Friday, December 14, 2007

Ephesians Ch: 1 and Christmas time!

4"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he[c] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. "

Ephesians Chapter 1 can be a passage of great contention. Some people hang determinism v free will on this passage. Obviously there are many more, including Romans 9, however this appears to be the one most quoted by the predestination / determinism / blue print camp.

A friend mentioned the verse to me the other day and it has been one that I have been looking at recently and trying to make sense of.

First and foremost, and I don't think any one would disagree with this statement, this verse to me revolves around the fact that everything is about the trinity. We as believers, be it through free will or God's determined will, are made for the praise of His glory. We were made to worship Him with all we are. There is a slight irony in the fact that many churches who hold to a calvinistic world view who focus on this verse, have the most boring church services - forgetting that we are made to PRAISE Him. Granted one can praise him through teaching, but a few loud symbols and the like can go along way too - I'll save that for another blog.

Ephesians chapter one is too big for me to get into a proper exegesis, I'll just give a brief summary of my thoughts. Thoughts that are willing to change and learn, I may add.

Ultimately if Ephesians chapter 1:4 points to individuals being predestined to either heaven or hell, then we must conclude that everything that happens is from the hand of God. One can rejoice in the blessings that come from his hand, but what about evil? is there such thing if God is good and everything comes from His hand?
Unfortunately to analyse this, one needs to use a debased example. The kidnapping, systematic raping and abuse of a 6 year old girl, followed by her release 2 years later from her hell, to be followed 10 years later by her suicide. If one claims that God foreknew exactly what was going to happen and, ultimately made it happen, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that somehow the world is a better place for this happening. Sounds harsh, however; if God is all good and always does what is best, and if God knew exactly what this man was going to do to the innocent helpless girl, we can only conclude that God believed that allowing this to happen was preferable to his not allowing it. The problem of evil is not just taken away by saying that it was not God's will, as he has created us to have free-will and one could easily ask why he didn't stop it. however ultimately, one opposed to determinism would, I presume say that the potential or evil lies in the nature of free will. God has given people the freedom to choose how to act, therefore the responsibility lies with them, not with God, since there actions have not been settled since the beginning of time.
Also a lot of verses would have to be changed to allude to the fact that God only truly loves a certain amount of people. "For God so loved the world that he gave His only son", would have to be changed, or alluded to that, "God so loved the elect, that he....". Also Peter tells us that the delay in Christs returning is because God doesn't want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). God wants everyone he's created to turn to him If everything was settled before the beginning of this world, God would know exactly who would and would not respond to Him. Why does God spend so much energy and experience huge frustration in trying to get people to believe only to be grieved when they resist him (Isa 63:10; Eph 4:30; Acts 7:51; Heb 3:8, 15 ; 4:7) if it was from all eternity a foregone conclusion. I could write on about Revelation 3:5 and Exodus 32:33. If God has foreknown from all eternity that certain names would be blotted out, why would he put them there in the first place? If he can "take away a persons share in the tree of life and in the holy city", and if he knew it would happen why would he give them a share in it in the first place. Its at best disingenuous if true, and at worst sadistic if God gives people a taste of something, only to take it out of their mouth, for his Divine (perhaps arbitrary) purpose.
In terms of the specific that Paul says God "chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world", notice that Paul does not say that we were individually chosen to be "in Christ", or not. As i mentioned already, if it were up to God alone, he would save everybody (1 tim 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, but it is not up to God alone, he has given us free will. Paul says in this verse that whoever chooses to be "in Christ" is predestined to be "holy and blameless before Him". When one chooses to be in Christ, what was predestined for all who are "in Christ" is predestined for him.
Anyways, enough of my thoughts on election in that sense, I could write all day my thoughts on it. As its the festive season, I want to focus on Ephesians 1:5. Paul tells us that we were predestined to adoption before the foundation of the world and that our adoption was predestined to be accomplished "through Jesus Christ". The existence of us, and who we are as the human race is not an accident or a play thing for God. The triune God created the world as the first act of a nearly offensively gracious plan to bring us into the Trinitarian relationship itself. Creation is there to serve this higher purpose of adoption. Because of this, the incarnation of the Son was predestined, because there could never have been a union between the trinity and humanity without the most profound stooping that would establish real and genuine union between the life of God and humanity. Adoption is the eternal point (right here, I'm stealing from Baxter Kruger). Kruger says that creation is the beginning, the first step towards its fulfillment, which prepares the way for the incarnation of the Son and the accomplishment of our adoption in Him. The fall of Adam means that the incarnation will be an agonising event, and one that involves untold risk. Jesus whole life was a war. Jesus entered into our broken, fallen, alienated human existence. he took upon himself our fallen flesh, but he refused to be like us. He refused to look upon God as we do. He entered into fallen existence and steadfastly refused to be "fallen" in it. He loved his father with all of his heart, mind, soul and strength, refusing to believe in the God of Adam. His death was not the punishment of an angry God, it was the sons ultimate identification with fallen Adam, and the supreme expression of faithfulness to his own identity as the One who lives in fellowship with the Father and the Spirit.
God is eternally “for us”, and therefore there is no part of God that needs to be changed or converted or conditioned. before the foundation of the world, the Father, Son and Spirit set their determined love upon us and set their hand to bring us into relationship with them. Adams sin did not alter God or Gods purpose in any way. The fall was a massive problem or course as we who God had determined to bring to glory, became corrupt, estranged, fundamentally alien to God. The problem from my perspective is that the human race stands in need of radical conversion to God. Punishment has never been the point. It isn’t part of Gods plan, and if it was, it wouldn’t help in overcoming the real problem of our estrangement and so fulfil Gods purpose and dreams for us. The fathers passion is to get his children back and to bless us with all the treasures of heaven. unto that end the Son was sent into our existence to undo OUR estrangement, not Gods, and to convert our fallen existence to God. this love of God in action the incarnation suffering to convert humanity, is the wrath of God, the fiery and complete opposition of Gods love to our destruction. Jesus Christ is the revelation of God, not a part of God or of one side of God, but of the very being and nature of God. what we see in Jesus is that the Father has never once forsaken us or even considered such a thing, Jesus is the proof that the Fathers love is utterly unwavering and that His eternal dreams for us stand. The Son was sent by the Father to find us. He was sent as the living expression of the fire of love that is in the heart of the Father, as the enactment of the eternal word of God to have us as his beloved children. the Father will have it no other way. If we speak of the death of Jesus Christ as “satisfaction” we must see that what is satisfied in his death is the Fathers utterly single-minded devotion to us and His relentless determination that His amazingly incredible plans for us would be fulfilled - even at the cost of his own beloved Sons life.
If that does not get me excited about the festive season, I don't know what will. The thoughts that My Father in heaven would go to those lengths for me is the most awe inspiring humbling thing one could imagine, something that could only lead to the Praise of His glory.