Pre-Appointed for Service
Ephesians Lesson #017
February 10, 2019
“Father, we thank You for Your word. We thank You for Jesus Christ, the Living Word, Who was able to embody full eternal deity into humanity that we might catch a glimpse of Your character, Who You are and Your love for us.
“Father, we thank You for Your written Word that was revealed over 1,500 years down through the ages through the prophets and the apostles to give us Your eternal truth, that which was resident in Your thinking throughout all eternity—the mind of Christ, as Paul puts it.
“That as David says in the Psalms, it is Your Word that we are to hide in our heart that we might not sin against Thee. It is Your Word that is more glorious than anything and more valuable than gold, he says in Psalm 19, so we value it; we treasure it.
“We are reminded that when our Lord prayed in His prayer to You in John 17, ‘Sanctify them in truth; Thy Word is truth,’ that we are sanctified—that is, our spiritual growth, our being set apart to serve You—is accomplished through Your Word, not through anything else.
“It is through God the Holy Spirit using Your Word in our life that we are transformed, so there is no higher form of worship for us than to study Your Word, to understand it, and to see its implications and application for our lives and for our thinking.
“Father, we pray that as we open the Scriptures for what is for many a very difficult, challenging teaching of Your Word, we pray that You might help us to think objectively about it, and that for those for whom these are new thoughts, that they might relax and recognize it’s just the beginning of a process.
“For those who have thought about it deeply, that they might come to a clearer understanding of these truths, and we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles to Romans 8:28. We are studying Ephesians, but we’re going to be looking at Romans 8:28–30 this morning, as well as Ephesians 1:3–5 and with reference to another critical passage, 1 Peter 1:2.
I’m putting these three passages together because the keywords that are mentioned in each one are difficult words. They’re words that are often misunderstood, and I believe, words that are mistranslated. Unfortunately this happened very early in the history of Christianity, which set a tone and set an understanding of these passages that is somewhat skewed, so we have to go back and understand these things.
I have entitled this lesson “Pre-Appointed for Service” because that is what this word means. This word predestination—that has been translated as predestination—means to be pre-appointed.
The context that we find it in, at least the two that are important for this study in Ephesians 1 and Romans 8, tells us that it’s not a pre-determination of who will be saved and who will not be saved, but it is a pre-appointment for those in the body of Christ: that we are to grow spiritually and to serve Him.
It is a sanctification concept—that is our spiritual growth after salvation. It is not a justification salvation issue; it is post-salvation, as we shall see.
Let me just remind you a little bit about the context of what we’re studying in Ephesians 1.
Ephesians 1:3–6 is the beginning of a very lengthy sentence by the Apostle Paul, that goes down to verse 14, that it is a prayer of thanksgiving. It is given by Paul, and it focuses on first the Father, then the Son, and then God the Holy Spirit.
As a matter of basic Bible study, when we are looking, especially at any Epistle, one of the things that we should remember is that at the beginning of an Epistle like any good literature, we are going to get a clue as to what that Epistle is going to be about. There will be an introduction that will orient us to the content of the Epistle.
In Ephesians that introduction comes in the form of this opening statement of blessing that Paul states from Ephesians 1:3–14. It, therefore, sets a focus for us, and that focus is not going to be on individual salvation.
It’s not answering the question of how do we get to Heaven when we die. It’s not oriented to that. It is oriented more to, now that we are saved, what should we do? Its focus is on our spiritual growth and our service to God. It is about being part of this new entity that came into existence on the day of Pentecost in AD 33 called the church.
It’s referred to as the body of Christ and the focal point throughout Ephesians is on the church, the body of Christ. It is this corporate entity, and who we are and what our identity is in the first part of Ephesians, chapters 1 through 3. That is the focal point.
Then in the second section from Ephesians 3:1 down to about Ephesians 6:9, the focus is on the believer’s walk. The believer’s walk is based on an understanding of what we have as a body of believers “in Christ.”
Paul uses the term “our riches in Christ,” so we have a focus on the wealth that we have because of this corporate entity called the church. Those who are “in Christ” all have this wealth. And because of this wealth, it is to inform and direct our walk—that is our daily life. But that daily life involves a warfare also, and that’s the focus we come to in Ephesians 6:10 and following: the spiritual warfare that often envelops the believer’s life.
