012 - Free Will vs. Determinism [b]
Free Will vs. Determinism
Ephesians Lesson #012
December 16, 2018
“Father, the psalmist said that Your Word is a light unto our life. It’s a lamp unto our path. We see as things are. We see reality as it is because of Your Word. Elsewhere the psalmist said it’s in Thy light that we see light. That is, as we study Your Word, it illuminates our thinking, so that we are able then to come to understand other things.
“We understand truth. Truth is an absolute truth, as that which conforms to Your revelation, that which conforms to Your thinking. Father, sometimes this seems rather simple, other times, it’s extremely profound; and we have to spend a lot of time thinking about it.
“Today, as we begin to study these opening verses in Ephesians 1, there are some pretty heavy thoughts here, some significant words that often become stumbling blocks for people, difficult to get their mental fingers around.
“Father, as we study, we pray that we might be able to think clearly about these things and look at what Your Word says and how You have used these terms in such a way as to just open our minds to the glories of what is ours, the riches we have “in Christ,” Your destiny for us as believers in Jesus Christ, as members of the body of Christ to serve You, not just in this life during this age, but with ramifications for eternity.
“Expand our understanding, LORD, that we may come to a much greater understanding of who we are, how You have called us, and how You’re shaping us for that role in eternity.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
I think everyone of us comes to a point in life where we begin to ask some questions to one degree or another, and depending on intellectual background capabilities and education, we explore these maybe to a simple degree, maybe to an advanced degree.
For some people it just sort of creates landmines in their brain, so they prefer to think about other things. But we have to come to grips with this because it’s definitely part of the Word of God and has been revealed to us.
Basic questions that we often ask are something along these lines, “Am I really able to make my own decisions about life?” “Do I really have free will?” “Do I really have the ability to decide what I’m doing in life or is there some controlling power that has already determined who I am and what I will do?” We ask, “Is there some sort of fate or power in the universe that controls my will or is there a genuine choice and genuine freedom?”
If we look out around the culture in which we live, it’s not too different from the culture in other parts of the world in terms of the fact that its starting point is not the Word of God, its starting point is not a Creator God of the universe Who has created everything down to the most minute subject that we can think about, but also in terms of all of the supra-organizations that we can think of, not only to the subatomic particles, but also to the galaxies.
When we probe the thinking of God and the knowledge of God, we realize that there’s so much that goes on that interacts, that interconnects, whether we’re talking about galaxies in the universe or we’re talking about what goes on within the structure of a molecule or atoms, and how all of that interconnects with all of God’s creation.
It goes far beyond anything that we can comprehend. We can comprehend some truth, but we cannot comprehend it exhaustively. Ultimately, that comes down to understanding the knowledge of God: What we refer to as God’s omniscience—that God knows everything. That is at the very heart of what we are about to study, because this relates to if God knows everything, then does that mean that everything is foreordained or predetermined, so that nothing can change what will be?
This opens up within the arena of philosophy and the ring of thought, whole worlds of controversy and discussion that go far beyond anything that we’re going to cover on a Sunday morning here in the coming weeks.
I remember when I was at the University of St. Thomas here in Houston working on a Masters degree in philosophy. I took a whole course called “Free Will and Determinism,” studying all of the different things and theories and ideas and models that have been set forth by philosophers throughout the ages.
If you’ve just grown up in our culture, you know that there are people out there that if you say something about whatever’s going on in your life, maybe it’s something tragic, maybe it’s something good, and their response has something to do, “Well, that’s just the way the universe organizes things.” They hold in some sense to sort of an impersonal determinism—that we really don’t shape the way things are in our life—they are controlled by some impersonal power.
There are Christians who hold two forms of determinism: where God is always in control; and even if you are on, shall we say, the soft end of the spectrum, soft determinism—or you may not hold to any sense where God doesn’t allow our free choice, our volition.
Then you’re also guilty, I think, of making statements when certain situations occur, and you just sort of dismiss it by saying, “Well, that’s God’s will.” We’ve all done that. We blame God for something wrong or bad that happened because of someone’s choice.
