The one on predestination1
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ …
- from Ephesians 1:4-5
“I don’t believe in predestination,” said a Duke freshman almost 20 years ago (before reading Ephesians). Imagine his shock to stumble across the word right in the Bible. And multiple times at that!
Why would he (or anyone) feel hesitant about predestination?
- We don’t want to be treated like robots
- We read in the Bible that faith really matters (as does prayer)
- We don’t want God picking winners and losers (ie. we want to keep God from getting blamed for all the bad stuff that happens in the world)
- We want to preserve a motivation for reaching out to our lost friends, family, and neighbors to call them to turn to Jesus and experience abundant life.
We’re sure you could add to this list. But that doesn’t change the fact that Paul talks about something he calls “predestination” and treats it like good news. Where was Paul coming from?
Paul would have grown up hearing the ancient Hebrew scriptures and the story of Israel. God chose Abraham and a branch of his family to receive special attention, special blessings and a special covenant. They didn’t have it easy, but they had God’s attention. He didn’t choose them because they were the biggest or the best. But his choice – “you will be my people and I will be your God” – positioned them to be a blessing to the whole world. According to scholar NT Wright, God’s choice (his “election”) of Israel powerfully shaped Paul’s theology (and ours).
God chose us to be his beloved sons and daughters. We don’t lose our freedom or individuality as a result of God’s call on our lives; instead he liberates us to discover our true, real, authentic selves. He doesn’t shy away from hard conversations about hard things. God’s activity in the world – his freedom – fills us with courage both to pray (“God, please heal my friend”) and to witness (“Friend, please listen to my God”). God doesn’t wait in a cosmic dugout for us to call him into action; he’s on the field every play. And this is good news.
God is active today, with or without your permission. Be on the lookout for him. Where do you see God at work?