We’re in this first section describing the wealth that we have, and it begins with an incredible focus on our appointment: the appointment that God has for us as believers “in Christ” because of our position “in Him.”
It is often translated with words that—and we will see a little bit more of that this morning as we study—words that are hard to understand, words that have often been distorted in ways that have a lot to do with determinism and fatalism rather than Christianity.
We’ve seen that historically there’s been these conflicts. Whether it’s within the Roman Catholic Church—initially Augustine versus Pelagius. Later on there were the debates between Banez, Molina, and Suarez. And in Christianity the development of the Calvinist and Arminian controversies.
What I am proposing here—it’s not unique to me—but an understanding that there is some truth in some of the systems biblically, but often a theological construct was developed initially by Augustine in the 400s, early fifth century and that this set a direction in the church that had more to do with fatalism than not.
Ephesians 1:3, Paul begins by saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
Over 20 times in this epistle is a reference to being “in Him”, in the beloved, and “in Christ” It’s a corporate term: those who are “in Him.” We are in Him immediately when we believe in Christ. When we trust in Him we are identified with His death, burial, and resurrection, and we are “in Him.” Because of our position “in Christ”, we have these incredible blessings.
Ephesians 1:4, “… just as—so there’s a comparison here—just as He chose us—we spent last time talking about this. I’ll review that in just a minute—He chose us—that is, He selected us on the basis of a quality He saw in us. The quality is the perfect righteousness we received when we trusted in Christ. “… just as He chose us in Him —notice, it is ‘us in Him.’ ”
It does not say just as He chose us to BE “in Him,” but “… He chose us in Him —that is a corporate reference, not an individual reference. It’s not talking about an individual selection to an eternal destiny in Heaven. It is talking about God’s plan and purpose for us as believers “in Christ.”
“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world—this is His plan from eternity past—that we should be holy and without blame …”
This is related to spiritual growth. It is not related to getting saved and determining our eternal destiny. Once we’re saved, our purpose is to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as Peter puts it, we’re to “be holy as He is holy”. That does not precede justification; that comes after justification—“before Him in love.”
Here we have a participle of means. It’s not translated clearly. It should be that that selection is by means of this word “predestination” that just scares people. It’s not an accurate translation.
Ephesians 1:4–5 should be translated “just as He appointed us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
I want to talk a little bit about an illustration, because I know that this is difficult for folks. Many of you may have never really thought much about these concepts. You’ve heard a little bit about Calvinism and Arminianism. Maybe you are exposed at this point or another point to concepts related to predestination or election, and you’ve heard a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
Some people, if you haven’t heard anything, then over the past three or four lessons, you may have started off getting a little bit confused, and then as time went by, maybe there was a little clarity. I got some positive comments after last week from several different people that some things were coming into focus and you are beginning to understand what was going on.
Many times you’ve heard me say this, that folks this is a one room schoolhouse. Some of you are in spiritual diapers. Some of you are in spiritual high school. Some of you have thought about this, and you have come to a fairly solid understanding. Others of you are just in a fog and that’s okay; you’re young.
If you are a parent, you’ve had the experience of figuring out how you can really teach and develop your children, how you can inculcate into them a variety of skills, whether they are physical skills, teaching them how to throw and catch a ball, how to kick a ball, how to do physical things to doing mental things.
Developing their intellectual prowess, teaching them how to think, how to reason, how to work through problem-solving, how to engage in situations. You may say, “How am I going to solve this particular situation?”
One of the many tools that are available to us is a jigsaw puzzle, and you may initially start off as something fairly simple. I probably had some jigsaw puzzles before this, but one of the earliest ones I remember was one that had 50 pieces. Guess what they were? The 50 states in the union, so it was pretty easy to put that that together.
Now that fit a certain pattern, which was the shape of the United States of America, but most jigsaw puzzles come in the shape of either an oval, a circle, or most often they’re in the shape of a square or a rectangle. One of the things you learned pretty early on is when you start to attack this pile of details called pieces of the puzzle, that the first thing you have to do is have a strategy.