God has permissive will. He allows human beings to make bad choices, evil choices, sinful choices, and they have consequences. That’s what happened in the Garden of Eden. Adam made the determinative choice. Eve was the first one, but she wasn’t the head. He was the head, and His choice was determinative in that it plunged all of His descendants into the corruption of sin.
Now to what degree does that affect our ability to make decisions? We have a sin nature and we are corrupt, so that affects our thinking, it affects our will. All of these are pretty profound statements that if you get into them, then pretty soon you think that you’re just caught in some sort of intellectual quicksand, and for a lot of people that’s just way beyond their pay grade, so they’re not going to think too much about that.
But the Scriptures make these things pretty clear. What happens is theologians come along and obfuscate them. They make them difficult to understand, and that’s part of what happened in the history of Christianity. We get into this at the very beginning of our lesson today, as we open up Ephesians 1.
I have pointed out in the previous lessons that we see this threefold division in the opening eulogy or praise of God:
- Praise for the Father in Ephesians 1:3–6,
- Praise for the Son, in Ephesians 1:7–12, and
- Praise for the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 1:13–14.
Each of these relates ultimately to the plan of God, and how God brings about His plan. As soon as we talk about God bringing about His plan, we introduce another attribute of God that goes along with His omniscience and that is His sovereignty, His rulership over His creation.
The question then that comes up is, to what degree does God rule and how is He able to bring about what He intends, what He has prophesied, what He claims will happen in the future without somehow forcing the wills of individuals?
How you understand the relationship of His sovereignty to His omniscience is also critical for understanding what is going on in this whole debate and in these whole issues.
On the one hand you have those who are more deterministic, and for them sovereignty takes priority over His omniscience. I’m going to say a lot of these things over and over again because they’re deep, they’re profound, and it’s too early in the morning for some of you. You will never have enough coffee to really become alert on all this.
That means that God determines in His sovereignty what will happen, and then He knows what will happen, so that His sovereignty and His plan take priority over His knowledge. And these deterministic theologians will say that God cannot know something unless He has already determined it.
So in some sense that limits the omniscience of God, and you have two different types of theologians who talk about that. One is the Calvinists: that’s a term we usually use in categorizing them as followers of John Calvin.
The other group that has come about is the Open Theists. That’s a new out-of-bounds-theology that came up by the late 90s and early 2000s, that for God to predict that something will happen, He either is determining it or somehow He is open to it changing, so it’s called Open Theism, and that has pretty much been shut down by Orthodox biblically based theologians.
But it’s interesting that both of them end up accepting the same premise, and that is that God only knows what He has determined will take place.
The real question is, is there contingency, real contingency; that is, things that are contingent upon people making free will choices, that change things?
I believe that that is so, and I believe a sovereign God Who is able to bring about that which He has planned without negating human choice is a greater sovereignty and a greater God than a God who predetermines what exactly will happen, that’s the only thing that He knows will happen, and so He causes that to be brought about. That is a limited view of both the omniscience of God and His sovereignty.
But usually what you will hear, and I’ve had friends challenge me on this, they will say, “Well, don’t you believe that ultimately God is in control?” Sure, but a God that can achieve His means, even when His creatures make bad decisions, is a greater God than a God who can bring about His plan by controlling every decision of every creature. That’s ultimately what you end up with.
Ephesians 1:3 reads, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing—and then we get a key phrase—in the heavenly places.”
This is crucial for understanding what is about to happen, because what runs through Ephesians is a development of this concept of what it means to be “in Christ.” “In Christ” means that we have been raised with Him, according to Ephesians 2:5–7, that we have been raised up together with Him, and that we have been seated together with Him in the heavenly places.
