Tuesday, July 21, 2015

PAUL'S MOST ASTOUNDING SENTENCE (PART 4)

(This post is a continuation of parts 1-3). To read these first, scroll down or click on the titles on the right side of the web page)

The Blessing of Predestination

Perhaps the first thing that we should notice on this subject is that when Paul writes these words, he writes them as though he does not expect there to be any controversy or question about the concept of God choosing us, and that he predestined us to adoption. We can see in the verses in the previous post that Paul merely mentions this information in his listing of all the wonders of God. The apostle does not expect that people will react negatively to this fact of the sovereignty of God and how it relates to the free will of man.

Rather than think that the readers of his letter would
be threatened or offended by these words, Paul tells of God’s actions on our behalf in eternity past so that the people of the church would know that the blessings that they have are secure. Just the opposite of how we sometimes react to these words, Paul meant them to be a source of comfort for his readers instead of controversy.

As we can see, this phrase about God choosing us in Christ is a continuation of the subject of the blessings of God. It would not be a blessing if we were treated in a mechanistic or fatalistic way; a way in which our own personality and choices do not matter. On the contrary, it is a blessing to see that God has been involved with us as individuals from the very beginning, even before we knew that we had a beginning.

We get a better sense of this line of thought of blessings in this long and complicated sentence of Paul’s if, for the moment, we skip over some of the phrases and draw attention to the ones having to do with this specific subject. Allow me to do this:

“God…has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing, …even as he has chose us in him before the foundation of the world… In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ… with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness or our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…[and] according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of [God]” (selected from Ephesians 1:3-7 ESV).

Although I have left out many important phrases and thoughts in this rather severe editing of this part of Paul’s sentence, I did it so that we could more easily see how Paul meant to show that this fact of predestination is something that should be a source of assurance for us. In this portion, we see that God has been working for the benefit of his people throughout all time and eternity. He did so in the past, even before the world was formed, he does so now, by giving us redemption and forgiveness through the blood of Christ, and he does so in the future, when we will receive our full inheritance as adopted children. It is at that time when we will see all things summed up or united in Christ.

An Affirmation for the Church at Rome


This is much the same message of assurance concerning predestination that Paul writes to another church, the church at Rome. Midway through this portion of the letter to the Romans, here is what Paul writes:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28-29 ESV)

In this passage, we again notice the past, present and future aspects of predestination. It is especially well summed up in the following verse: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30 ESV). God’s people have been called in the past, justified in the present, and will be glorified in the future.
 
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Who then does the choosing in regards to many of these  issues in our lives?
We will see what Paul says about that in a couple of days in the next post

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