That strategy is to find the corner pieces and to find and isolate all the pieces that have a straight edge. And once you do that, you figure out which ones match in color, and then you figure out which ones can fit together, and you begin to lay out your borders. Once you create your borders, then you’re able to start filling out the picture. So it’s a learning process.
I want you think about what would happen. Let’s say you are in a home and you have four or five children and you’re a parent, and you are teaching them. You have different age groups there, and you bring home a puzzle that has a thousand pieces. You dump it out on the dining table or on a card table of some sort to be solved by the kids.
You’ve got a couple of older kids, 14, 15, 16, and they can sit down: they’re not too intimidated, it’s a bit of a challenge for them, and they start working at it. But those younger kids that are 5, 6, 7, or so, they’re a little bit intimidated, but they’re learning from the older ones. They also realize that they may look at it and say, “I don’t really want to do that,” and that’s fine because they’re just not there yet.
That’s the way some Christians are with some doctrines. They are just not there yet. To shift the metaphor little bit, when you’ve got a nice steak and your teeth haven’t come in yet, then that’s not for you. You need to stick with the baby food. But there are also folks in the congregation for whom they need a good solid meal. As a pastor, I’m feeding both.
I was awake at 1:30 this morning. I was lying there and got to thinking about what we have in talking about this. I pointed out that there are four concepts. There are three words that are used in Ephesians 1 that are important, and one word that is in the background that is not used here, but it is used in the other two passages that help us to understand this whole concept that we refer to as “election and predestination.”
The four words begin with the one on the left—foreknowledge. Then the word “choose,” the word “predestined,” and then “His will.” The word “foreknowledge” is not found in this passage, but it is found in Romans 8:28–30 and in 1 Peter 2, which are important passages because they give us a certain order of events, and that is that foreknowledge precedes choosing.
However, we’re going to assign a meaning to these concepts, “foreknowledge” comes first, and then then “choosing,” and then we have the word “predestination,” and the word “His will.”
Romans 8:28–30, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
We might stop there and say, “Who are these ‘who love God, who are the called according to His purpose?’ ” And that’s the focal point of Romans 8:29–30. “For whom He foreknew …”
Paul is going to give us a series of words here that’s like these different words in a jigsaw puzzle. I talked about throwing a thousand pieces out there on the table, and you feel a little intimidated, a little overwhelmed. Well, that’s how a lot of Christians feel as soon as you throw out words like “election,” “predestination,” “the sovereignty of God,” “free will of man,” they immediately feel a little overwhelmed by all of the detail.
I can understand this. I’ve come to this with about 40 plus, almost 50 years of study on this particular issue. I remember first becoming aware of it, probably when around the time I graduated from college, I had a vague understanding probably of what had been taught at the church where I grew up.
I remember going and hearing a pastor who has been a friend and colleague for 50 years, but at the time I showed up he was teaching Romans 8:29–30. I sat in the back, in the balcony. I heard Him explaining the passage, and I thought, “I don’t agree with this,” and I quietly slipped out the back door after about 15 minutes.
I really misunderstood what he said, because what he was teaching was basically what I’m teaching; but because of the lack of really understanding a lot of different things biblically and theologically, I misconstrued what it was that he was saying.
I’ve often teased him about being that Hyper-Calvinist that I thought he was. He is and has been one of the most prominent free-grace pastors in Houston throughout the years.
You can feel a little overwhelmed by some of these things. At that time also, I bought a book that I still have on my shelf. Very few people know it today, but it was foundational in my understanding, and then I read Lewis Sperry Chafer.
I had always heard from the pastor under whom I grew up, that Lewis Sperry Chafer was like the benchmark of theological accuracy, and so when I read his volume on soteriology, on salvation, I realized that his view on election and predestination was not the view that I had grown up under; and that in fact, he was pretty Calvinistic.
That surprises a lot of folks around here sometimes. He was what I would call a traditional modified four-point Calvinist. He had a free-grace gospel. He didn’t believe in a Lordship perseverance idea, but he definitely was what some have called the 3½-point Calvinist.
At that point I became pretty convinced, because this is Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary and the author of this eight-volume work on theology, that he must be right. He quoted a lot of other theologians to back himself up, and so I shifted to that position.
