There is a debate that has been engaged in for literally hundreds of years in the church with regard to issues such as God’s sovereignty and humanity’s free will. This debate rings fairly dull to many outside of the church, but to those that bulwark themselves into either the camp of the Calvinists or Arminians this can become a powerfully divisive issue. For those that only brush up against the topic peripherally or on occasion it can be confusing and even faith-shaking. Questions of whether God has chosen a select number of people to be saved already, or if everyone has a legitimate shot at being redeemed are legitimate questions that, in the proper context and venue, need to be dealt with in every generation as well as, I believe, every heart.
In the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church he deals with some of these issues (though they did not seem to be controversial in the least bit at that time). And as I read this morning I found the truth of what he said to not be a point of division or of confusion, but of comfort and assurance; and surely that’s what the unfiltered Word of God does, when it is taken in its purest, undiluted form it rarely breeds confusion though it often produces discomfort.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will
(If you want to get the full effect, reading verses 3 – 14 is required, and recommended)
Quite some time ago I read something in a commentary by Warren Wiersbe that has never left me as I have muddled through this debate in my own heart and soul. He said, with regard to the discussion about predestination, God never predestines anyone to destruction. When this idea of predestination is brought up in the New Testament it never seems to be talking about God having decided on the predetermined decimation of a person, but always about the bedrock plan of His to shape people into the image Christ.
As I was reading Paul’s introduction to this little church I couldn’t help but feel the power of what he was saying. Certainly in a Roman and brutally idolatrous culture the believers in Ephesus would have experienced temptations and trials and problems leading to discouragement. So Paul opens his letter to them with a flourish of assurance. The words Paul speaks to them here are not words of divisiveness, but of destiny. This theology that he presents is not meant to confuse them but to bring them hope.
The text, for us as Christians, will be far better understood if we stop trying to apply it to those who may or may not know Christ presently and start applying it to ourselves (and this holds true almost every time in almost every text). For me, as a follower of Jesus, these verses speak of God as the cosmic shaping hand that would not relent in moving my life in certain directions until I was fully His. I am not frightened by these words, wondering whether or not I am one of “the chosen”, but I am comforted by them, knowing that He chose me. Paul says that before there was light, before there was earth, before there was mankind God knew me, desired me, and was already putting measures into place to make sure I would one day be His. How could that ever be discouraging?
Jesus portrays God in Luke 15 as the shepherd that won’t let the lost sheep go, regardless of the potential consequences, and as the woman that can’t get the lost coin out of her mind though surely her decor-destroying search through her house may have made her the laughing stock of the village. This is the image of predestination that seems to track with God’s character best in my opinion. The sheep and the coin were owned before they went missing, similar to mankind’s time in Eden. And so the rightful Owner’s desire for His possessions won’t allow Him to just write some things off and search for others. The better example is in the second half of Luke 15 when we find out that this story isn’t just about the owner of possessions, but the father of sons. And that father goes to BOTH sons to bring them into the house, not just one. They both belonged in the father’s house, you could say they were predestined to be there, so both of them were pursued and loved.
God gets me into a relationship with Himself whereby I understand His call, then I do things out of sheer love for Him on my own account. To serve God is the deliberate love-gift of a nature that has heard the call of God.
– Oswald Chambers