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Does God Choose Those Who Are Saved?

January 16, 2012

In Bible class we are studying the epistle to the Ephesians, a short book full of rich scriptures that could keep one studying for a long time. Right from the outset we are amazed by Gods glory and the riches of what he has given us in Christ when we read:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

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, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-14)

Are we Predestined?

This is a difficult passage for us to interpret because as humans we don’t see things from an eternal perspective. We know that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and yet we somehow want to believe that our choice to submit to God by receiving Christ and being buried with him in baptism is of value in our salvation. We want to believe that when we choose to be saved that somehow that is our part of the being saved equation, as if we had something of value from ourselves to bring to the negotiating table to work out a salvation agreement with God.

In my view, that couldn’t be further from the truth. My thought is that even our ability and desire to choose to submit to God’s will is a free gift from God. That fact that I chose him does not mean that my action has played a part in being saved. My choice is consistent with who God designed me to be. The passage says: “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” In other words it is his will that has saved us not ours. This is to the praise of his glory not to the praise of our glory. It is God who has saved us not we who have saved ourselves.

We are by nature a people who act of our own will. Even after having received Christ, we still by nature choose to follow our own will. By our own choosing we rebel from God’s way (Romans 3, Psalms 14:1-3, Psalms 53:1-3). If we were left to our own devices, we would never choose God. This is what many do not understand. We think that we are somehow good by nature, that deep inside we want to do the right thing. The opposite is true. If we do the right thing, it is because we are resisting our natural desires not following our natural desires. So, God must take action to save us else we would not be saved.

Is It Fair the God Predestined Some and Not Others to Be Saved?

So, if it is God who does the choosing, is it fair that he doesn’t choose everyone? This is not the proper way to look at the situation. As I have already said, all have sinned and fallen short of Gods calling on our lives. All of us are by nature sinners. All of us are by nature rebellious. All of us deserve eternal condemnation. If it weren’t for Jesus, it would be eminently fair for God to condemn everyone. The fact that God would in love and mercy choose to save anyone is what is hard to believe. In fact it is harder for me to believe that God chose to save me than it is to believe that God chose not to save everyone.

Is the Gospel Call Genuine?

Christ died to guarantee the truth of the gospel invitation and the promise of salvation attached to it. In other words, wherever the good news of Christ and him crucified proclaimed “let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” (Revelation 22:17) When people hear the gospel announcement (that Jesus died to take away our sins) they are free to choose to receive the gift of cleansing Jesus offers, but the are also free to deny it. The gospel call itself is a genuine call to all to be saved.

Does God Force The Chosen to Choose Him?

I am not denying that a human choice is made to respond or not respond. If God were to force people to follow him against their will, he would be no better than a man who sees a beautiful woman and forces her to marry him. The fact that some choose to answer the gospel call is amazing, but the fact that they do so is God’s free gift to them. People respond to the gospel because God has been molding and making them more perfectly into who he designed them to be. There is significant tension between the idea of a free human choice and the sovereign will of God. I don’t pretend to completely understand how these two seemingly contradictory thoughts can be involved in someone turning to Christ, but in the end I humbly submit to God’s perfect will understanding that He alone is sovereign and that “nothing is impossible with God” Luke 1:37 (NIV).

If you find Ephesians 1 difficult to believe, Wrestle with Romans 9 for a while. It certainly supports the same idea that God is sovereign and chooses some vessels for noble purposes and other for ignoble purposes. In Romans 9 it says “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. We must never forget that being saved is not something we do, It is something God does for us.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Catherine permalink
    August 21, 2013 12:30 am

    You wrote: If God were to force people to follow him against their will, he would be no better than a man who sees a beautiful woman and forces her to marry him”.

    Jesus spoke of a bride he would marry and I guess the church is considered to be that bride. But if you take that concept in a cultural context you will realize that the bride generally had very little choice in those days. The grooms father sometimes contacted the brides father and the bride was purchased at that time. But the groom sometimes made the arrangements himself.

    Women were more someone’s property then what we experience today. And beauty would still be a deciding factor even in ancient times. Yes they were forced. But if they were lucky then the father arranged a good match, which happened, and she ended up happy.

    Personally I might be happy to be chosen. Although the way out of the world and though a narrow gate is sometimes rough.

    I don’t know anything for sure but this is my opinion.

  2. August 21, 2013 8:06 am

    I do agree with everything you say. Women were treated like property in Biblical times. Jesus elevated the status of women as many passages show (like the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery and the woman at the well – and the sinful men in those stories are nowhere to be found – a terrible double standard.)

    God does do the choosing in election which is precisely why we choose to follow him. Our dead hearts are bent in on our own selfish desires until God draws us to Him. Jesus came to make us alive when we were dead in sin. Praise be to the one And only God!

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