A week ago I preached a sermon at The Eastside Vineyard Church titled, “Heaven, Hell & Predestination.” Since this is such an important topic I thought I’d take that sermon and turn it into a series of blogs. Here is part 7…
[Note: if you haven’t read the previous posts of this series yet, start here]
When we read the Bible as Christians living in America, we do so in a certain way. You could say we put on our American glasses when we read it and the prescription we have influences our theology as well as the way we read certain passages.
Sidenote: over the past 30 days my blog has received hits from folks in 22 different countries around the world including Thailand, Turkey, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emarites. So my international readers will need to read this blog through American glasses as best they can.
When it comes to movies, as Americans our icons and heroes tend to be individuals. If you’re old school, it’s John Wayne. If you’re a child of the 80’s like I am, it’s Rambo. If you’re younger than me, it’s The Rock.
Those are our heroes. Those are our icons on the silver screen.
As Americans we focus on the individual, while the rest of the world (including the Ancient Near East which is where and when the Bible was written) tends to focus on the communal, the family, the community as a whole.
So when it comes to doctrines like predestination and election, we tend to think in terms of individuals. How God predestined ME. How God elected ME.
Let’s look again at Ephesians 1 (which I first mentioned in Part 1 of this series). Notice the personal pronouns:
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, in accordance with his pleasure and will… – Ephesians 1:4-5 (NIV)
This text does not say that God chose ME. It does not say that God predestined ME. It says that God chose US. That God predestined US.
And this is significant. Here’s what’s going on here…
When the Bible talks about predestination and election in verses like Ephesians 1:4-5, it is speaking in a corporate sense. In other words, “before the creation of the world” God chose to create a group. A class of people. You could call this group “Believers” or “Christians” or “The Saved.”
And God wants everyone to be this group. But because of the sin in our lives we are outside of this group and there was just one way into it — through Jesus.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6 (NIV)
Thinking back to the parable in Matthew 22 and Luke 14, here is imagery the apostle Paul uses that paints a word picture of John 14:6.
…clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ… – Romans 13:14 (NIV)
Anyone who clothes themselves with Christ…who places their faith in Him…who trusts Him as Savior and Lord…they are welcomed into the Kingdom of God on earth and in heaven.
And that’s a tie in to the parable I have been unpacking over the past several blogs in Matthew 22 and Luke 14:
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ – Matthew 22:11-13 (NIV)
The implication is one guy didn’t want to wear the clothes of Christ, so to speak. He wanted to attend the party, but on his own terms. And that simply isn’t possible. So he got tossed out of the party. But he wasn’t predestined to get kicked out of it.
Here is how one scholar put it: “God predestines the plan, not the man”
In other words, God predestined the plan of salvation — through the life of Jesus and His death on the Cross. But God did not predestine or elect who would or would not respond to it.
God predestined the group, but not the folks who would make up the group. So the offer of salvation is genuinely available to everyone. But the choice is ours. God’s grace is available to everyone. But we have to respond to it.
And this ties into our parable once again…
Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in… – Luke 14:23 (NIV)
He is compelling them. Urging them. Imploring them to come in. Why is he doing this? What is the reason?
…so that my house will be full. –Luke 14:23 (NIV)
The moment you respond to the invitation, the moment you accept it….all of the promises made to the group now apply to you. They didn’t apply to you the moment before you made the decision. But they apply to you now.
Because what God decided for the group as a whole before He created the world gets applied to each person when they choose to join the group.
Now I realize I just tried to cram a seminary class about predestination and election into a single blog. So in my next blog I will share an analogy that will hopefully make all of this clear. Stay tuned for Part 8…
***Please join us this Sunday at The Eastside Vineyard Church. I will be unpacking a fascinating dialogue between the Sadducees and Jesus about marriage at the resurrection in Matthew 22:23-33. Jesus’ rebukes them: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” The question is: could the same be said of us? May 5. 10:30am. More info at tevchurch.org***