Friday, July 3, 2009

Predestination in Ephesians, Part I

“For the first time Scripture gives the timing of election. God ‘chose us in him [Christ] before the creation of the world’ (Eph. 1:4). The Father chose His people before creation…when Paul says that God chose us before creation, he underlines God’s purpose in election. We didn’t exist before the foundation of the world and therefore could contribute nothing to election. Paul teaches the same truth in 2 Timothy 1:9 when he writes that God’s grace ‘was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time’” (Peterson & Williams, “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” page 57).

Scripture does indeed present us with a time, as it does in the book of Revelation. We’ve already seen that those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will fall down and worship the beast. We’ve also seen the church at Sardis, for example, only had a few people in the ENTIRE CHURCH whom the Lord said would be victorious and reign with Him (because they had maintained righteousness despite trials and tribulations). He told the rest of the church at Sardis to repent and return to their original state—or else He would do away with them. But for those who would come out victorious, their names would never be erased from the Book of Life. It’s still hard to believe that the Lord vowed to erase the church’s name from the Book of Life—but it is, after all, the Lord’s Book; one can hardly tell Him what to do with it…

This is what Peterson and Williams have to say regarding Ephesians 1:

“As clearly as anywhere in the Bible, Ephesians 1 teaches that GOD CHOSE HIS PEOPLE FOR SALVATION BECAUSE OF HIS LOVE AND SOVEREIGN WILL. GOD’S LOVE, HIS GRACE, IS THE BASIS OF ELECTION. ‘In LOVE he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ…to the praise of his glorious grace’ (Eph. 1:4-5; italics added).
Because the Father set his affection upon a MULTITUDE OF HUMAN BEINGS, HE CHOSE TO ADOPT THEM AS HIS CHILDREN” (Robert A. Peterson & Michael D. Williams, “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” page 57).

Peterson and Williams argue (from the quote above) that God’s love, DEMONSTRATED BY HIS GRACE, is what makes election possible. But if this is true, then hasn’t God shone His love UPON ALL MEN?

“In fact, we labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God, WHO IS THE SAVIOR OF EVERYONE, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

Notice that the group singled out from everyone (or “all men”) is “those who believe.” The living God is not the Savior of those HE HANDPICKED to believe, but of “those who believe,” who choose to profess faith in Christ. God is the Savior of every man; so, if this is true, then salvation must be available for all, thereby making God’s love (and grace) available for every man, woman, boy, and girl. If this doesn’t win the day, how about this Scriptural reference?

“For the grace of God has appeared, with salvation FOR ALL PEOPLE” (Titus 2:11, HCSB).

If God’s love was shown through His grace, then, since His grace was given to all through salvation (as Titus 2:11 tells us), God’s love was given to everyone. I’ll set up the syllogism here:

a. God’s love was shown through His grace (according to Peterson and Williams).
b. God’s grace is available to all men (Titus 2:11).
c. Therefore, God’s love is for all men.

If God’s love (and grace) are available for all, then how could God ever select one person over another WITHOUT requiring faith in either? How could one be selected over another apart from faith in the work of Christ? If Sally doesn’t accept Christ, then she is guilty because she refused to accept Him (not because Christ didn’t elect her). And the same goes for any other person.

Peterson and Williams then begin to attack the Arminian position:

“What does Paul mean when he says that God ‘chose us in Him’ (Eph. 1:4), that ‘in Him we were also chosen’ (Eph. 1:11)? Jack Cottrell summarizes the Arminian view: ‘[God] foreknows whether an individual will meet the conditions for salvation which he has sovereignly imposed…this is the import of Eph. 1:4, which says that ‘He chose us in Him’—in Christ.’ Is this correct?
Paul often (not always) uses ‘in Christ’ and ‘in him’ to signify union with Christ. At least six times in Ephesians 1, for example, this is the case: in Ephesians 1:1, 3, 6,7,9, and 13. And when Paul twice says God chose us ‘in Him’ (Eph. 1:4, 11), ‘in Him’ refers to union with Christ. What is the difference between Paul’s regular use of ‘in Christ’ and his use of it to refer to election? THE DIFFERENCE LIES IN THE TIME FACTOR. When speaking of election, Paul says God chose us in Christ BEFORE CREATION (Eph. 1:4). The other times that Paul uses this phrase he speaks of God’s actually joining people to Christ in history.
God’s choosing us ‘in Him before the creation of the world’ (Eph. 1:4, 11) refers to union with Christ before creation. The words cannot speak of actual union with Christ BECAUSE WE DIDN’T EXIST BEFORE WE WERE CREATED. Rather, they speak OF GOD’S PLANNING TO JOIN US TO CHRIST. The meaning of the whole expression God ‘chose us in Him before the creation of the world’ is that God NOT ONLY ELECTED A PEOPLE FOR HIMSELF; HE ALSO PLANNED THE MEANS BY WHICH THEY WOULD BE SAVED; HE PLANNED TO JOIN THEM TO HIS SON AND HIS SAVING BENEFITS” (58).