Later, while I was in seminary, I heard pretty much the same thing. Afterwards, as I got into the issues that were bubbling to the surface at that time in the early 80s over Lordship salvation and free-grace gospel, trying to work my way through those issues, the Lord brought a number of different pastors into my life to help me think through things; people that were pretty clear on this particular topic (not all were).
I began to read and study, and that pretty much characterized the last 30 or 40 years. One of the things that I realize, as we go through this, is the importance of context in everything. How often we find that theologians start with a theology, and then they read it into a text. We always have to start from the bottom up and understand what the text says.
Romans 8:29, “… for whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn of many brethren.”
What’s the purpose of “predestined” there? We will just use that word because that’s the common translation. We will revise that a little later on. But what’s the goal?
It doesn’t say, “For whom He foreknew He also predestined to eternal life.”
It doesn’t say, “For whom He foreknew He also predestined to eternal condemnation.”
It doesn’t say, “For whom He foreknew He also predestined to Heaven.”
It says, “… to be conformed to the image of His Son.”
Now that—just trust me for now, we won’t go into all the details—that is a spiritual life issue. That’s not a justification issue. When we grow and mature in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, God is in the process of transforming us into His character. That’s what it means “into the image of Christ.”
We are to be like Him in character. God the Holy Spirit is producing in us the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control against which there is no law. That’s the character of Christ. This is spiritual life, not getting spiritual life. This is what you do after your salvation.
These terms relate to producing something in us: the image of Christ. These words define the boundary, the frame of that jigsaw puzzle, but the image that’s in that jigsaw puzzle is the character of Christ. That’s what we are being conformed to. This is the same thing that Paul’s talking about in Ephesians 1 because we are “in Him.” He is talking about all the blessings that we have “in Him.”
First of all, we began by looking at the word “foreknowledge,” the word that’s not used in Ephesians 1, but it is used in Romans 8:29 and is used in 1 Peter 1:2. In both places it comes first before anything else.
It doesn’t mean that God has determined what He knows. That is the typical Calvinist definition. It means, and I demonstrated this, that it means what God knew beforehand. It means what God knew ahead of time. That is how the word is normally used in non-theologically distinct passages.
God in His omniscience has always known all the knowable, has always known everything that could happen, everything that should happen, everything that might’ve happened, and everything that will happen. He has always known this.
He never increases in His knowledge, He never decreases in His knowledge. This has been His knowledge for all of eternity. And none of us can understand that. His knowledge is not our knowledge. According to these passages, that knowledge ahead of time is what is at the foundation of these other steps.
Calvinism says, “No, no, no, no, no, because if He takes into account anything that He knows ahead of time, then the ultimate cause of your salvation is not grace, it’s you. It’s some decision you made, some work you did, and so you have taken this away from the glory of God.” They ignore two clear passages that foreknowledge comes first.
We looked at the idea of choosing—what does that mean? We looked at the verb, we looked at the noun, and the noun is translated elect or chosen, but as I pointed out in the verb, it has this idea of selecting the best qualified for a mission.
As you examine a number of passages, it should be translated with this idea that (this is brought out by several lexicographers) one thing that no matter what’s going on in the passage, there’s always something in the object of the choice that qualifies them for the mission. That’s not works.
Then Matthew 20; we will come back to that in just a minute.
So the idea is of selecting something that is choice. What I always refer to as the Doctrine of the Magnum Bar, is that when I was in Israel some years ago and working through my understanding of modern Hebrew, I saw on my favorite Magnum bar that it had these words describing the flavor: sheqadim mobecharim.
The word bechar is a word for select. Bechar is the word that is often translated “elect,” but it means “choice,” and it’s translated this a number of different ways.
Just to show how God works to take things I’m studying on one night to fit with something else: we’ve been studying covenants on Tuesday night in the Davidic Covenant.
One of the classic articles to understand covenants was written by a Hebrew scholar, Moshe Weinfeld, in a journal back in 1970, and I’ve been going back and rereading things that I forgot. They shaped my thinking, and I forgot the specifics a long time ago, so I’ve been reviewing these things.
In the middle of this article discussing the various types of ancient Near Eastern covenants, he talks about the fact that one of the covenants is related to adoption. This helps us understand God is adopting Israel as His firstborn in the Old Testament. Israel was choice. Israel was a corporate selection—that it is through Israel that God was going to bless the world.
