Predestination has to be one of the most misunderstood concepts in the Bible. For most Christians, the idea of God choosing us “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4 ESV) is pretty confusing. We don’t quite understand how it all works. Even if we believe it, we usually treat it like an answer on a multiple-choice exam. We’ll check the right box, but then we go about the rest of our lives, unsure of how predestination is supposed to apply to us. For many of us, knowing that we’re chosen is the theological equivalent of knowing our social security number—important to get right, sure, but not a detail that impacts our day-to-day lives.
That’s not how the Apostle Paul presented the idea at all. When he wrote to the believers in Ephesus, he began by reminding them of their predestination because he knew that truth would transform their lives. Paul told the Ephesians that they were chosen—and God tells you that you’re chosen—to give you four things:
1. Assurance during struggle
If we know that salvation began in the purpose of God, then we can be sure it will be completed in the purpose of God. What God starts, he always finishes.
It’s comforting to know that there’s a lot more at stake in your salvation than just you. God saves people, to use Paul’s phrase, for “the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). That means he has bound up the glory of his name in your salvation. So even when you falter, he’s going to pursue his work in you for the sake of his name.
Every God-seeking Christian I know struggles sometimes with assurance of salvation. You look at your heart and think, Can I really be a Christian and still struggle with that? I’ve done it, too. But if God didn’t choose us because of our goodness, he’s not counting on our goodness to keep us saved. We aren’t chosen because we’re good; we’re chosen because he is. That’s good news for stumblers and strugglers and downright sinners like you and me.
2. Strength After Failure
Knowing the God has chosen us gives us the power to get back up again after we’ve failed. If I know that God finishes what he starts, I can be sure that even though today was consumed by defeat, God’s decree for my tomorrow is victory.
That victory isn’t a matter of perfect health or a full bank account. It’s a matter of holiness. God didn’t choose us for a life of ease or comfort or wealth, but “that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4). Most days that feels like it’s a long way off. But if I trust in Christ, I can be sure that it will happen. My future holiness is as sure as Jesus’!
If God didn’t choose us because of our goodness, he’s not counting on our goodness to keep us saved. @jdgreear
The reason so many Christians feel defeated is that they look at all the problems in their lives and ask, “How can I overcome this?” How can I end my addiction to pornography? How can I fix the problems in my marriage? How can I ever have the courage to share my faith?
But the burden of fixing your life has never been on you. In Christ, God has already decreed and supplied the power for it. The good works God has for you, he has already predestined for you, and he’s provided the power for you to do them. So when you fail—and you will, sometimes terribly—you can get back up. Righteousness isn’t shown by never falling; it’s shown by getting back up and trusting that God isn’t done with you yet.
3. Hope in Trials
The Apostle Paul says that God has “predestined all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). All things. That’s an expansive word. Even in those moments when you feel victimized, or hurt, or just plain unlucky, God is working for your good.
When you believe this, pain and suffering lose their power. The worst part of suffering isn’t usually the suffering itself. It’s the feeling of hopelessness and meaninglessness. Most of us can endure some pain if we know there’s a purpose behind it. It’s when that pain seems pointless that we start to despair.
What God says to us is that nothing in the Christian life is wasted. No suffering in your life is random, pointless, or outside of his control. Knowing this won’t magically take away all of your hurt, but it transforms the way you experience it. When you see that God has literally harnessed every molecule of the universe to make you a son or daughter in his image, you’ll have a hope that can endure the darkest valleys.
4. Confidence in Disciple-Making
One of the biggest misconceptions about predestination is that it removes any urgency for us to share the gospel. Well, God’s already chosen who is saved, so it doesn’t matter if I witness or not. This is the exact opposite picture we see in the New Testament.
For Paul, the fact that God had chosen some was precisely why he had the confidence to witness. In the book of Acts, God told him, “Go on preaching, because I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9). Paul was ready to give up. But knowing that God had predestined some gave him the confidence to keep sharing.
I once heard a missionary say that when he first went overseas, he didn’t know how he could be a missionary if he believed God had chosen people. Now, after years on the mission field, he says he doesn’t know how anyone could go on being a missionary unless they believe God had chosen people.
God never tells us we’re chosen so we can look at the outside world and say, “Well, too bad for you.” You shouldn’t sit around pondering why God saved you instead of your non-believing friends; you should realize that God saved you for the sake of your non-believing friends. He chose you because he wants to choose others. “I chose you,” Jesus said, “to go and bear fruit” (John 15:16).
I know that might make your head hurt. It does for me. But that’s the paradox Scripture gives us: we share Christ with people like it’s all up to us, and we pray to God knowing that it’s all up to him.
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