A number of polls and interviews over the last several years suggest a resurgence of interest in the tenets of Calvinism – or predestination – among today’s youth. Coming in an age that is so rights’ conscious and choice demanding, and in an age group that tends to be so focused on individuality and opportunity; I find that curious. We have looked at the philosophy of predestination in detail before but I thought I’d respond here with a few brief thoughts on this puzzling yet important aspect of the Christian faith. I am making no claim to authority, but am merely posing some ideas to be considered; this being one of the “hard teachings” of Christianity that evokes a wide range of responses and emotions. (See Romans 9, countered by 2 Peter 3:9)
Some pose the question: Do we choose to follow and thus become saved or does God choose who he wants to save regardless of their intent and effort? (Romans 9:16) I propose that it is a bit of both. He chose to do all he could to make salvation available to everyone. But he doesn’t force salvation on anyone, allowing us to recognize the benefits of redemption and availing ourselves of the opportunity to be saved. Jesus did declare, “…many are invited but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14 Again, I believe indicating that even as all have the opportunity to respond, many don’t and forfeit the title of “chosen.” He is also recorded as saying, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” John 15:16; but that is a specific reference to his disciples with a specific command to go and bear fruit in their ministry about Him. (See also 15:19) The whole issue finding resolution for me in John’s quote of Jesus’ statement that, “…God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 Paul reiterating this idea by assuring us that, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13
Paul further states that, “…he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons…” Ephesians 1:4,5 Does that mean it was predetermined who would be saved and who wouldn’t be? Or could it mean rather that God determined beforehand that Jesus would sacrifice his life for our sins and that those who then chose to follow his lead (foreknown and approved by God in His omniscience) in a life of appreciative obedience would be accepted as sons and fellow-heirs of the kingdom. (Romans 8:14-17) Could it be that God foreknew who would respond and be saved and thus become his chosen ones, predestined for eternity? (Romans 8:28-30) Thus we are neither forced to accept if we don’t want to or rejected if we do. In the parable of the sheep and goats, the King – representative of Christ – punished or rewarded those being judged according to the choices they made either to obey and befriend those in need – or in disobedience, callously ignoring the needs of others. “Come, you who are blessed by my father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Matthew 25:34 They laid claim to the title of chosen ones by responding to God’s call.
I see this somewhat mirrored in marriage. I chose to propose marriage to Jean. That by itself didn’t make us a married couple. She had to reciprocate and choose to accept my proposal. It is God’s design, through Christ, for all men everywhere to repent and be saved. (Acts 17:30) That’s his preference – his choice; to save rather than punish. But if we don’t accept his plan of provision and abide by the conditions of his offer – we won’t be chosen to actually benefit from the offer of salvation. Everyone of us, at some point in our lives, are witnessed to (If only by the natural order of creation. See Romans 1:19,20) and have an opportunity to respond to Christ’s offer of salvation. We are also faced with an array of choices on a daily basis as to how we will respond – obediently or not. Do we apply ourselves to our studies or just get by? Do we take that drink or just say no? Do we smoke because everybody else does or do we set the example by being different from the crowd? Do we give in to pressure and engage in inappropriate relationships or do we stand for purity and demonstrate that true love does indeed wait? Do we witness consistently, looking for opportunities to do so rather than merely waiting to see if we really have to? Do we examine our lifestyle to insure that it reflects Jesus at all times? (And no, I am not in any way trying to undermine the idea that God initiates the call to salvation, grants us faith at repentance and encourages improved behavior through the Holy Spirit. He deserving the credit, praise and glory.)
All that takes a determined decision to be different, a conscious effort to ensure that we are! Those kinds of decisions take a commitment to something other than ourselves, a dedication to answer the call of Christ emphatically with a resolve to daily serve and obey. Paul asserting that, through the church, we have been “…taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24
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