Posted in IDENTITY

OUR BLESSINGS IN CHRIST (Part 3)

WE ARE PREDESTINED

NOTE: This is the text of a recorded message. You may find the video here. (38 minutes)

Have you ever said to someone, “You can’t tell me what to do!”? Maybe you said that to your parents when you were about ready to fly the coop, to test your own abilities. Maybe you have had a child say that to you.

Our individual sense of and desire for freedom feels that if someone tells us what to do, then our freedom is being challenged. We simply do not like to be controlled.

Then we come face-to-face with the biblical doctrine of predestination, and all sorts of problems arise in our thinking.

“Whaddya mean ‘predestination?’” I’m not a puppet! I have free will!

Well, let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about that.

We have been looking at the passage from Ephesians 1:3-14. In that passage, we found eight blessings that have been given to us in Christ.

We have looked at the first two that we have been given—every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, and that we are chosen in Christ. We saw that the heavenly places mentioned in v.3 have more to do with what goes on in our mind than any of the other meanings of heavenly places. For those of you just tuning into this series these can be found on my Youtube channel at dalehill47.

Last week we looked into the second of the eight blessings, which is we are chosen. We saw that we were chosen in Christ before the earth was ever created. We were chosen simply because God wanted us on His team. It has nothing to do with what we will or won’t do once we landed on planet Earth. God chose us …according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, [Eph 1:11b ESV]

This verse also contains the third blessing—PREDESTINATION—, which is also contained in v.5 — [Eph 1:5 ESV] he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

These concepts of being chosen before hand and being predestined usually challenge our minds in various ways, one of which I have already mentioned. They can bring up questions. I believe that questions are a good thing. It shows that we are thinking.

While questions may reveal a certain level of doubt, I do not think that doubt is a bad thing. I believe it reveals a growing faith, a faith that is not stagnant. For instance, last week someone asked a question about being chosen. They saw that essentially, God has chosen everyone to be saved, but not all necessarily respond to that call.

I am sure that the concept of predestination will also bring up questions for us. Please ask them. For those of you viewing this online, whether live or the recording or the article, ask your question in the comments.

So, let’s take look at predestination—what it means, what it involves, how it affects us.

PREDESTINATION—determined in advance by divine will or fate.

In Christian theology, predestination is the doctrine that some or all events have been willed by God, usually with reference to the eventual fate of the individual soul.

There are those who believe that ALL events have been pre-determined by God. Since predestination is mainly promoted by Calvinists, the idea that ALL events are predestined is usually called hyper-Calvinism. The hyper-Calvinist falls down the steps as he is leaving church. He gets up, brushes himself off and says, “I’m glad that’s over with.”

I am not going to get into the process they use for making the claim of every event being predetermined by God, but, much like I showed you last week about God’s foreknowledge, it is derived mainly from man’s logic.

However, there is no denying that predestination is in fact a biblical doctrine. The word is used 6x in the Greek NT. In the ESV that I use, it is translated as predestined 5x and “decreed” once.

The first occurrence is found in Acts 4:28 — to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

This is in the account of Peter and John being arrested by the Sanhedrin for healing the lame beggar at the temple. They then returned to the gathering of believers, told their story, and this was a part of their prayer.

It is in reference to Pilate and Herod turning Jesus over to be crucified. So the apostles believed that the crucifixion was predetermined by God to happen just the way it did.

However, they did not extend this idea of predestination to themselves, for in the next verse we read [Act 4:29 ESV] And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,

If they had believed that EVERYTHING was predetermined by God, they would not have asked for God to grant boldness, but would have thanked God for it already being given.

Again, however, the scriptures are fairly plain as to the purpose of Gods’ plan for us. It does not appear that everything in your life is predetermined to happen. At least, I cannot find any indication in the Bible that such is true.

Explanations of predestination often seek to address the “paradox of free will”, whereby God’s omniscience seems incompatible with human free will. In other words, we accept the doctrine of God’s omniscience—the fact that He knows everything about all things that have ever happened or ever will happen. The logic seems to follow that if He knows everything, and He is all-powerful, then what He knows is what He has determined.

This takes us into philosophical discussions about God’s omniscience. Does His knowledge guarantee the event? If man has free will, can the event be changed? These are great conversation starters, but I cannot find a way to end the conversation. We are dealing with an unrevealed mystery about which we can only speculate. So, whichever side you fall out on, that is probably the correct one.

For me, I feel safest when I stay within the parameters outlined within the Bible and not venture too far beyond that. So, what does the scripture say? Let’s look again at our verse from Eph. 1:5 — he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

When we use the word adoption, we think of an orphan child being adopted by a mother and father, and given the family name. While that is somewhat the concept here, the main thought is that of the “placing of a son,” which comes from the Greek word translated adoption.

In modern terms, the placing of a son, or adoption if you will, is seen in the Jewish celebration of the bar-mitzvah. The bar- and bat-mitzvah are the ceremonial recognition of the coming of age of the Jewish boy or girl. That coming-of-age recognition entitles them to the recognition of adults in the synagogue. They were already a son or daughter of the family, but this is a special recognition.

