3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Why me? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Who am I that God would send his son to die on the cross for me? Am I to think that God looked down from his heaven, and said, “You know that Tony Grant is a really special person and I ought to do something for him?” I do not think so. I do not believe that I am anymore special than any other person on this planet. I am not better than a Bedouin in the Arabian desert or an aborigine in the Australian outback. But that brings us back to the question: Why am I a Christian, and so many others are not? Why me?
We could ask the question this way: We often see people born in the same community, even in the same family, educated in the same schools, attended the same churches, and yet one will be a devout Christian and the other will be totally indifferent to any notion of religion. Why one and not the other? Why not both? Why either? The answer is the astonishing, predestinating grace of God in Christ.
If we understand anything about our own salvation, we should live in astonished joy at what God has done. Salvation is what God had done not what I have done. We do not choose to be saved. God chooses to save.
In Ephesians 1:4, we read that God chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world.” Before the creation of the world, before atoms and molecules existed, before the first stars and planets, God had already chosen me to be one of his people.
This is called the doctrine of unconditional election, or unmerited favor. Before I ever had a thought, before I ever did anything at all, God choose me. The Westminster Confession of faith is the old confession of Scots Presbyterians, and it emphasizes that God chose “without any foresight of faith or good works.” What the confession is saying is that God did not look down through time and say, “One day old Tony is going to do some good works and one day he is going to profess Christ, so I will go ahead and save him now.” That line of thought says that I deserve to be saved. God should have chosen me because I am such a wonderful person. But I am not. No one is.
Unconditional election says no one deserves to be saved. If you apply justice strictly, without love, without mercy, no one is acceptable to God. We are all lost and damned in our sins.
You might say then, “Why do we not just turn from our sins, and repent of our sins and turn back to God. That is what preachers preach all the time, isn’t it? Why does not God let us choose for ourselves whether we want to be saved or not?” That seems fair doesn’t it? The problem is a sinner can only choose to sin.
The reformer Martin Luther wrote one of his greatest works on the very problem. In 1525, Luther published De Servo Arbitrio, which is usually translated as On the Bondage of the Will. Luther maintained that sin so incapacitates us that we are incapable of working out our own salvation. We are completely unable to turn to God. This is called the doctrine of total depravity or total corruption or total inability. It does not mean that everyone is as bad as they can possibly be. It does not mean that we never do good things. It does mean that we are in such bondage to the devil that we cannot of our own will turn away from sin and the devil and turn back to God.
How is a person saved then? Those whom God has chosen receive God’s Holy Spirit, and the Spirit enables them to truly profess Jesus as savior, to turn from their old ways, to repent of their sins, and “that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”
An evangelist will preach repentance of sins and faith in Jesus, and rightly so. But when the evangelist issues his call, the only ones who are truly saved, are those who have the Holy Spirit, and they are not saved by responding to the evangelist. They are not saved by any decision they make for Christ. They are saved because God elected to save them from the beginning of time.
Some may respond to the evangelist’s call for other reasons. They are told to meet with the session. They are told to profess their faith and join the church, and they may do these things, because it is a social thing to do, because they want the approval of others. But if they do not have the Holy Spirit, it is all show and mirrors. They are not saved, they are not chosen.
So salvation is in no way or fashion something we do. No works of ours suffice for salvation. Calling on the name of Jesus does not save us. Joining the church does not save us.
During the Middle Ages, most Christians believed that in fact the church did save us. When you were born, you were baptized and became a member of the church. You confessed your sins to the priest and went to communion and that kept you in the faith. When you died the priest administered last rites and that sent you on to heaven. Thus, salvation was literally in the church, and that gave the church enormous power. But reformers like Luther and Calvin changed all that with the doctrine of predestination. They said that the church does not save you. God saves you.
