying "Christian" superstitions. Examples:

"I hope you don't expect God to bless you today since you skipped your morning devotional time in His word!" Another example is the " altar call." It's quite easy to confuse God's favor (grace, unmerited, not ever earned nor deserved) with His blessings which result from His favor being applied in our everyday lives. Obedience is the result (the "fruit") of God's grace, not a cause ("a seed") for Him to be gracious!

I love it simply the way the Apostle John put it: "We love Him because He first loved us (1st John 4:19)."
Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: God's favor - Wed Dec 23, 2009 2:12 PM

Originally Posted by Cal Gal

In the same way it was because of the characteristic positive virtues found in Mary that God chose to favor her by using her to bear the Christ Child. Was God obligated to do so? Absolutely not. Did her character and virtue, which were a result of her choices prompt, or result in Godís favor? Yes! To state it another way, along the same line as the statement made by Samuel cited above, ďbecause Mary possessed the virtues of humility, faith, submissive obedience, fear of God, servantís attitude, and knowledge of His Word, God chose her as the vessel through whom His Son would enter the world.Ē He didnít have to choose Mary to be the recipient of this grace, but it was none-the-less as a result of her virtue that He did. (emphasis mine/Pilgrim)

Methinks that your pastor is playing 'word games', aka: semantics. On the one hand he writes that there is no 'obligation' on God's part to bestow favor due to anything we can do. But on the other hand, he writes that our exhibition of 'virtue(s)' prompts God to bestow favor on us. As I see it, he is saying that God is motivated to bestow blessings upon those who are virtuous. Now this flies in the face of well-known passages, e.g., 1Cor 1:30,31; Eph. 1:4; 2:10; Phil 2:12,13 which clearly teach that any 'virtue', i.e., possession of holiness is due to the Spirit's sanctifying work in us. This in no way denies our personal responsibility to grow in grace and in the knowledge of God. However, what is fundamentally true is that our 'virtue' (good works and being transformed into the image of Christ) is God working in us. Thus, anything that is deemed good originates from God Himself.

Secondly, I believe your pastor has things reversed. In the example here of Mary, God worked in her to produce those 'virtues' which he seems to attribute to her, which incidentally, I would like to see where in Scripture they are attributed to her, for the purpose of using her as the instrument through which Messiah would come. The 'favor' shown to her includes those 'virtues' worked in her and not simply her being chosen to give birth to Jesus. The virtues were therefore not something Mary worked at which 'caught the eye' of God which then resulted in her being a chosen vessel to accomplish God's ultimate purpose of bringing forth the incarnate Son of God to save His people from their sins.

Lastly, it is hoped that he didn't make matters worse by suggesting that if we too live virtuous lives, it will motivate God to use us for grand purposes. Some of the most godly men and women who have gone before us have been persecuted and even martyred for their faith. Yes, it is true that their persecution and death can be said to display God's 'favor' in that they were used to further the kingdom of Christ (cf. Rom 8:28; Heb 11:32ff; 1Pet 2:19-21; 3:14,17,18).

In His grace,
Posted By: Cal Gal

Re: God's favor - Wed Dec 23, 2009 3:27 PM

Thank you for your thoughtful remarks. It is reassuring to know that the problems I had with his message and response are bigger than nit-picky-ness.

Please pray for my husband and me, and our pastor, as we proceed.
Posted By: Lynda

Re: God's favor - Thu Dec 24, 2009 3:15 AM

As for rewards, I don't understand how any Christian would have more rewards in heaven. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:" Ephesians 1:3(KJV)

How do you get more than having all?


This, too:

Quote
However, what is fundamentally true is that our 'virtue' (good works and being transformed into the image of Christ) is God working in us. Thus, anything that is deemed good originates from God Himself.


ďBut by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with meĒ (I Corinthians 15:10).



Posted By: Lynda

Re: God's favor - Thu Dec 24, 2009 3:25 AM

Originally Posted by Cal Gal
Aren't our works as filthy rags?


I don't think the works that God does in us are filthy rags.

Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.(1 Corinthians 3:13)

Y'all correct me if I'm wrong!
Posted By: Cal Gal

Re: God's favor - Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:09 PM

Lynda,

I would say that the work God does in us is beautiful and it reflects His glory.

On the other hand, I understand that the work that we do has nothing to do with our salvation and when we attempt to "use" our works to gain God's favor we are diminishing Christ's work on our behalf. Those types of works are as filthy rag in contrast to the finished work of our Lord.
Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: God's favor - Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:08 PM

Cal Gal,

I think you have stated this marvelously in regard to God's (Spirit's) working "in us is beautiful and it reflects His glory." AMEN to that!!

