Saturday, July 25, 2015

PAUL'S MOST ASTOUNDING SENTENCE (PART 6)

(This post is a continuation of parts 1-5). To read these first, scroll down or click on the titles on the right side of the web page)
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Predestined to Receive Grace


It is with this same message of assurance and confidence that Paul writes to the Ephesian church about the fact that God chose his people before the foundation of the world. Of course, this does not put to rest the question in our minds of our own free will in choosing our own destiny. It is not bad to ask this question concerning our own free wills, since we do seek to understand how this relates to predestination. What part does our own faith play in our relationship to God?

Some give the explanation that in God’s infinite foreknowledge, he could see ahead not only to our eventual birth and life, but also knew what our choices would be concerning Jesus Christ. If he saw that we would choose to accept the sacrifice of Jesus as our own, then God, acting upon that foreknowledge, in turn chose us as well.

This seems like a tidy explanation, and we have read something that may seem to speak to that effect in the book of Romans: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29 ESV).

There may be some validity in this to a certain degree. However, as a complete explanation, this view does not seem to harmonize with the level of intimacy that God knows us. It is not only that he knows some future choices that we will eventually make, but he knows us in a very
personal way!

The distinction between the two may sometimes be unclear, but it is much like the difference in receiving a bit of information about a future vote that a senator will be making in Congress. Based upon this “inside information,” we know what the senator’s vote will be. In this manner, a news reporter, for instance, could say that he knows certain facts about the senator.

However, the spouse of the senator, although he or she may not have actually heard how the senator would vote, also knows. He or she knows not because they had received some information, but they know because they know their spouse. Their knowledge of the vote is based not upon some foreknowledge of information, but instead on a more intimate knowledge of the personality of the senator. This is also how God knows us.

Also, nowhere in Scripture do we actually read of God choosing us because of our faith. God makes his choice based upon his grace. We, for instance, have just read in the book of Ephesians 1:5-6, “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (ESV).

It is true that faith is involved, as we will later read in the letter to the Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” Also, as Paul and Silas told the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus (an act of faith), and you shall be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31 NAS).

However, when Scripture speaks of God choosing us, it is linked only to his grace, not to our faith.

Of necessity, we travel down the roadway to salvation fueled by faith, but the vehicle that gets us there is grace.

Content Despite Our Limitations

In an earlier post I alluded to some of the mountain peaks that I have climbed in some of the places in the world that I have lived. As I got higher on the mountain, my perspective of the surrounding countryside became clearer. Sometimes however, as I sat down to rest and to take in the perspective, it became apparent to me that I would have to wait until I was on the top of the summit until I would have a complete view of the land that was surrounding me.

First of all, as I sat down to rest, I could only see the countryside on one side of the mountain. The other side was hidden from my view. Secondly, even that which I could see was incomplete. For instance, I could not see how the river that flowed in the valley below joined the larger river beyond some hills in the distance.

It is much like this for us at this point in Paul’s writings. In the next post we shall climb a little higher. Hopefully, some of the things that seem contradictory now will become a bit clearer. Nevertheless, in fairness I must say, our perspective of God’s total plan will always be limited in our present life. We may be able to see a lot from a mountain peak, but we can see more if we are in an airplane flying over the entire mountain range.

In a similar way, our perspective here on earth will always be limited. But hopefully next time, as we continue through these first verses of Paul's, some matters will become clearer. For the rest, we can wait. God will one day make all clear.

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