Therefore, for us, our adoption as sons and daughters is the full recognition of our placement in the family of God. This thought is brought out more fully in Gal 4:1-5 (ESV) 1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

So, to make sure we don’t get confused with this and what has been shared in previous weeks, let me try to state it plainly.

As I showed you a few weeks ago, we are all children of God, but we may not know it or act like it. However, God’s predetermined plan is for you and me to be full heirs of His kingdom. Therefore, we were predestined to be adopted to Himself, as we saw earlier in our verse for the day, Eph. 1:5 — he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Our adoption, our being placed as sons of God, is a part of God’s plan for the ages. However, the full plan has not yet been revealed as John says in his first epistle—Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. [1Jo 3:2 ESV]

In this verse, the word “children” is different from the word for adoption as sons, or even just the word sons. It is the Greek word “teknon” which means “technically speaking.” But, then John goes on to explain how that is all going to change.

He says we are not able to see all of it yet, but when Jesus appears, we will be like Him. We will be able to see Him as He is. (Just as a side note—that word “appears” could take us into things most of us have not yet even considered or thought about. There is some fascinating stuff in the Bible about Jesus when He appears.)

Let’s consider for a moment, though, the thought that we shall see Him as He is. HOW is He? At this moment of time, what does He look like? We don’t know the physical characteristics such as the color of hair or eyes, or how tall or short of frame, and I don’t think that is the point.

The point is that the physical body of Jesus was changed after the resurrection. Remember? He was able to appear and disappear at will. He walked through walls. He ascended into heaven in bodily form while the disciples watched from the ground below.

So, whatever form His other-worldly physical body is now, it is the same form in which we will find ourselves. That is the only way we will be able to see Him.

Paul tells us that our mortal bodies, which are now subject to disease and decay, will be changed to be like the body of Jesus. (Jesus) who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. [Phil 3:21 ESV]

We are all familiar with the passage in 1 Corinthians that says we will become immortal — For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. [1Co 15:53 ESV]

Paul puts this all together in his letter to the Romans where he explains what our full adoption entails — [Rom 8:23 ESV] …we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

The comma after “sons” shows that the phrase following is an explanation. The KJV ads the words “to wit” meaning it is a definition. The NLT makes the meaning very plain — [Rom 8:23 NLT] … for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.

So, it is when we receive our resurrected bodies that our full adoption takes place. Until then we are in the process of this adoption taking place. It is a process as intimated in Rom. 8:29 — 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.

Have you ever thought of that? Did you know that Jesus is your older brother? And you are being conformed by the predetermined plan and purpose of God to the image of Jesus. Everything about your life is a part of the process to bring you into His likeness.

Yes. I said EVERYTHING. Everything about your life—the good, the bad and the ugly. Your victories and your failures. Your successes and your sins. Your good times and your bad times. EVERYTHING. Maybe everything, all events in your life have not been predestined by God; but all events are being worked out for your good.

And how do I know that? The same way I know that Jesus loves the little children—the Bible tells me so — And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. [Rom 8:28 NLT]

So, YES. You have been predestined for good things in God’s kingdom. That hasn’t made you a puppet. It has not taken away your freedom of choice, your free will.

You were chosen to be a part of His family, and predestined to inherit all things. You have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness, including every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Because of this, you should have no problem in giving thanks and praise to Almighty God.

Posted in IDENTITY

OUR BLESSINGS IN CHRIST (Part 2)

WE ARE CHOSEN

NOTE: This is the text of a message delivered previously and recorded on video. You can see the video here. (27 minutes)

When I was in middle school, I was never the first one chosen to be on a team. Didn’t matter whether we were playing kickball, dodgeball, freeze tag or red rover, I was never chosen first. I wasn’t chosen in the middle either. When it got down to two of us, I would usually be chosen. So I was never the last one chosen to be on a team.

However, I knew that I wasn’t the captain’s favorite choice. Did you ever go through that? Wondering if you would ever be chosen to play? Since everybody had to play, it was guaranteed that I would be on a team, but it wasn’t like I was a favorite player.

We are chosen in Christ. Were we the first ones picked? Certainly not in our experience. It appears that we were picked in the order we showed up to play. I am going to show you this morning that is not true. You were picked first.

You were chosen first

In the last article, we began looking at some of the blessings we have in Christ as presented in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. I listed for you 8 blessings from that first section, and we looked intently at the first one —we have been given every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. (v.3)

We discovered that the heavenly places referred to here begins with our mind. Over the past few weeks, we have looked at our mindset, what it means to have a spiritual mind, and having the mind of Christ. I know from last week’s message, some of you are beginning to see a deeper reality of what it means to be a follower of the Lord Jesus. It is also a liberating reality, just as Jesus said in John 8:32 — and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (ESV)

So, let’s read Eph. 1:3-14 again

[Eph 1:3-14 ESV] 3 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, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In that long passage we are given 8 reasons to praise God—8 things that He has done for us or given us for which we should be grateful—

  1. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (v. 3)
  2. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world (v. 4)
  3. He predestined us for adoption as sons (v. 5)
  4. Redemption through His blood (v.7)
  5. The forgiveness of our trespasses (v.7)
  6. Made known to us the mystery of His will (v. 9)
  7. We have obtained an inheritance (v. 11)
  8. Sealed with the Holy Spirit (v. 13)

Lets’ take a look at the second reason given that we should offer praise to God, or the second blessing, if you will. chose us in him before the foundation of the world (v. 4)

Now we get into some seriously Presbyterian doctrine. Don’t be alarmed by that. You will see that what I present will be biblical doctrine, and if it fits Reformed thinking, that’s okay; but it must subscribe to the biblical teaching first and foremost.

