“The apostle, having reckoned up so many ingredients of the happiness of true believers, comes here to represent the ground of the all, which he lays in predestination. He here sets before us the order of the causes of our salvation, a golden chain, which cannot be broken.” (Matthew Henry)
Like it or not (and many don't), it is a biblical term – “predestination”. It has to be dealt with. It has to be believed. It’s not a theological, made up word – it is a God inspired, God breathed thing. We can’t just ignore it and hope that it will go away. Praise God that we can’t, for it is in this gem of a term that all my true, certain, and lasting hope is found.
Romans has told us a lot about ourselves – it simply echos the assessment of the entire counsel of God from Genesis to Revelation. We are sinners – not sick sinners, but dead sinners (Eph 2:1). Hear God’s own declaration of us in our natural born state since the fall:
- Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and the EVERY intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5) For the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth. (Gen 8:21)
- There is no one who does good…. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Ps 14)
- Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Ps 51:5)
- There is no one who does good. God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there is anyone who understands, anyone who seeks after God. Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Ps 53)
- The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately wicked; who can understand it? (Jer 17:3)
- All we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way. (Is 53:6)
- For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, evny, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man. (Mark 7:21-23)
- And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)
- The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God’ for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is NOT EVEN ABLE to do so. (Rom 8:7)
- But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he CANNOT understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Cor 2:14)
- The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:4)
- And you were DEAD in your trespasses and sins in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too ALL formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (Eph 2:1-3)
- And when you were DEAD in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.(Col 2:13)
It’s not a pretty picture – but it is the real deal. Like it or not, that is who we are. Not sick – but dead. (And what can a dead man do? Nothing but rot! If I give a dead man a gift he can’t do anything with it. He must be made alive first – Col 2:13 – and then he’ll grab the gift with gusto! Dead men don't open presents!) Not weak eyed – but blind. Not hard of hearing – but completely deaf. Not a little bit slow in the area of mental acumen – but absolutely uninstructable. Not basically good at heart – but totally wicked at heart through and through. We are all under sin; as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.” (Rom 3:9-12).
That dark backdrop causes the glorious light of the gospel to shine even brighter. We’re dead – there is nothing we can do. We’re wicked – there is nothing more just nor anything more fair that we could receive than hell! Let that sink in. Anything this side of hell is pure grace!
Yet, God gives life and grace and mercy. We are dead – we must be born again (John 3). Jesus Christ said,“’Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born again when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’” Nicodemus understood the absolute impossibility of this requirement from our part. Just as we had nothing to do with our physical birth, so we have nothing to do with our spiritual birth – we’re dead, we must be made alive. With all those who overheard Christ’s dialogue with the Rich Young Ruler we must say “Then who can be saved?” Our Lord answered them, “The things impossible with men are possible with God!” (Luke 18:26-27).
These things make some folks mad. For me, they make grace more amazing and mercy beyond marvelous. This is my only hope and it is your only hope as well. You see, I recognize that these things are true about me. I remember life before Christ – and no doubt Lori was dead. I wasn’t looking for God – I despised even the thought of Him. I didn’t want to be saved – I wanted my sin in all it’s fullness. And the Bible declares that that is the real truth about every single one of us - including you, my friend. When, by grace, we come to see sin for what it is and ourselves as those who are absolutely dead in it and enslaved by it – then “predestination” isn’t a harsh, cruel, arbitrary, mean thing – it is our only hope and it is a beautiful and marvelous thing. “For while we were still helpless at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom 5:6). We were helpless – the omnipotent, merciful, sovereign God has intervened.
Again, hear God’s own testimony of these things:
- But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the LORD. (1 Cor 1:30-31)
- Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purpose in Him…also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will. (Eph 1:4-11)
- But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, MADE us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). (Eph 2:4-5)
- For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that [faith] is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (Eph 2:8-9)
- No one knows the Son, except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. (Mat 11:27)
- Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (Mt 16:17)
- But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
- A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven. (John 3:27)
- For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. (John 5:21)
- No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)
- No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father. (John 6:65)
- You did not choose Me, but I chose you. (John 15:16)
- For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself. (Ac 2:39)
- And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Ac 13:48)
- And the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Ac 16:14)
- Know brethren, beloved by God, His choice of you. (1 Thes 1:4)
- Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. (1 Thes 5:24)
- Because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. ( 2 Thes 2:13)
- Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Pe 1:3)
- But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Pe 2:9)
And that brings us back to Romans 8 and this golden chain that has been placed, not only around my neck, but around my soul! “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He called, and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom he justified, these He also glorified.”
God is God – even over our salvation. There is not one single thing that this once dead sinner can boast in. Not one single thing but the mercy of God – and in that reality I am humbled, overwhelmed, moved, enabled, emboldened, and ever worshipping this God who has done it all!! The only thing I brought to my salvation was my sin, and praise Christ He took it away from me!
Dead – made alive! “Oh the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the LORD, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom 11:33-36)
Amazed at His mercy to me,