As he is talking about this, he also brings into the idea of adoption that among all of the children, the Father could choose which one would be the primary heir, or what we call the firstborn.
In that statement he says, “Indeed, the phrase bacor atnaho…—that word bacor, is the same word that I just talked about that means ‘select,’ ‘the choice one.’—he says—“Indeed, this phrase means ‘I will appoint him or make him firstborn …’ ”
Didn’t I tell you just last week that the essence of this word for selection, for choosing, is to appoint? That’s exactly what he says here in reference to the Hebrew word bechar, which is the foundation for our understanding of what is meant by Paul in the New Testament when He uses that particular word group.
That just confirmed that we’re on the right track here in the way we’re understanding this particular concept.
In Gordon Olson’s book, Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism, he says, “The key idea here of both the Hebrew terms and the Septuagint is in God selecting or setting apart qualified people to fulfill some commission or office.”
Now they didn’t get the qualification by works. They got the qualification, as we saw, by believing God, and it’s accounted to him as righteousness. They received the righteousness of God, and that qualifies them for God’s use to serve God.
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states, “In all of these cases (after evaluating all of them) serviceability rather than simple arbitrariness is at the heart of the choosing.”
Then when Sarah died, Abraham goes to the Hittites, the sons of Heth, who are living in Hebron. He wants to buy a piece of land, and they’re going to give him the “choicest of our burial places.”
See that’s the same word. It’s the choicest. It’s the most excellent. It’s not the idea of select one and ignore the others. It’s “you get the choicest, the best of what we have.” It meets the qualification.
We went through Matthew 22:1–14 last time, which is when Jesus tells this parable about inviting initially one group to come to the wedding feast of his son. This pictures God’s invitation to the Jewish people. They rejected that. They said they would not come. They would not respond to it. Then He opens the invitation to all.
Nowhere in that whole parable does anybody choose anything other than the recipients of the invitation. Some choose to come; some choose not to come. But at the end it’s translated usually “For many are called but few are chosen.”
I re-translated it for the slide because it doesn’t say “many are chosen” because nobody is chosen by the Father to come to the banquet. What we see is “few are choice.”
What makes them choice is that they have on the right wedding garments, which pictures the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, as I pointed out from Isaiah 61:10 that “…He has clothed me with the garments of salvation”.
That gives us review. Now we get to this whole concept of what is predestination?
Predestination is based on this word group. The first two key words that are usually translated “predestination,” PROORIZO. PROORIZO is usually translated “to decide something beforehand or to appoint something beforehand.” This is how the instant detailed summary in the Accordance program briefly summarizes it.
“To decide before hand,” not to decide somebody’s destiny beforehand. That’s not the core meaning of the word. It just means to decide something ahead of time. That’s the PRO, the P-R-O.
PROORIZO in the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology means to decide upon beforehand, then they also include predestine, but it’s this idea to decide something ahead of time. The word is based on the root HORIZO, which means to determine or appoint something.
That’s the key idea. If it’s PROORIZO, if you’re appointing it ahead of time, then it’s a pre-appointment. And it has the idea of separation because the word was often used in reference to establishing real estate boundaries.
This is not the idea that you get in most dictionary definitions, so I put four up here for you:
Predestination in the Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary means: The divine determination of human beings to eternal salvation or eternal damnation.
In the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, predestination means: The divine decree according to which certain persons are infallibly guided to eternal salvation. It is from the Latin “praedestinare.” It’s in the Vulgate.
It was Jerome who translated it that way in the fifth century, and that sets the stage. Nobody prior to Jerome took it that way. No one took it as predestination. He’s influenced by Augustine and this is how he translated it.
Another dictionary says it’s: The divine and unalterable determination of the salvation or damnation of human beings even before they are created. This is in Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary.
Then I found it interesting that in the Lexan Dictionary, that’s the Logos publication, it says: God’s foreordination of persons to a particular end—see they didn’t say what the end was. They’re getting a lot closer—most commonly to a particular eternal destiny and less commonly to a particular vocation or a particular task.
That’s what we’re looking at here. It is God appointing Church Age believers to a particular task—that is to be conformed to the image of Christ. To live a holy and blameless life is the way Paul puts it in Ephesians 1.
