The Bottom Line

    Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:47-50 ESV).    

    Jesus' parable of the dragnet reminds us of the bottom line of the Network Church.  The gospel attracts people into the visible church for various reasons.  They come with different motives and are gathered into the visible church.  Ultimately, God who alone knows the hearts of men has the prerogative of making the final separation.  We must trust His sovereignty, wisdom, and justice to handle such an awesome responsibility infinitely better than if the matter were subject to whimsical men.   This is not to deny that the members of a congregation as a whole, and the elders especially, are called to exercise spiritual responsibility and discernment as to who are properly the members of the visible church, and who are not, based upon their personal testimony, their public confession of Christ, and their moral character as evident in their behavior. 

    Only God, however, who dwells in eternity, knows beforehand what the final outcome will be and that foreknowledge being infallible is determinative, as it is written, "Jacob have I loved; Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:13).  God is independent of all men and indebted to no one: "I will have mercy upon whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion" (Rom. 9:15).  "So," the apostle Paul writes, "it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy" (Rom:9:16).  Having acknowledged that fact, we must hasten to add that God has chosen the means whereby his chosen ones might know his mercy and compassion, namely faith and repentance (Acts 10:18; Ephes. 2:8-10).

    Paul goes on to ask a couple of questions that fly in the face of arrogant men who think God must somehow be accountable to themselves, 

    Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?  What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory--even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?