2.5.1 God Predestinates
Humility And Grace
An understanding of predestination helps us towards true humility
and appreciation of grace. This is the very context in which Paul
introduces the idea in Romans; he wished his readers to appreciate
grace by reflecting upon how predestination involves something far
over and above anything we could ‘do’ or ‘be’ in our own rights.
Further, Paul speaks of predestination in Eph. 1:5,6, and says that
it is a sign of God’s grace- and thus we are “predestinated… to
the praise of the glory of His grace”. Predestination also brings
with it an appreciation of grace, and real praise for it. Predestination
by grace doesn’t motivate to lethargy and fatalism- if it’s
properly understood. When the Lord speaks of how we have been chosen,
above and beyond any effort on our part, He goes on to teach that
exactly because of this, we have a responsibility to produce fruit,
to pray, to love one another (Jn. 15:16,17). Despite predestination,
there are countless thousands of freewill decisions for us to make
each day. Try to bear that in mind some mornings as you wake up.
Whatever situation we’re in, life takes on an excitement and
meaning and challenge. The simple fact of predestination, of having
been chosen by grace, should radically inspire us in every one of
those freewill decisions. The true Biblical idea of predestination
mustn’t be confused with non-Biblical ones. The Romans, Greeks,
Egyptians etc. all believed that they had been elected by the gods,
predestined to be the special race that alone had true connection
with the divine… but they assumed this predestination was
because of their natural superiority. Biblical predestination is
radically different- that the weak are chosen and the strong rejected,
not because they are smart, beautiful, hard working, successful,
lucky… but exactly because they are weak and just who they
are. This is the grace of true predestination. And it’s so
wonderful that nobody can be passive to it. On this very basis,
Paul urges Euodia and Syntyche to resolve their differences because
their names were written in the book of life (Phil. 4:2,3). That
book was written from the foundation of the world, and the fact
our names are written in it is a reference to the concept of predestination.
This reality means that in practice we simply shouldn't be at loggerheads
with others who share in that same grace of predestination!
Don't Be Vindictive
Joseph had the same basic understanding. He held no grudge against his brethren, and would not be vindictive to them, because he understood something of predestination: “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). And because he understood that God’s good intentions were worked out through the evil intentions of others, Joseph was content to leave all in God’s hands, and on this basis he assures his brothers that given his understanding of this ‘predestination’, he wouldn’t hit back at them for what they’d done to him. The Lord spoke of the coming of His ‘hour’ of death as if it were somehow predestined of the Father. But His appreciation of this didn’t lead to a mere fatalism, but rather to a heightened sense of the importance of obedience, of playing His part in the Father’s drama to the best of His ability (Jn. 7:6,8; 12:23,27). Joab likewise, when facing a battle against a hugely superior army, commented: “Let the Lord do that which is good in his sight” (1 Chron. 19:13)- but this bred not fatalism but rather a zealous attempt to fight for the Lord, which God blessed with victory.
We all struggle at times with feeling forgotten. Yet if we were predestinated, known before the foundation of the world, God has actually remembered us throughout the infinity of time which has passed since 'the beginning'. Why should He forget us now? The fact of predestination and the foreknowledge which is part of it should therefore comfort us that never, ever, are we forgotten by Him. And so what, therefore, if others forget us, if we fade from their scenes, our families no longer need us, scarcely give us a call... for the God who never forgot us since the beginning, will not forget us now. Indeed every moment of our living now is in some way a climax of His long planned purpose for us, which took the development of millennia of genes to achieve the unique creation which is you. Putting this more theologically, Paul Tillich wrote: "Is there anything that can keep us from being forgotten? That we were known from eternity and will be remembered in eternity is the only certainty that can save us... we cannot be forgotten, because we are known eternally, beyond past and future" (1).
(1) Paul Tillich, The Eternal Now (New York; Scribner's, 1963) p. 25.