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology says: that the compound PROHORIZO is only used from the 4th century BC onwards.
There are only like five or six instances the word is used before the New Testament period. It’s an extremely rare word, which means that you have to be very cautious how you’re going to define it and what your methods are.
Demosthenes lived in the 4th century BC, and this is what he says; it’s a court case, and he is talking about this inheritance of property that he’s about to be defrauded of, and He is taking this guy called Onetor to court.
He says it’s “to prove the statements of mine are true, that he even now declares that the land is mortgaged for a talent—that was a monetary amount)—but that he laid claim…”—that’s PROHORIZO. Did that have anything to do with determining somebody’s eternal destiny? —“He laid claim to 2000 drachmae more on the house.”
Now in the Liddell Scott Dictionary of Classical Greek, which I quote at the bottom, it says: he had the house marked with stones. That’s the literal meaning, but you would mark off property boundaries, you would create that limitation with boundary stones. So that’s what he’s doing—he’s laying claim to a piece of property.
Now it’s true that God lays claim to us, and in fact, there is one classic scholar who, on the basis of that, translated Romans 8:29, “Long ere this He knew our hearts—see that’s foreknowledge, beforehand—long ere this He knew our hearts, long ere this He claimed us (as a man claims property).”
That’s a lot closer to the idea of the original. It’s not an idea of determining our eternal destiny, whether we’re going to be saved or damned. It’s the idea of God placing a claim on us. He’s appointing us to a particular task.
It has this idea of being appointed to something, to determining not in the sense of philosophical determinism. But just as you would determine the boundaries of a piece of property or determine the borders of a jigsaw puzzle, there is a determination of what the end result should be: is an appointment to that mission and that task. It has the original sense of setting bounds and in that sense determining something.
It’s translated in Acts 17:26. This is a great passage. It has great political application today in terms of nationalism and a lot of discussion on that.
Paul said, “And God has made from one blood every nation—that means we’re all equal. That stands against every form of racism—God has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth, and has determined—that’s a similar word—that is, He “has established their pre-appointed”— PROHORIZO—“their pre-appointed times—He determines when nations rise and fall—and the boundaries of their dwellings.”
God sets the boundaries of the nations. Nations are to have borders. God established those borders, and that’s what defines and keeps one nation from being confused with another nation.
Acts 10:42, “And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained—that’s the word. It is not predestined, although a couple of translations stick with that, but most do not. It was ordained, which means that something is simply appointed to a task—that it is He who was appointed by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.” That’s Jesus Christ who is appointed. He is not predestined, He is appointed to a task.
Acts 17:31, the NET translation even says “fixed”—“because He has appointed—that is He fixed—a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained—that’s PROORIZO, He appointed. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” It has to do with appointing somebody to a particular task.
Ephesians 1:5; I am using these other translations because they are less bound by just following a traditional rut:
In the New Living Translation, Ephesians 1:5 says, “His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into His own family.” It recognizes that this idea of PROORIZO is His unchanging plan for us. It’s a corporate idea.
This is a Dutch translation (NBV), Ephesians 1:11, “In Him we too were made His heritage, as foreordained according to His purpose.”
Foreordained is not predestined, although some people think it is. The word “ordained” simply means to set somebody apart for a task. When you are entering into ministry, the word that is used is “ordination.” Ordination means you’re setting someone apart to a task. It is not predestination.
I was not predestined when I stood up in front of Tomball Bible Church and was ordained to the gospel ministry. I was set apart for the gospel ministry. That’s what it means, so “ordained” is a good word, but again it’s a word that isn’t the most user-friendly in our culture today.
Romans 8:29, “For whom God knew beforehand—we will paraphrase it that way. It’s a good translation—for whom God knew beforehand, He also set apart or appointed beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son.”
It’s not “predestined them to Heaven” or “predestined them to the Lake of Fire.”
Then it would be translated that way in Romans 8:30, “for whom He appointed beforehand, them He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified.”
This is His overall plan.
The Basic Bible in English translation puts it this way, Romans 8:29 “Because those of whom He had knowledge before they came into existence, were marked out by Him to be made like His Son.”
