LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–When life’s anxieties, trials and disasters strike, “What do you do?” Southern Baptist pastor Tim McCoy asked a Feb. 11 chapel audience at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“When the foundations of your world are shaken, you’ll be brought hope and encouragement and strength by the fact that God has chosen you,” McCoy told the Louisville, Ky., seminary community, raising the controversial issue of predestination.
McCoy, pastor of Ingleside Baptist Church, Macon, Ga., is no stranger to controversy, having been a leading critic of Kirby Godsey’s recent book, “When We Talk About God … Let’s Be Honest.” McCoy critiqued the Mercer University president’s volume in The Christian Index, the Georgia Baptist paper, and in SBC LIFE, the national magazine of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.
Preaching from 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17, McCoy said the apostle Paul’s advice to the persecuted first-century Thessalonian believers was to “stand firm” in what they had been taught.
“It takes more than mere words to effect that kind of change in our lives,” McCoy noted and asked, “On what basis is it that you and I are encouraged to stand firm, to stand tall and to stand fast when the foundations are shaken?”
Paul’s encouragement “to stand tall is not based on own strength, our own ingenuity, our own devices. But it is based solidly, squarely and securely upon what God has done for us in Christ. … He says that God chose you from the beginning to be saved in Christ Jesus,” McCoy said, referring to verse 13.
Acknowledging there is debate concerning proper interpretation of the phrase, “from the beginning,” McCoy said “It’s remarkable how Scripture will interpret Scripture,” and cited Ephesians 1:3-5 as clarification.
Coming upon the word “predestined” in the Ephesians text, McCoy affected a stutter and joked, “I’m not sure these Baptist lips can say that Presbyterian word.”
“That’s not a Presbyterian word. That’s not a Baptist word. That’s a Bible word. That describes what the Father did in eternity past when he set his affection upon those whom he would redeem. He chose us, in Christ, before the foundation of the world. … It says before the cosmos was laid out, he set his affection upon us,” said McCoy, a 1989 Ph.D. graduate of Southern Seminary.
“Some of you are backing away from me a little bit this morning. Some of you are straightening up a little bit and looking at me with funny faces and inquiring eyes, and saying, ‘Tim, do you really believe that ‘P’ word?’ Yes, I do,” McCoy answered. “In fact, I believe the ‘E’ word, too, that goes with it. The election word. Those are things that God did.”
Conceding some have “preached these doctrines in dark, black, foreboding, imbalanced ways,” McCoy said such teaching is an improper understanding of the doctrine.
“If you read this text or any other and end up with a theology like that, you’ve not read the book correctly,” McCoy said. “Because the eternal choice of God of his people is not a foreboding doctrine. But it’s one that gives tensile strength to the life of a believer — to know that the affections of God have been set upon you and me in eternity past.”
McCoy reminded the Southern Seminary chapel audience of its founding faculty of James Petigru Boyce, John Albert Broadus, William Williams and Basil Manly Jr. and their affirmation of the seminary’s “Abstract of Principles,” which continues today as the school’s confession of faith.
Quoting from Article V of the Abstract, McCoy said, “Election is God’s eternal choice of some persons unto everlasting life — not because of foreseen merit in them, but of his mere mercy in Christ.
“I don’t know about you. I’m willing to take my stand there, because God has chosen us in Christ,” McCoy declared.
The believer’s assurance of being chosen by God is verified in God’s calling, McCoy added.
Arguing the order is important in the apostle Peter’s teaching that believers should make sure of their calling and election, McCoy preached, “We must experience the calling of God before we can have certainty about our election of God.”
“Whenever God’s Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the gospel … comes to our heart and effectually, powerfully, movingly woos us to faith in Christ; when he calls us by his Spirit to faith in Christ, guess what that calling is evidence of? The choice of God that preceded it in eternity past.”
McCoy illustrated the point with his own conversation experience.
“Something that had been a general truth became a particular truth. And what had been a general call became a particular call. And what had never applied to me, applied to me personally. And I saw my own sinfulness. I saw the beauty of a Savior who had died on a cross. And as an 11-year-old boy the Lord powerfully chose and called and wooed me to faith in Christ,” McCoy said.
“Did I come against my will? No, the regenerating, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit changed my will so that I would want to come to Christ.”
Citing 2 Timothy 1:8-9, McCoy said, “The calling that we experience to come to Christ is tied inextricably to that eternal choice of God in eternity past.”
The choice of God and the calling of God are the purpose of the future glorification of the believer with Christ in heaven, McCoy said.
Although Christians frequently point friends in crisis to Romans 8:28 assuring “all things work together for good,” McCoy said, “… you’re missing the freight, the weight of that passage if you stop right there.”
The meaning of the Romans passage is clearly seen in the original language of the text, according to McCoy.
The believer’s calling, justification and glorification are “accomplished acts in the mind of God who chose us in eternity past and will certainly, surely, fully and finally glorify us in eternity future,” McCoy said.
“Listen beloved, we don’t need to walk through our days being blown by every gale of tribulation as if we had no foundation,” McCoy stated. “Our foundation is in the Lord Jesus.”