I am reading the first chapter of Ephesians and I have a question. The text says in verse 4 that "He chose us in Him before the creation of the world...He predestined us for adoption to sonship....," and again in verse 11 it reads "In Him we were chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity to the purpose of His will."
This passage reminds me of the language / tone that is used when the Bible speaks of God choosing Israel. It seems that this was more of a "corporate choosing" rather than an individual choosing, although He did clearly choose specific individuals (Jacob vs. Esau, for example) to continue the line of descent to Jesus. I am wondering if this "predestination" is the same - not necessarily saying that every person born is predestined (though God of course knows the eventual choice of every human), but rather that God chose a "nation", so to speak, that would be the spiritual Israel through Christ. I guess it would be kind of like saying " I have predestined that this group of people called Christians will be my chosen people", rather than "I choose Joe and David and Sandy to be Christians, but not Rick, Chris......." What are your thoughts? I know I am just kind of guessing, but I was wondering if this seemed to be even close to the right path of thinking about these passages?
Post by Mike Miller on Jun 2, 2014 12:35:02 GMT -5
You've asked a very thoughtful question. Thank you. Though God's purpose in election was to create for Himself a people, we should not consider election to be a corporate event and not primarily individual. Consider the following:
1. Contextually, we need to read verses 3-14 as one long sentence, as it is in Greek. Therefore, staying true to its overall message, we need to consider all of these spiritual blessings in the same light. In order to take the election/predestination corporately, we would also have to do the same with the other blessings. However, we can see where redemption, forgiveness, believing, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit are all very personal. It would not be exegetically sound to take all of these things as personal/individual, but single out election as being corporate.
2. We also want to ask what the rest of the New Testament teaches about election/predestination. While other passages could be seen to be ambiguous, the whole of Scripture indicates that this is God's choice of individuals. See Romans 8:29-35; 1 Peter 1:1-5; 2 John 1:1, 13.
3. Not all election in the Old Testament was corporate. For example, Abraham was chosen by God as an individual.
4. One significant difference in the New Covenant as opposed to the Old Covenant is that the New is highly individual. See Jeremiah 31:31-34.
Okay, I can see where those scriptures do indeed point to God's election of individuals, especially taking into account that the Greek reads as a single sentence and should be taken as a complete thought. If I may, then, I have a related follow-up question. How do the scriptures that say God wills everyone to be saved (1 Tim 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9) mesh with this thought that there are some whom God has already chosen not to save? What about the scriptures that point to some people being created specifically for destruction (Romans 9:22, and the passages related to Judas Iscariot)? I realize I may be taking these completely out of context, and since I have no knowledge of Greek or Hebrew I may be missing the original intent altogether. However, just as a layperson, these seem to be saying very different things about God's choice and intent in His plan for salvation.
Post by Mike Miller on Jun 4, 2014 15:12:07 GMT -5
I applaud the way you are thinking through this issue. It is not an easy one, and on the surface, the idea of God sovereignly electing some to salvation while desiring everyone to be saved seems contradictory. However, a comprehensive reading of the Bible reveals to us that God has two wills. Now, lest you think this is something I came up with or is something outside of Christian orthodoxy, let me just say that this concept has been alive for centuries and has been written on extensively since the Protestant Reformation. Some use the terms revealed/secret wills, or perceptive/decretive wills, or others. However, I like the terms Johnathan Edwards used: God's will of command and His will of decree.
Basically, God's will of command is what He commands people to do. His will of decree is what actually happens. It's easy to see that God has a will of command in that He has given lots of commands, but His will of decree is a bit harder for some to swallow. What it means is that God is completely sovereign so that everything that takes place is actually according to His will (which is why some like the term "permissive will," since for anything to happen, God has to allow it to happen).
For example, God has clearly commanded that people should not murder. This is God's will of command. Nevertheless, passages such as Acts 2:23 state that the murder of Jesus was God's will. So, how can His will be that people do not murder, and it also be His will that people conspire against and murder Jesus? Is God contradicting Himself? No, He has two wills: His will of command ("You shall not murder") and His will of decree (that Jesus be murdered).
We can identify with this to an extent. For example, my will is that my kids always do the right things and make the right decisions. However, at times, I have intentionally stood by and allowed them to make poor choices (the choices they wanted to make) so they could experience the consequences and learn a lesson. So, did I want them to do the right thing or the wrong thing? Yes. My will of command (so to speak) was "do the right thing," but my will of decree (what actually happened with my approval) was, "Go ahead and do the wrong thing." Ultimately, I know what is best for my kids, so to accomplish a greater purpose, I have occasionally been willing for the wrong thing to be done. So, God's will is that murder not happen, but He has a larger purpose that necessitated the murder of His Son. This is just one of many examples in the Bible.
Now, if I haven't confused you by now, let me keep going to get to your question. Is it God's will that everyone repent and come to Jesus? Yes. Acts 17:30 says, "He commands all people everywhere to repent." His will of command is for everyone to be saved. However, everyone willfully rejects Him. Nevertheles, because of His grace, He chooses to save some sinners. He does this by electing some to salvation and working in their hearts in such a way that the elect will willingly come to Him. Thus, we can say that God's will of command is for everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), and His will of decree is that some will be saved by His gracious act of election/predestination (Romans 9:22-24).