Where we’re going with this, and what Paul is opening our eyes to here, is that we have this remarkable new identity. No believer in God, no Old Testament saint, has ever had the kind of privileges and position that we have. Our position, the legal position God has given us is one that seats us at His right hand “in Christ,” and everything is related to this important phrase of being “in Christ,” for that is how Ephesians 1:3 ends, that we’ve been blessed in the heavenly places “in Christ.”
Ephesians 1:4, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him—that would be God the Father—in love,”
Because He—so it’s a causal idea there—because He—
Ephesians 1:5, “… predestined us—that’s another word we’re going to have to pay a lot of attention to—predestined us to adoption as sons…”
That whole teaching on adoption is another huge topic that relates to our identity. We have been brought into the royal family of God in a way unique from any other believer in history; and what does that entail?
We’ve been “predestined to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”
I want to point out just a little bit here in terms of getting our thinking going on this section, is what we find as we look at Ephesians 1:4. The way it is translated is, as I have it in the top, “just as He chose us in Him.”
Now that’s the phraseology in the Greek, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.”
Now the way many read this, the way Calvinists read this subtle. They read it as if it says, “He chose us to be in Him.” Now what that implies is that God is individually selecting people to be “in Christ,” but there’s no to-be verb there.
It’s “us in Him.” That’s a corporate context, “us in Him,” so it should be translated more along the lines of what I put at the bottom: Before the foundation of the world, He chose us who are in Him.
“Us in Him” is a group of people. “Us in Him.” He chose this group that are “in Christ” for a purpose. He’s not choosing them to be “in Christ,” He is choosing those who are in Christ for a purpose. It’s not talking about how they got into Christ. It is talking about a destiny that is theirs and a purpose that is theirs after they are placed “in Christ.”
We’re looking at basically three or four keywords that, if we don’t understand them properly—if we don’t have a good sense of what these words mean—it’s easy to read these passages with this sort of deterministic mindset, because we’ve heard that words such as predestination have to do with being chosen for salvation. But that’s not what the word means. We have to look at how the word is used to determine what it means.
Another word that we see here is the word “chose.” What does that mean? Does that have this sort of elective concept, like we think about an election where we’re choosing someone to serve in office from a group of people? So that when that is applied theologically, we are selecting someone for salvation from a group of people.
But this same word is used of Christ. Now think about that. Was Christ chosen from a group of people, from a group of optional candidates? No, there was only one Candidate. He’s called “chosen.”
It’s translated that way, but as we shall see, the concept of this word is not always that idea of selection, but often it has a qualitative sense where we would translate it “choice” or “excellent.” It is talking about the quality of Who He is.
There’s another sense in which this word is used that I think fits the verbal usage here as opposed to the noun usage, which would talk about Christ as the Choice One. And we’re “choice” because we’re “in Him.”
But, “He chose us…” This is a verb that has more the idea of being appointed to a task or commissioned to a task. It’s used that way numerous times, and even translated that way numerous times in Scripture. But suddenly there are those who, because they come to the text with a presupposition of determinism, translate it in a unique way, where it relates to salvation, and this, of course, brings out various problems.
Ephesians 1:5, the use of the word “predestination,” that “He has predestined us to adoption as sons.” We have to understand what predestination means, and ultimately what that means is just choosing an end result—what that destiny will be not in terms of eternal salvation, but in terms of, for those who are “in Christ,” God has a special plan and destiny for them.
We are to grow and mature as believers by understanding what that destiny is. He has appointed us for that destiny, and that destiny relates to our spiritual growth, and that relates to being holy and blameless before Him.
We need to get into all of these things, but we have to understand these three keywords in order to catch what is really being said here.
1. To “choose,” that He chose us
3. A word that is not used here, but is used in two other critical passages that relate to this whole concept of choice and predestination:
1 Peter 1:2, the Greek word “elect” is really in 1 Peter 1:1, but the way it’s translated so it flows better and makes better sense in English, it has “elect according to the foreknowledge of God.”
What’s important about that phrase—and we will look at this several times—is that it makes the ultimate prior focus on God’s foreknowledge.