CHOSEN.

There are a lot of concepts surrounding this idea, this term, and each of the ideas has its main school of thought. There are Calvinists, of which Presbyterians and many Baptists are a part; there are Arminians, of which your Assemblies of God, Nazarenes and Methodists follow. And there are Universalists, of which there are no denominational affiliations of which I am aware, except for the Unitarian Universalists who seldom name the name of Christ.

The word that is translated here is used 21x in the NT of the Bible, and it simply means to pick out or to choose for oneself. It is a simple word. You choose one orange over another. You choose one shirt over another. The word is used in reference to Jesus choosing His disciples. It is also used for God choosing Israel. And it is used, as in this verse, for God choosing you.

That is what we want to look at in this article—God chose you; He chose me; those who belong to Him are the ones whom He has chosen.

The first thing to notice is that we were chosen to be in Christ before the world was created. Look at what it says—“from before the foundation of the world.” God made His choice of you long before you ever made an appearance on this planet, before your daddy was born, before Jesus was born as a baby in Bethlehem, before Adam and Eve were created, before the world was formed.

The word used may indeed be a simple word, but when it is applied to God’s choice of you and me, it becomes fraught with difficulty. Why did God make these decisions? What is it about you or me that He was pleased to choose us for salvation?

Almost everyone agrees that the Bible definitely presents the idea of predestination, election, being chosen. However, they do not agree as to why God would make His choices.

For instance, those of an Arminian persuasion believe that God knew in advance who would accept His offer of salvation and He chose them based on that foreknowledge. They get this from 1 Pet. 1— 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (ESV)

Peter is using this as a part of his greeting to those whom he wrote. For him it is a statement of fact. He is not trying to build a doctrine. It is just a greeting that includes his theology. Before we go any further, let’s look at some other verses about God’s foreknowledge — [Rom 8:29 ESV] 29 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.

The fact of God’s foreknowledge also extended to Israel as we read in Rom. 11:2 —2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?

The word “foreknowledge” as found in 1 Pet. 1:2 is only used twice in the Bible. The other time refers to Jesus being delivered up to be crucified by the foreknowledge of God. The cognate “foreknew” is only used 5x. Both forms refer to the fact of knowing beforehand.

Let’s consider the Arminian position that states “God knew ahead of time who would choose Him, therefore they are His elect, or chosen ones.” Look at those verses where the word is used and try to find the idea that God’s foreknowledge is about what we would do.

IT IS NOT THERE. Nowhere in the Bible is the thought ever presented that God made His choices based on what He knew to be man’s choice. It is simply not there.

You have heard of agape—the unconditional love of God. Unconditional means there are no conditions for this love to be manifest. Good, bad or indifferent, nothing can have an effect on unconditional love.

We think of God’s unconditional love when we read John 3:16 —”For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son…”

The same thing applies to election, to God’s choice—THERE ARE NO CONDITIONS.

David Guzik says in his commentary on 1Pet. 1:2, “Election is not election at all if it is only a cause-and-effect arrangement basing God’s choice only on man’s.” Yet, he is an Arminian in his theology and turns right around and denies the truth of what he said. He claims—without support—that God’s choice is based on His foreknowledge of who will accept salvation.

I looked in numerous places of those who believe this way and not a one gave any support for the claim. It has simply been accepted as truth without any biblical support. Only man’s reasoning has been used as the basis for the claim that God chooses based on His knowledge of what man will do.

Sadly, I have run out of time with this. There is so much more we could discover. Let’s look quickly at a plain statement from Jesus — [Jhn 15:16 ESV] 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you … He did the choosing. He did it before they or we decided to follow Him.

However, I still have not answered the question WHY? Why did God choose me? Why did He choose you? Why did He choose the Hebrews out of all the peoples of the earth?

It wasn’t because of who you are, but because of who He is. It wasn’t because of what you’ve done or will do. You were chosen simply because He wanted you on His team.

The answer is plainly given a little later on in our passage from Ephesians—[Eph 1:11 ESV] 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

He took counsel with Himself and decided that you, me and the Hebrews and other Gentiles whom He has called—that we all fit into His plan and purpose. You are part of the predetermined plan and purpose of God. It is a plan that He established before the beginning of creation. It is a plan that He designed to fulfill His great love that He is and has.

Thinking about these things should bring about an extreme sense of humble gratitude. God chose me. I do not understand it, but I am grateful.