But, what happens if a person wants to be saved, but God has not chosen to save them? I have been asked that question several times. God has this list of the elect. I want to be saved, I am trying to be saved, but for some reason I am not on the list. What happens then? That cannot happen. If you want to be saved, if you are trying to be saved, you already have the Holy Spirit, otherwise you would not want those things, and having the spirit you will be finally and truly saved.
If a person really wants to be saved, they will believe on Jesus and God will save them according to His promise. But the reason they believe is that God “chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world.”
God selects, elects, chooses, those with whom He will enter into a covenant of blessing, without regard to their merit, worth, or intrinsic goodness.
The Lord chose a pagan, Abraham, in the city of Ur, and promised him land, innumerable descendants, and that his offspring would bless the world. Why Abraham? Because God decided on Him. The Lord chose the people of Israel to rescue from bondage in Egypt. He gave them the Law and the land of Canaan. This selecting of Israel had nothing to do with their innate worthiness. “How odd of God to choose the Jews” the poem goes. They did not have Roman legal ability, Assyrian military prowess, or Greek philosophical acumen. In fact, in the Psalms God says that He chose the Jews because they were weakest, most backward people, and thus he could show his power in their weakness.
And God chose you in Jesus Christ. God predestined you for forgiveness of sin, holiness, adoption into His family, and everlasting life. Why you? Why me? I don’t know. Because He did.
That is predestination. Total depravity and Unconditional Election are part of predestination. But we must admit most Americans do not much like this doctrine. As a nation, we tend to celebrate making our own choices and going our own way. We might even argue that predestination is not democratic. In a political democracy everybody gets to vote. It seems logical then that when it comes to the matter of salvation everyone should get a vote. But heaven is not a democracy. God is sovereign lord of the universe, and God has a plan for the universe. Part of that plan is to create a family for Himself—a family, not of angels (not of seraphim and cherubim)—but of sinful, fallen men, women, boys and girls—sinners who are not worthy of the least of God’s mercies.
God adopts us into his family. He gives us the rights and privileges that go along with being a member of his family.
Take an example. When Theodore Roosevelt was president of these United States, back at the beginning of the twentieth century, he had six children. These children added a new dimension to the White House, because Theodore always gave them access and attention no matter what he is doing. Important meetings with foreign ministers were interrupted by a child running in and saying, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, I want you to see this picture I just drew.” The President’s children could talk to him whenever they wanted, because they were his children..
Our heavenly daddy is far more than a president. He is the sovereign lord of the universe. But he is still our daddy and we have access to him, because he has chosen us.
That is the greatest blessing and privilege that anyone could ever have. We are the children of God. Remember what salvation is about. Salvation is not merely freedom from the slavery and misery of sin. It is that, but it’s much more. The focus of grace is not just on the negative—salvation from sin. Salvation brings us into the presence and family of God, and gives us all the liberties and privileges of that family.
We read, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). Some folks want to spend their time looking for faults among God’s people. I hear this sometimes. “I don’t want to go to that church because they are just a bunch of hypocrites over there.” I could say some unkind things in reply to that statement, but I do not want to be unkind. Instead, I say something like, “the church is for sinners and so we should not be surprised when we find sinners in the church.” But this verse from I john would point us in another direction.
Our heavenly Father wants us to look up and away from ourselves, so that we can see, not our sins, but our Father’s boundless love. Most people do not look at God’s love at all. They look at themselves and think “How good am I” and they look at others and think “How wicked are they.” As God’s children we should focus the love of God that has always known us and chosen us.
Predestination is a doctrine of love. God loved you so much that he pardoned your sins and adopted you into his family. That makes predestination into the sweetest word any believer ever hears. It is a sweet word for us because it means that we are loved, unique, safe, and secure. We have value and purpose and meaning.
It is interesting to note that whenever the Apostle Paul discusses Predestination, he does so with overwhelming joy. In v3, he praises the God who has predestined us. He gives thanks to God for having been chosen. This is exciting. This is great. It is great for you and me also. We ought to be excited about being predestined. Amen.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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