By Kenneth Yates, Grace Evangelical Society
Recently, the topic of predestination has been coming up. Both Shawn and Bob have written books that deal with the topic. In my different travels for GES the subject has been coming up as well fairly regularly. It was brought to my attention that many think that Eph 1:4 proves that God has chosen people for heaven or hell. In that verse, Paul says, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”
I have always felt uncomfortable with the doctrine of predestination. Those who teach it say that the majority of men and women are destined to hell, and they are not even able to believe the gospel. The doctrine takes away all free will from people, and this goes against what the New Testament teaches. The New Testament clearly tells us that we are responsible for our actions and whether we believe the gospel or not.
Fortunately, Eph 1:4 does not teach what those who hold to predestination teach. Instead, Paul is talking about the church. When he says that God chose “us” that “we”might be holy, he is talking about a group of people. The book of Ephesians has a heavy emphasis on the Church. God has chosen both Jews and Gentiles to make up the Church. He chose them to be the Temple of the Spirit and the Body of Christ.
God wants the members of the Church to walk “in love” (Eph 1:4). He wants the Church to live holy and blamelessly in this life so that when it appears before the Lord (“before Him”) that will be His verdict on the Church as well.
When we compare Eph 1:4 with Col 1:22 we see the same words in English and Greek (holy, without blame, and before Him). But Col 1:23 says that such living by members of the Church is not automatic. Christians must decide to walk in obedience to the Lord.
One day, believers will appear before Christ at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Both Ephesians and Colossians speak of this day (Eph 1:18; Col 1:28). Believers who have lived holy and blameless lives will be richly rewarded.
It is a great source of comfort to know that God did not decide our eternal destiny before we were born. It is exciting that when God reveals the gospel to an unbeliever, he or she can believe it. For those of us who have believed, it is also exciting to know that He has placed us in the Church, a Body that was part of His eternal plan. He has given us everything we need to live holy lives that will result in eternal rewards. Every believer should be glad that God has chosen us!