That’s why there’s a lot of debate about that, but if you listen carefully to Calvinistic theologians, they put God’s sovereignty ahead of His foreknowledge. I’ll read a couple of quotes for you; they will say that foreknowledge basically means predestination, but that’s not what the word means.
Romans 8:29 gives us this order of events, “For whom He foreknew—that is God—For whom He foreknew –that is to know something ahead of time; that relates to His omniscience—He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”
Notice it doesn’t say He predestined to salvation. It’s really important to think about this. It never says “He predestined to salvation,” but the destiny is of those who would be saved. God has a plan, and His plan is to conform us to the image of Christ. Those who are in Him have a destiny in God’s mind “to be conformed to the image—of Christ—the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn of many brethren.”
We will learn that these key terms, which are used in Scripture are redefined within this deterministic sense that is popular among Calvinists.
Some you may not know who John Calvin was, you may not know about Calvinism, and so I’ll go over that just a little bit so that you have that historical perspective. But actually, this whole debate did not begin with Calvin and Calvinists or Armenians. That occurred in the late 1500s and early 1600s, but it is a mirror of a debate that occurred much, much earlier in AD 600.
We see here something that is somewhat complex for many people to understand, and it is. I’ve not worked through this for many years, so I’m trying to boil this down and make it simple for us. But we live in a world today where people think everything needs to be able to be expressed in a soundbite. And what I have said for years is the things that really matter cannot be expressed in a soundbite. They have to be developed and thought through, and they relate to various other things.
Let me try to put this a little bit in the context of what is going on in Ephesians. Ephesians is the epistle—more than any other of Paul’s epistles—which sets forth the glories and the plan of God for the purpose of the church. We see this in terms of how they are identified.
There are other epistles that do this, but at the beginning in this epistle, he addresses the saints who were “in Christ,” the sanctified ones, those who are set apart. That is part of our identity.
Then as we get into the opening verses, we discover that identity expands to those who are “in Him.” Basically, what Paul does is to teach about what has happened in this Church Age in terms of our salvation and the barrier that’s broken down between Jew and Gentile and between humanity and God—that takes us through Chapter 2. The implications of that in the church—this unique body of Christ—we get into in Chapter 3.
As we’ve seen in our introduction as we go through Chapters 4 and 5, he starts unpacking what that means in terms of how we live and how we walk. But then when you get to the end, and remember it’s always important to start with the end in mind, the end is He ties this together in terms of this spiritual warfare, tying it together in terms of the satanic rebellion against God and how we fit within all of that.
He starts by talking about who we are “in Christ,” but he ends by focusing us on the fact that we are all engaged in this spiritual warfare as the body of Christ, wherein we are to wear the armor of God and fight in the strength of His might. But that comes on the basis of understanding who we are, and how we walk. That’s the logical structure of the epistle.
As believers “in Christ,” in the body of Christ, we’re to wear His armor, walk and live and fight in the strength of His might, and our entire battle for the spiritual life is based on our new identity and position “in Christ.” So we have to understand that. It’s unique, it’s distinct of all history.
Ephesians teaches us that we are incorporated into Christ as this new and unique entity, this new organism, called the church by God’s grace. By the grace of God, we’re “in Christ,” in the opening, we have forgiveness, the redemption by His blood, and then we’re further sealed forever by the Holy Spirit.
Now that teaches us that no matter how difficult the battle gets, there’s always forgiveness and we can’t lose our salvation. That’s inherent within a lot of these discussions because usually this is presented as you’re either A or B, you’re either an Augustinian or a Pelagian.
Pelagius taught that you could lose your salvation. Arminianism, which was the opponent to Calvinism, taught that you could lose your salvation. So these ideas of our security are critical for understanding this because we are in the plan of God.
We have redemption, we’re sealed by the Spirit; and because we’re in Him we have boldness and confidence to approach God in prayer.
