by Mike Ratliff
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. (Colossians 3:12-13 NASB)
To complement our study of “foreknowledge” in yesterday’s post, let us look at two other aspects of Doctrine of Election. When people confront me about my “Calvinism” I do not become tense or defensive. Instead, I usually make sure that whoever I am conversing with understands that the basis for my understanding of God and His doctrines is that He is Sovereign. Who in their right mind would worship a God that is not Sovereign and for any reason is dependent upon mankind (one of his creatures) for any reason whatsoever? Also, Reformed Theology (I prefer that term over Calvinism) is rooted in God’s Sovereign Grace. Because of this, and since I am fully submitted to God because of who He is knowing that He is God and without my Lord I can do nothing, I am fully at ease, and resting in His Sovereign Grace. What is the response I usually get? Tense argumentation! I don’t get it. Foreknowledge, as we saw yesterday, is a wonderful word that should cause none of us to squirm or get upset or whatever, but should drive us to our knees in thanksgiving for God foreordaining each of us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Likewise, as we are about to see, election and predestination are both wonderful words that describe God’s exercise of His Sovereign Grace on our behalf.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14 NASB)
In v4 the word “chose” translates the Greek verb ἐξελέξατο (exelexato) the Deponent Finite, 3rd Person, Singular, Aorist, Indicative, Middle case of ἐκλέγομαι (eklegomai), which means “to pick or choose out for oneself.” As we see in v4 it is in Aorist tense and middle voice. What does this mean? The aorist tense is used for simple, undefined action. When used in the indicative mood, as it is here, it usually denotes a simple act occurring in the past. We best understand the middle voice by contrasting it with active and passive voice. While the active voice pictures the subject of the verb doing the acting, and the passive voice pictures the subject being acted upon, the middle voice pictures the subject acting in its own interest, that is, it receives the benefit of the action. So, the aorist middle here shows that God did the choosing independently in the past and do so primarily for His own interest, this is, His glory. If you look closely at vv6, 12, and 14 above you will see that our election was all for His glory.
Look closely at v5. Here we have the word “predestined,” which translates the Greek word προορίσας (proorisas) the Verb, Participle, Nominative, Singular, Masculine, Aorist, Active case of προορίζω (proorizō), which means “to designate before,” but we see its real depth in the fact that it is a compound word made up of πρὸ which means “beforehand” and ὁρίζω which speaks of a “boundary or limit,” and is actually where our English word horizon comes from. So, just as the horizon marks a limit between what we can and cannot see, God has placed us within a certain limit, a certain “horizon.” He has put us in a place where we can see and comprehend many things but where many other things are hidden from our sight and understanding, many things that are beyond our horizon. Further, even if we walk closer to the horizon, and understand things we never understood before, a new horizon appears. We will never understand it all this side of heaven.
This word graphically demonstrates that God has marked out something for each of His elect; He has marked out a destiny. Much of the destiny is hidden from us; it is beyond the horizon. But, praise be to God, he reveals more of it with each new step we take toward it.
What is that destiny? What is that purpose? We don’t know it all, but we do know some of it. The primary purpose in God’s predestination is “that [Christ] might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29), that is, that Christ might be made preeminent. Sacred scripture reveals that the firstborn always had preeminence. God’s ultimate object, therefore, is to glorfy His Son. Further, Ephesians 1:5 likewise tells us that God predestined us to adoption, making us Christ’s brethren. Each of us is either a brother or sister to our dear Saviour. Then in Ephesians 1:11 we read that we are predestined to an inheritance, that is spiritual riches, in Christ. That is our destiny.
Therefore, why is foreknowledge, election and predestination so controversial? The only thing I can think of is that those who refuse to believe what I just shared in this post and yesterday’s post prefer their own sovereignty rather than submitting to God’s Sovereignty. Predestination is simply God’s marking out a destiny befitting His foreknown people whom He has elected before the foundation of the earth.
Soli Deo Gloria!