Thursday, July 23, 2015

PAUL'S MOST ASTOUNDING SENTENCE (PART 5)

(This post is a continuation of parts 1-4). To read these first, scroll down or click on the titles on the right side of the web page)

Who Chooses?

One of the difficulties that some have in the fact of predestination is that our freedom of choice seems to not be part of this situation. Actually, this is one of Paul’s points exactly. According to Paul, we may like to think that we have complete freedom of choice in all matters of life, but in reality, there is much about our existence that, as far as we know, we had no part in determining.

We were not consulted when and where we would be born, for instance, and into which family. Certainly, as any teen-ager will tell you, if we would have chosen our appearance or how our bodies would look, we would have made them much differently.

It is the same with our personal freedom. The truth be told, Paul tells us that we are always indebted to something or to someone. When one is indebted, one’s freedom is always limited in one respect or another. We are either indebted to our own sinful nature (which Paul calls “the flesh”) or we are indebted to God because he has chosen to redeem us. Here is how Paul puts it: “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:12-13 ESV).

Normally, being indebted to someone restricts one’s freedom, since in some ways, the man that is in debt is at least partially owned by the creditor. However, whatever we may think about being indebted to God, Paul says that if God is our creditor, this indebtedness actually is our path to freedom. To understand Paul’s line of thought, we regress a little in this portion of the letter to the Romans:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:15-17 ESV)

Here we again see (as we did in the previous post) the past, present and the future aspects of predestination. As Paul continues in his letter to the Romans, we also again see how he means this to be a message of comfort. It should be a comfort especially to those who are enduring present-day difficulties:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God…

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:18-21; 26-27 ESV)

It is only after all of this that Paul begins to talk about
how the suffering that we may presently be experiencing is not even worth comparing to the glory that will one day be revealed to us. This is assurance. This is the confidence with which Paul is telling us that we may live our lives:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?... For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31, 35, 38-39 ESV)

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(If what Paul says is true about God choosing us, upon what does he base that choice? We will look into that a little in the next post in a couple of days)

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