Are there any Old Testament examples of someone standing in the gap in prayer?
Yes. The classic Old Testament example is Moses. When Israel made a golden calf and worshiped it, their idolatry angered the Lord to the extent that He was going to destroy them as a people! Moses, however, stood in the breach for Israel when he implored God on their behalf (Ps. 106:23), reminding God of His reputation before the world and His covenant promises. As a result of Moses’ fervent pleading with God, the Lord did not destroy Israel (Ex. 32:7–14).
I was in class the other day, and my professor (at a secular university) said that she did not believe in predestination, because if God chose some and did not choose others then that means that those not chosen automatically go to hell. Can you help me sort through this matter?
Your professor’s statement does not show the complexity and tension of the issue. Thoughtful Christians have tried to sort through the doctrines of election and predestination for the last two thousand years! It seems to me that the Scripture teaches three truths about this issue: (1) God the Father chose every follower of Christ in Christ before the foundation of the world, predestining them to salvation and full conformity to Christ (Rom. 8:28–30; Eph. 1:3–5). This is a choice and destiny of grace from all eternity, not dependent on any merit within the person chosen.
(2) Christ died on the cross for the entire human family (1 Tim. 2:3–6; 1 John 2:1–2), but each one of us is responsible to believe the gospel, receiving Christ in faith (John 3:16, 5:24; Acts 16:30–31; 2 Peter 3:9). The sovereignty of God in election and predestination does not eliminate our responsibility to trust Christ for salvation.
(3) God has chosen to allow some people to reject His Son and to experience the eternal consequence of that decision. People are in hell not so much because God sent them there, but because they chose to go there, rejecting Christ as their personal Lord and Savior (Matt. 25:41–46; John 3:3, 16–21; 2 Peter 3:9; Rev. 20:11–15).
Since we are saved by God’s grace and mercy, why should we do good works?
The fact that God by His grace and mercy actually saves sinful people like us is stunning! When we receive Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, God lavishes His grace and mercy on us (Eph. 1:8). In salvation God gives us a new nature: the Holy Spirit Himself takes up residence in us. The saving work of God in a person’s life is a stupendous reality, and this reality should be expressed in a person’s subsequent life. After salvation we live a life of good works to show the reality of what Christ has done in our lives (Eph. 2:8–10). Our good works cannot save us, but we do good works because we are saved (Titus 2:11–14).
By Dr. Winfred O. Neely, Professor of Pastoral Studies