Earlier we referred to a fatalistic husband who blamed God for his own abusive behavior and a heartbroken woman who was afraid to die because she thought she had been foreordained to be a“vessel of God’s wrath.” Both found little good news for themselves in the Bible because of common misunderstandings about divine sovereignty and predestination. Both saw God’s sovereignty as existing at the expense of their own needs. What they didn’t see is that God can honor and be responsive to our will even while remaining in control of the outcome.
THE PATH TO GOD’S PREDETERMINED GOAL
One thing about the good news of the sovereignty of God that all can affirm is this: God predetermined that His Son would become a member of the human family so that He could provide salvation.
After Christ’s resurrection, Peter told a Jewish audience, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death” (Acts 2:23). Knowing what the leaders of Israel would do when confronted by someone who exposed their failures, God used their freely chosen acts to fulfill His eternal purpose that Jesus would die as “the atoning sacrifice . . . for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2). God declared Jesus to be His chosen one when He said at the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is My Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him” (Lk. 9:35).
This is the eternally predetermined path by which God in His holy love made possible our salvation. By His own loving initiatives, God sovereignly moved into our world to offer us rescue from the darkness of our own choices.
THE ELEMENTS OF GOD’S PREDETERMINED GOAL
God has predetermined an outcome for us and for the entire universe that we can barely begin to comprehend. He hasalready decided to powerfully and lovingly assure us that in the future there will be:
A Family Of Blameless People. God did more than give us an invitation. He immersed Himself in His plan for our rescue. While reminding us that we are going to be held accountable for our own choices, God showed His own willingness to pay the legal penalty for our violations of His law.
This is the wonder-filled story of God’s suffering in and through the death of His Son in our place. All of His purposes in election and predestination must be understood in terms of His willingness to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.
To assure the outcome of those who rely on Christ for rescue, the Scriptures inform us that we have become members of a community chosen by God before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4-8).
A Family Of Transformed People. Another element of God’s predetermined plan is found in Romans 8:29, “Those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” God is bringing to Himself a group of foreknown and pre-loved people destined to become like Jesus. This “likeness” begins to take shape in our present lives (2 Cor. 3:18) and will be completed when we receive our new bodies and will “be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn. 3:2). Jesus will be the elder brother in God’s family (Heb. 2:10-13).
A Reconciled Cosmos Under Christ. The Bible shows that God’s predetermined plan for the future includes the whole universe. It is a plan that encompasses not only the salvation of individual men and women but of all creation as well.
Ephesians 1:9-10 says that God “made known to us the mystery of His will . . . , which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”
God predetermined “to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His [Christ’s] blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:20).
After Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, “God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).
The term predestination is used only in the positive sense of those who are saved. The Bible does not say that anyone is predestined to condemnation. Furthermore, predestination cannot be separated from God’s foreknowledge—and it is beyond our ability to comprehend how God foreknows while still protecting the “mystery” of human freedom.
We can find comfort in the fact that the Bible never speaks of anyone being foreordained for damnation. We can rejoice in the realization that everyone will someday bow before Jesus—either willingly or reluctantly—in a cosmos united under Him.