That’s a really good basic translation. It’s not this idea of fatalistic determinism that some are determined to be saved by God in eternity past, and others are chosen for damnation. They’re marked out; they’re appointed for that.
I would paraphrase it this way,
Romans 8:28–29, “We know that He brings together for good all things for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. For God knew His own before creation, and also ordained that they should be spiritually shaped in the character of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among a large family of brothers—that relates to what we’re going to get to next week in terms of adoption—and it is these, so appointed beforehand, whom He has called.”
Gordon Olson translates it—I’ll just go to the underlined portion—“just as before the foundation of the world He appointed us through our union with Him to be holy and blameless in His sight in love, by designating (laying claim to) us to become His own adopted sons through Jesus the Messiah …”
I paraphrased it. I think it’s a little clearer that we would translate Ephesians 1:3 that “before Him in love: by appointing us beforehand to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself …”
When it says, “according to the good pleasure of His will”—we will talk about that next time; this is His plan. It doesn’t mean He’s arbitrarily picking who will be saved and who will not be saved.
What’s the importance of all of this? The importance of this is just tremendous. It elevates our whole conception of who we are. It should radically transform your identity. When you look in the mirror, what you should see is a person who is “in Christ,” who has been given a mission because you’re on that team, and that mission is to be conformed to His image, so that you can fulfill the appointment criteria, which is to serve God.
To do that, first you have to grow to spiritual maturity. First you have to grow by the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is our mission as believers. It’s not just to enjoy the fact that we are confident that we will spend eternity in Heaven because we trusted in Christ as Savior.
But because once we trusted Christ as Savior, we were instantly put into the body of Christ, and we who are in the body of Christ, on that team, have been given a mission. We have been appointed for a purpose, and that is to be conformed to the image of Christ; that is to grow to spiritual maturity.
Spiritual life really begins when you and I get to maturity. Just as when you were 8, 10, 14 years old, you kept saying, “I can’t wait till I’m an adult!” Why? Because you knew that the real full enjoyment of life came in adulthood, not in being in diapers. But most Christians are satisfied to be in diapers and never reach spiritual adulthood, so that they can actually enjoy the blessings that God gave them.
Because that involves a lot of thinking, it involves a lot of studying, and it involves a lot of spiritual growth. But once you get there, that’s when we really maximize all that God has given us in terms of all the spiritual blessings that are ours.
It’s because God established a plan in eternity past for the Church Age, that those who are “in Christ” would be given a glorious set of assets and privileges and responsibilities. But to activate that we would have to grow to spiritual maturity, we would have to be conformed to His Son.
Part of that is in spiritual growth, in learning to live a life that no longer is characterized by the world and the licentiousness of the world, but is characterized by living a life that is holy. That means set apart to God. It doesn’t mean being morally perfect. It means being set apart to God and blameless.
That doesn’t mean being morally perfect either, because as long as we have a sin nature, we will struggle with it. We have to confess sin, and we have to keep moving forward and learning His Word. That’s the challenge for us. That’s what all of this is all about. It’s a glorious vision.
We will come back and continue to talk about this next time, because once we understand this concept of adoption, it ties it into inheritance and our future rewards. And it’s just an explosive concept that radically revises our understanding of who we are as Church Age believers.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity today to come together to reflect upon the Person in the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, in our communion service to be reminded that He was qualified to go to the Cross, He died on our behalf, and that by believing in Him, that’s it. It just involves belief, trusting in Him, believing He died for our sins we have eternal life, but that with that life comes such a position in Jesus that we can’t even fully comprehend.
“We are in Him, we have riches “in Christ,” we are blessed with every spiritual blessing, and with that comes a goal to grow into the image and likeness of Christ by growing in His grace and knowledge.
“Father, we pray that if there are those who are listening, who have never trusted Christ, if they’re unsure of their salvation, that they wouldn’t be confused by these things that we’ve taught, but they might clearly understand that for them the issue is entering into Christ. The issue is receiving eternal life. The issue is moving from death to life, and that comes only by trusting in Jesus. Scripture says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
“Father, we pray that You would help us each as we work through and rethink what we have learned today, that You would strengthen us and encourage us by this, and that we might be challenged to press on to spiritual maturity that You might be glorified.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”