Since Christ is raised from the dead and seated at a position at the right hand of God the Father, a position of privilege, we are, at the instant of our salvation, raised with Him and seated with Him. And I don’t think we even come close to appreciating the significance of that for our life today, to appropriate that as part of our eternal blessing “in Christ.” We are seated with Christ at the right hand of the Father.
God has chosen us for this purpose—that is, those “in Christ.” He chose the corporate body to be in Him and to be seated with Christ, so that we have that position. Because He is the Choice One, we are choice because we are in Him.
That word, as I’ve taught before many times, isn’t “chosen.” Jesus wasn’t the Chosen One. He’s not selected of a group of many. He is Choice, He is excellent because of His perfect righteousness. When we enter into Christ, and we receive His righteousness, we become choice also—not chosen—Choice. We are excellent because of that quality of possessing Christ’s righteousness.
Jesus is referred to in Luke 23:35 as the Christ—it’s translated the “chosen of God,” but these are Jews. They don’t understand it that way; they’re calling it the Messiah. The Messiah isn’t chosen, He’s Choice, and that fits, as we will see with Old Testament usage.
As such—those who are “in Christ”—we have a specific destiny as the body of Christ, and this destiny is not salvation, but our future role to rule and reign with Christ in eternity. This is part of and related to God’s omniscience.
Here’s how omniscience plays into this. For those who are on the Calvinist side, for God’s omniscience: He only knows what will happen, and He only knows what will happen because He’s already determined what will happen.
God’s sovereignty determines what will happen and then His omniscience notices, so His omniscience become subordinate to His sovereignty. That’ll twist your brain around a little bit as you try to think about that.
What omniscience means is that God knows all of the knowable not just what He has determined. What that means is that God knows the “what ifs.” We play “what if in history” every now and then, thinking about what if the allies had lost World War II? What if Hitler had defeated England, what would’ve happened? We talk about those “what ifs.” God knows.
We have evidence in Scripture that God talks about this. Jesus said that if the signs that were done in Capernaum and Bethsaida had been done in Sodom and Gomorrah, Sodom and Gomorrah would’ve repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
That tells us that God knows what would happen in different conditions under different scenarios. He doesn’t just know what He has determined, He knows what would happen if His creatures made alternate decisions.
The terminology for that is contingent, but God is still in control so that He is not subject to the vagaries of human choice. Whether you choose to go to Texas A&M or University of Oklahoma or NYU is not going to change the plan of God. He is able to achieve His plan and purpose whatever you choose.
God’s plan and purpose for mankind was to do what? He was to rule over the planet. He is to rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the beasts of the field as the image and representation of God. What happened?
Adam exercised free choice. He chose to eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. That has a lot of bad consequences, but what’s the endgame? Jesus Christ as the true God–Man—as a man—will rule over humanity. He will rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air and the beast of the field.
In the endgame the human race as fulfilled in the body of Christ and the body of Old Testament saints will rule and reign in eternity. We will fulfill the purpose for man, so that God’s plan and purpose is not at the expense of human loss, at the expense of human volition.
Let’s understand a little bit about the history of this because we have to use some terms that are important. In the history of Christianity, this question of free will versus the sovereignty of God has always played a part.
But in the very early centuries from the time of the completion of the New Testament through approximately AD 400, it was not difficult. Foreknowledge was understood to mean prescience, that God knew things ahead of time. That is how that word is used in the Scripture. God knew what would happen ahead of time.
Then you get a development that occurs in the early fifth century by a theologian by the name of Augustine. Protestants call him AW-gus-teen. Catholics call him Aw-GUS-tin. I went to Catholic school for a while, so I call him Aw-GUS-tin.
Augustine has an interesting background; he is revered by many Protestants. I never have understood that. I have always had trouble with him, and I’ve never understood why He is so revered. He is second only to Calvin in these areas. He had a rough background. His mother was Christian, but he was a reprobate, and he went through various different religious beliefs before he became a convert to Christianity.
