Let us pray: Dear Savior, when you ponder Your eternal truths our minds are filled with awe. For we cannot fathom the depth of Your wise counsel or the profound nature of Your love for us. And yet, when we put our human limitations aside and focus on Your words of truth, our lives are uplifted and our hearts are made whole once again. Today, give us confidence and joy over our salvation. For Your truths truly do set us free. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, IN WHOM GOD PREDESTINED US FOR ETERNAL SALVATION!
TEXT: Ephesians 1: 3-14
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a mystery novel. I like reading mysteries. I find them stimulating and relaxing. And if I ever have the time and energy, perhaps I’ll develop my own. Meanwhile, I’m privileged to share with you the most amazing mystery ever recorded. It is the oft-misunderstood doctrine of: predestination, or our eternal election to heaven by grace. So without further ado, let me share with you:
PREDESTINATION: GOD’S MYSTERY SOLVED IN CHRIST
In my tenure as a Pastor, I’ve worked with hundreds of people. Sometimes I’m uplifted and gratified by their response to the good news that God has saved our souls eternally in Christ. That is, they repent of their valueless life, they express their need to have certainty in the face of death and despair, and they place their confidence in a God Who gave His life for theirs on a cross to prove the depth of His compassion. But then there are others who drift into church, listen to the message, and just drift away again. For whatever reason—and they are many—they fail to realize that humility is the only pathway to eternal riches. Why this disconnect? Why do some people fall away? Well, after beating myself up emotionally thinking: “Maybe I could have said it differently? Or maybe I needed to spend more time with them explaining things?”—I’m forced to acknowledge that it is the result of human sin and pride. And that brings us to: predestination: God’s mystery solved in Christ!
The mystery behind all this is the human confusion, borne of limited human reason, concerning God’s foreknowledge. To be sure, God is Almighty. He is all-knowing. He knows everything in advance. Not one sparrow falls from the sky without His consent. So, obviously He knew, before He even created the world, what would occur. He knew Adam and Eve would fall into sin. He knew human pride would cause most people to reject His simple way of love and mercy. He knew exactly who would embrace His forgiveness purchased by Jesus and who would reject it.
Recently I read another mystery novel entitled: “Harvard Yard.” It was an exciting historical novel which traced the formation of Harvard University from Puritan times till present day. In it, the author discussed the theological basis for those early years at Harvard. He laid out the early Calvinist position that God predestined some to eternal salvation—the Puritans—and the rest God predestined to eternal damnation. This view is still alive and well today. And it appeals to our human reason when we base everything on a Sovereign Lord Who knows all things in advance and controls all things in advance. It conveniently explains why some are saved and not others. The problem is: it also mocks the whole concept of God’s grace. It robs people of true comfort when they are confused or uncertain of their faith. That’s because it forces them to look for external signs in their lives as to whether they have lived up to the ideal of the commandments. Let’s face it, no one is perfect. And if we look at our lives for proof of our salvation we’ll either become dejected, or very self-righteous. The Puritans fell into this trap. It formed the basis of the Salem witch trials. (Why try to save the condemned since by our standards they are not elect?) It also explains their externally pious lifestyle coupled with the view that God is a stern judge Who is the Author of both salvation and damnation. It negates the view of a loving God and a forgiving Savior. Because ultimately it says that God is the Author of human evil—He decided what people would do and how they would act and there is no other solution to “why some and not others.”
Of course, the history of Harvard and Christianity in general shows us that their was a strong negative reaction to this “God of fiat” approach. Such a harsh Puritan view made humans into little pieces on a Divine chess-board who could not control where they would go next. So, an opposing view, a new solution to God’s mystery of predestination, was put forth. Unfortunately, it, too, was based on human reason more than on Scripture. It said that humans have a choice. We can decide to either be for God or against Him. Obviously this view left out the teaching of original sin which says that humans are born in opposition to all things truly Godly. But, it is appealing to our American idea of fair play and personal responsibility. However, there was still that nagging problem of God’s perfect foreknowledge. Why would God pick certain people to be saved and not others? The solution for these folks was to say: “God looked ahead in eternity and He saw that some wouldn’t fight Him as much as others. That some people were born more open to His message than others. And therefore, God elected them to salvation because they were “better” than others.”
Aside from appealing to human pride and inflating our egos, this new teaching negated the effects of original sin and also negated Christ’s work of saving us. It said, and says, in it’s various forms, that Christ did 90% and that we did the other 10%. In other words, it says that grace, God’s undeserved love for us in Christ, really wasn’t totally undeserved after all. But, if you’re eternal salvation is dependent even a little on you—where’s your comfort and certainty? Are you willing to face God on your deathbed thinking: “He owes me—even a little?”
Predestination is a mystery. And it’s solved in Christ alone. Listen to Paul’s words: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
Did you notice how many times Christ was referred to in this section? Not once did God leave Jesus out of the equation. Predestination and fore-knowledge are two different things. Just because God knows all things in advance doesn’t mean He causes all things to occur. If He did, that would mean that God is the Author of evil, wars, famine, terrorism, and all other afflictions. No, God knows everything in advance and even allows evil to exist, but He isn’t the direct cause. Satan, sin, and human pride are the cause of evil. The enemy is Satan, the world, and our flesh—not God. However, God is loving and merciful and sets limits upon evil. And in love and mercy He also chose certain people, you, to be predestined as His children—in Christ! “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will…for the praise of his glory.”
The great mystery here is that God wants all people to be saved and sent Christ to die for the sins of the whole world, while at the same time choosing certain people, you, to actually lay hold of the gift that He offers. The mystery here is that we have to hold to both truths at the same time. That’s a paradox to our human reason. And yet, it gives all glory to God instead of stealing some of it for man. And it is also the rationale behind mission work.—Why do mission work if some are automatically chosen apart from Christ and the message of the cross and resurrection?
Paul touches on the importance of treating all people alike when it comes to hearing the good news of salvation in Christ.—“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
Why are you a child of God? Why do you have faith in Jesus? It’s not because you were “better” than others. It’s not because you’re merely a pawn on God’s cosmic chessboard. No, you’re God’s child because He loved you because of Jesus, broke your pride, and put the deposit of faith into your heart. Always look to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for you and you’ll never doubt the depth of God’s compassion. Always look to Jesus and predestination will become sweet music to your ears. Always look to Jesus and in humility and faith you’ll let God solve the mystery of predestination because apart from Him no human can. Amen