However, it is not exactly true that our good works have nothing to do with our salvation. Indeed, they are NOT contributory to our justification... that is indisputably true and anyone who says otherwise is basing their salvation partly or even wholly upon works. But our good works are inextricably bound TO our justification for they are evidences of it. Without good works there is no salvation (cf. Rom 6: Heb. 12:14; Jam 2:26). Paul makes it crystal clear that our justification, which is BY grace and THROUGH faith (Eph 2:8,9) is monergistic, aka: Sola Gratia, Sola Fide and Solus Christus. But... he then quickly adds "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (v. 10) In fact from all eternity, it was God's loving purpose to have "chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him" (Eph 1:4). And again, it is written, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son," (Rom 8:29). Then there is this most instructive text, "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Phil 2:12b,13)

So, as we can see, sanctification infallibly flows out of justification 'proving', evidencing its reality. And you are most definitely correct that when someone tries to "use" their works "to gain God's favor..." they are diminishing Christ's work. Although I would be so brash as to say that this actually denies Christ's atoning work and salvation is forfeited.

In His grace,
Posted By: Cal Gal

Re: God's favor - Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:41 PM

Agreed. claphands

And if the thief on the cross had more of an earthly life to live, it would have been radically different than his life up to that point.
Posted By: Cal Gal

Re: God's favor - Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:03 AM

It's been one week since my husband and I met with our pastor to discuss the sermon on Luke 2 and "prompting God's favor."

My husband did a phenominal job of keeping us focused on the text. Our pastor admitted that the qualities that Mary possessed (which he believes prompted God's favor) are not in the text, but he holds to his opinion that those qualities are implied by her response and in her Magnificat.

My husband referenced a piece by Schaeffer that discussed Mary's reponse to God as one of active passivity.

He also told our pastor that when he hears there are things that can be done to prompt God's favor he hears legalism. My husband then quoted a piece on legalism being a grace killer written by Chuck Swindoll. Our pastor said he would have to see the whole context of what C. Swindoll was talking about to get a better understanding of what my husband was saying.

Please pray for our family as we proceed. My husband is patient and he would like to believe that the tent at our church is big enough to hold a few Calvinists. I, on the other hand, would love to leave and attend a PCA that is in our town. Our elementary school aged children are content at our current church and would be shocked if we left.

Posted By: Robin

Re: God's favor - Sat Feb 13, 2010 10:48 AM

Been there, done that... got the teeshirt! It's never an easy or pleasant thing when it becomes necessary to leave a church. And I always wrestle with the question of whether leaving would be biblical in my situation. It is certainly a last resort, and your husband is wise to hope for - and to work for - a "big enough tent" to include his family.

It's really important that the two of you be on the same page, especially now. Be careful that his hopes and your own are not in conflict, but let the Scripture and the Spirit arbitrate any differences.

Prayers for you and yours,
Robin
Posted By: Pilgrim

Re: God's favor - Sat Feb 13, 2010 12:35 PM

CalGal,

IF you are both (husband & wife) Calvinists in doctrine and life, and there is a biblical PCA church within a reasonable distance from your home, then I cannot understand why remaining in a semi-Pelagian congregation is even an option? shrug

I DO understand that people develop friendships and very close bonds with others. But our love and bond with Christ should far exceed any earthly relationship. We are to follow Him at all costs... and there are costs to be sure, sometimes great. But that fellowship of the saints and the unity that exists between them is greatly dependent upon the TRUTH, which the Spirit brings and uses to bind true believers together. Where there is untruth, then there must be disunity and even factions for the love of the true God, true Christ, true Spirit and true Word is missing to some degree.

Robin mentioned his wrestlings with whether it is right to leave a church. But how much easier it is to come to the right decision when we look to the Confessions, e.g. the Belgic Confession (and others) which sets forth the true marks of a church as:

- The pure preaching of the Gospel (whole counsel of God)
- The right administration of the sacraments
- Proper church discipline

Now, whenever any of these three marks are missing (think 3-legged stool), one is warranted to leave. This precludes, of course, someone who is simply looking for an excuse to leave for unbiblical reasons and nit piks at everything looking for a way out. Matthew 18:15ff must be followed, i.e., there must be an attempt to reason with the church so that it turns from its error(s), and returns to the truth. There is a great advantage when a church is confessional for the office bearers have sworn subscription to the confessional standards. wink

May the Lord bring conviction to your hearts, grant you wisdom and the courage to do that which God requires of you according to knowledge. And, may the Spirit quench your emotions which often cloud right thinking and thus wrong choices unfortunately result. Do what is RIGHT... and in doing so you will glorify God, which doubtless is your primary desire. grin

In His grace,
Posted By: Jacy

Re: God's favor - Sat Feb 13, 2010 7:42 PM

CalGal,

I will be praying for you and your family. I know these times can be challenging with the potential to be distressing and difficult in causing changing family dynamics, especially when husband and wife don't see eye to eye on a specific issue. Change may not be easy for some people, even when it needs to be embraced.

I'm like Robin, been there done that, although I think they forgot to give me the tee-shirt. laugh We have also had to leave our church recently, for biblical reasons. It is never easy even though it is right. Sometime those tenuous feelings that can accompany thoughts of change can make us feel it is not right. Good thing we know not to make decisions based on our feelings, huh? drop

heart
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