Just before he became a Christian, for 10 years he was a part of what some might call a sect called Manichaeism, which was an ancient Persian religion, somewhat similar to Zoroastrianism that held to a form of dualism. Dualism means that evil is eternal and good is eternal. He believed in that.
The other part of Manichaeism was determinism that ultimately everything is determined by this impersonal fate, so everything that happens has been decreed, determined by some impersonal entity.
When Augustine converted to Christ, because the influence of Manichaeism was heavy throughout a lot of Christianity in North Africa and the Middle East, he wrote a book called On Grace and Free Will. If you read that in isolation you will think there’s a lot of good stuff there emphasizing free will.
But you have to understand that’s only within one context, and this is a complex man who has a rich intellectual background. A few years after he wrote that there was a teacher in England, Pelagius. Pelagius comes along and he denies total depravity. He denies the corruption of sin. He says Adam became corrupt when he chose to sin, but it only affected Adam. It didn’t affect His descendants. So every human being is born neutral as Adam was created: they have totally unhindered free will.
As a result of that, they can choose to follow God and believe the gospel, or they can later choose to reject it and lose their salvation. Well, Augustine saw this as complete heresy because sin affected—and he was right at this point—sin affects every aspect of our nature.
It affects our will. We are not neutral as Adam was neutral. That doesn’t mean we don’t make decisions that truly change and affect things that we do not make free decisions in relationship to the gospel. Augustine had a major battle with Pelagius. They had a couple of church councils, and Pelagius was determined to be a heretic.
But in the process of this, Augustine develop a doctrine called double predestination. In double predestination God determines and selects who will be saved, and he selects who will be eternally condemned. It has nothing whatsoever to do with their choice. Their choice reflects God’s predetermined plan. That shows that he still is influenced presuppositionally by the determinism he believed from Manichaeism.
There were a number of church councils that went back and forth over the next several hundred years, and his position was modified to what became known as semi-Augustinianism. I’m not going to take you through all of that.
What’s important is that when the Protestant Reformation broke out, the first reformer was Martin Luther. Martin Luther was a German; he was Roman Catholic through and through to begin with. He was a monk in the order of St. Augustine. He has imbibed deeply of the determinism of Augustine. When he wrote his book, “The Bondage of the Will” there was no such thing as any kind of volition or free will. Everything is predetermined by God.
Then you have a French lawyer by the name of Jean Cauvin or John Calvin. Calvin writes that by the time he came to a full understanding of the gospel, he was completely and totally influenced by Augustine. So that Augustine has really confused theology in a lot of places in his determinism and he influences the two major breakthrough theologians of the Protestant Reformation.
Calvin is not as Calvinistic and deterministic as his followers were, but by the end of the 1500s, there was beginning to be this development by his followers that made his beliefs more deterministic.
There was a Dutch theologian by the name of Jacob Arminius who taught that there’s no such thing as double predestination and that God does not determine who will be saved and who will not be saved—that’s a matter of choice. He also taught that you could lose your salvation, and some other things, so his followers were brought up on heresy charges, and they set forth their beliefs in terms of five points.
The Calvinists answer in terms of five points. That becomes the famous five points of Calvinism. TULIP is the word that we use. We have a floral imagery for this theology.
“T” is the Calvinists’ view: total inability, not total depravity. We all believe in total depravity—that man is corrupt in every area of his being. But total inability means you’re not able to even express positive volition. You’ll never on your own express any interest or desire in God truly.
“U” stands for unconditional election that God chooses you without any conditions stated. Just because the text doesn’t tell us what any conditions might be, doesn’t mean there aren’t conditions. The conditions are what’s known by God’s foreknowledge.
“L” stands for limited atonement that Jesus died only for those who are unconditionally elect.
“I” stands for irresistible grace, that when God starts to open your eyes to the truth, you can’t resist it.
“P” stands for perseverance of the saints, which in its worst form is that if you are truly saved, you will persevere and grow, but if you don’t persevere and grow and don’t have the fruit of the Spirit, then you weren’t really saved. That we call Lordship salvation today.
This is a brief summary of that.
