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Clear Words

Clear Words – Predestination: The Trouble with Time (Ephesians 1:11)

Today’s Reading: Ephesians 1-3

Today’s Reflection:  Ephesians 1:11

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.

Much confusion has emanated from Paul’s use of the word ‘predestined’.  Let’s try to clear this up.

Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus essentially deals with two topics: what we as Christians should believe (in chapters 1 to 3) and how we should live as Christians (in chapters 4 to 6).  In the first chapter Paul begins by telling us God chose for adoption as His children, about the blessings of salvation, and that this choice was predestined.

The word predestination in theological terms is defined as follows: the action of God in foreordaining from eternity whatever comes to pass or the decree of God by which certain souls are foreordained to salvation.  And this is an accurate translation from the original text.  Predestined is translated from the Greek, ‘prooridzo’ meaning to limit in advance, to predetermine, to determine before, or to ordain.

Many of us seeing this come to the conclusion that salvation is a fixed matter.  If it is fore known, then what we do cannot make much of a difference.  If someone is predestined for salvation, they will be saved.  If someone is predestined for destruction, they will be lost.

At the same time the bible is filled with texts like these:

Deuteronomy 30:19 – I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

Joshua 24:15 – And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

John 3:16-19 – 16) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

These texts bridge the Old and New Testaments and show that humankind has, and has always had, a choice to make that relates to our ultimate salvation.  Salvation is a gift of grace, available to us through the death of Jesus Christ, but we must still accept it for that gift to have effect in our lives.

So which is it?  Have I been chosen for salvation, or do I have to choose salvation?  Is it predestination, or is it a decision of my free will that determines my ultimate fate?  The answer is both.  And the reason for this is the difference in the nature of God and the nature of man.

Human beings are limited and finite.  Our minds can only comprehend so much.  Our life spans are a blip compared to the history of the universe.  On the other hand, God is unlimited and infinite.  He sees and knows all.  In fact, He is omnipresent, meaning God can be everywhere at once.  But where isn’t merely a matter of location, because we don’t just exist in space, but in spacetime.  So God isn’t just everywhere at once.  He is also everywhen at once.  And we see these odd turns of phrase in scripture that try to capture the nature of a God who transcends time itself.

John 4:23 – But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.

Revelation 1:8 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

One of the most famous proclamations in scripture is God’s declaration in Exodus 3:14.  When Moses asks God, who he should say has sent him, God replies “I AM who I AM.  Tell them I AM has sent you.”  God wasn’t trying to be evasive with Moses.  God was saying to Moses that He was existence, was life itself.  But more than this.  The original Hebrew that translates into “I AM” is the word ‘hayah’ meaning ‘to exist’ or ‘to be’.  But it also means ‘to become’ or ‘to come to pass’.  So in this phrase God speaks of Himself both in the present AND future tense at the same time.

The truth is God already knows what is going to happen.  He holds the future (which is why He can tell His prophets things that have not yet come to pass).  For God everything is written.  He experiences what we call the future as predestined.  But we experience the world afresh, and for us the future is not determined.  We can choose day by day, moment by moment.  God has given each of us a window of time to choose Him.  And during this time we will have to choose Him again, and again–with each temptation, trial, test, struggle and hardship.

In essence God has given you the power to choose to be predestined for eternity with Him.  That’s a pretty awesome gift.  Don’t waste it.

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