Peterson and Williams make it clear that the time factor is the reason why God picks people—because He plans their salvation BEFORE time began. However, is it possible that the time factor could show us God’s FOREKNOWLEDGE?

This is what David tells us of God’s foreknowledge in the book of Psalms:

“Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know WHEN I SIT DOWN AND WHEN I STAND UP; You understand my thoughts FROM FAR AWAY. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of ALL MY WAYS. BEFORE A WORD IS ON MY TONGUE, You know all about it, LORD.
For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know [this] very well.
My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. YOUR EYES SAW ME WHEN I WAS FORMLESS; ALL [MY] DAYS WERE WRITTEN IN YOUR BOOK AND PLANNED BEFORE A SINGLE ONE OF THEM BEGAN” (Psalm 139:1-4, 13-16, HCSB).

In verse 2 of Psalm 139, David said, “You understand my thoughts from far away.” Even before David’s thoughts came to his mind, God already knew what David was going to think. And when he said, “Before a word is on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord,” he was acknowledging that God also knew what he was going to say BEFORE he said it! According to the Apologetics Bible (Holman Christian Standard):

“God knows not only every move we make in our daily routines, but also the motives behind our actions. The expression ‘from far away’ can be temporal or spatial; in this context it is probably temporal—BEFOREHAND, and not from a distance (see v.4)” (Apologetics Study Bible, page 906).

So God knows all of these things beforehand! This sounds like quite the Sovereign Lord. In my estimation, this doesn’t sound like a God whose power is compromised because of the choices of man—but a God who will bring all His purposes to pass IN SPITE OF man’s terrible choices. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “all things WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD for them that love God…” All things are not GOOD, and all things are not ORDAINED by God, but all things will TURN OUT or WORK OUT for good. The end result or goal is good for the children of God.

Verse 16 is a verse of great dispute. When David says that God saw him when he was formless, this means that God saw him in existence and knew he would be born BEFORE he was conceived in his mother’s womb. This once again, serves as a testimony to the foreknowledge of God. When it says “all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began,” David is saying that God knew everything about the number of his days before they started. God already knew the number of years of David’s life as well as what his days would involve, what he would do, where he would go, and so forth. Once again, we see that David’s days (as are ours) are already recorded in the Lord’s book before they even start; however, does this mean that God has planned EVERY SINGLE ACT in EVERY SINGLE DAY? For instance, did God plan that I would wear a red shirt and brown corduroys this morning when I woke up to get dressed? I will say that God knew it—He knows everything. But am I gonna go so far as to say that God PREDETERMINED for me to wear a red shirt and brown corduroys? Probably not. This, however, takes nothing away from the choices I make—or God’s sovereignty and knowledge. God knows that I was gonna choose a red shirt—but I don’t believe He PLANNED that I would wear a red shirt.

I do agree with Peterson and Williams, however, when they say that God not only elected a people to Himself, but also elected the means by which He would bring this people to Himself.

Let’s see what Scripture has to say about God bringing a people to Himself:

“He [Christ] gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself A SPECIAL PEOPLE, eager to do good works” (Titus 2:14, HCSB).
“For we are His creation—created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, HCSB).

Notice with Ephesians 2, the emphasis is on the good works being prepared beforehand, NOT the people! Titus 2:14 tells us that there will be a people as Christ’s inheritance that will be cleansed from their sins. Once again, however, we see that “good works” are mentioned. If you look back at Ephesians 2:10, we were created as His workmanship IN CHRIST JESUS for good works. It is by union with Him and Him ONLY, that we can do good works. In our original state, we were “dead in…trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1, HCSB).

However, if this people are known “before the creation of the world,” does this mean that God PREDETERMINED who they would be? Or did God KNOW who they would be? I think there is a difference between predetermination and foreknowledge—and this I will discuss in my next post.

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