The other side of it is the Arminian view, what we call Daisy Theology. He loves me, He loves me not. He loves me, He loves me not. We’re never sure of our salvation. On any given day, we can commit some unpardonable sin and lose our salvation, but we might get it back.
Those become the two options, and for many people, they are so mired in those two views, that they can’t even think that maybe there is a different way that is taught in Scripture.
This is what we’re going to be going and thinking through: what does the Scripture say? What we see here in our verse (Ephesians 1:4), I will give you the bottom line here, is that “…He appointed us in Him…” Us in Him: He appointed those “in Christ.” It’s not talking about how we get there, it’s talking about the purpose that God has for the body of Christ.
“He chose us in Him” or “He appointed us in Him” for a purpose. We’re commissioned for a purpose, and He did this before the foundation of the world because in His omniscience He had the whole plan. He always knew the plan. He never learned it. It was never not in His thinking.
In the omniscience of God, God knows everything that can possibly happen, not just everything that will happen. He knows what will happen, what could possibly happen, and He always knew it instantaneously, so He never learns anything new, and He never forgets anything.
He always has known everything there is to know. From eternity past, this has been the focal point of His plan in the Church Age, and the purpose is that we should, “be holy and without blame before Him in love.”
These phrases have to be understood. In the history of Christianity, because we didn’t have computers, it was hard enough just compile lists of words. You know, you look up the word “love,” and you get a whole list of every place the word “love” is used.
But there are a lot of times when love is used in a phrase. Well, it’s difficult enough to just catalog all the uses of the single word, but to catalog phrases is a different thing.
What we find, as we saw in Matthew, is that when we have a phrase like “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven, the meaning of the phrase is greater than the sum of its parts. We have to study phrases and how they’re viewed, and look at phrases because it’s not just saying “He chose.” It’s not just saying, “He chose us.” “He chose us in Him…” it’s a corporate concept, not an individual concept.
There’s a purpose that we’re appointed to, and that is to Ephesians 1:4–5a, “…be holy and without blame before Him in love, having…” (because He) predestined us…” This is logical rationale for the basis for this: there’s a destiny for us in our role as adoption as sons to Jesus Christ Himself.
All of this comes down to understanding this glorious reality that is ours as members of the body of Christ. We are unique, we’re distinct, what God has done for us in elevating us “in Christ” is beyond anything that we can imagine.
The glorious assets or blessings that God has given us, we usually ignore, because we’re not taught about them. But they are the tools, the basis, the means by which we can exploit what God has done, and glorify God in ways that have never been possible.
But then when we come back, we will focus on developing out these words and understanding this a little more precisely to answer the questions.
I get questions on this quite frequently, “How do you explain this? What is the difference? Do you have any series that you taught on Calvinism and Arminianism? How do we understand this?”
So we will take a little time. I don’t want to drill down into the nano theology of everything, but want to make sure that we have a good understanding of why we believe what we believe on these verses.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity that we can study, learn, that we can have our thinking shaped, because we’re talking significant issues related to Your ultimate plan. It involves understanding Your essence, Your attributes of sovereignty, of justice, of omniscience.
“It involves understanding Your plan, Your purpose, especially as it relates to our unique position as Church Age believers, and how we are to think in terms of our new identity “in Christ.”
“Father, challenge us in these areas so that we can think, that You will open up our minds to press through the issues and not feel overwhelmed because they have been complicated by too much human viewpoint thinking, and the issues are really rather simple.
“Father, we also pray for those who are here, those who may be listening online that if there’s anyone who listens to this and wants to truly know “How am I saved?” The issue is simple. It involves faith. Faith is just trust, it’s believing something to be true, believing that Jesus died in our place, He paid the penalty in full, and because He paid the penalty, we have eternal life.
“Our life is full and rich as a free gift, and it is everlasting. Father, we pray that You would help us think through these things, and that we might realize that we should live in a much higher level to glorify You in all that we say and do and think, and we pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.”