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God not only blessed us by His own will, but He also chose us by His will. Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4-6,
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestinated us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
He chose us before we were even born. The pattern can be seen in the fact that He chose Jacob before he was born and before he had done anything—good or evil—that might have influenced God’s decision (Romans 9:11). In the big picture, God chose us before the birth of creation, long before any man had done anything good or evil.
Paul’s main thesis was to show the sovereignty of God and especially the fact that God’s choices had nothing to do with the will of man or his works. The only reason that men often find this idea objectionable is because they think it is unjust for God to choose a few for salvation and burn the rest in hell.
But God’s choices condemn no one to an eternal future apart from God. God’s choice simply means that in the present age He has chosen to work with the few to bless the many. Salvation comes to a few now—prior to the Great White Throne judgment—and the rest will be saved at a later time through the ministry of the chosen ones.
Everyone recoils at the idea that God might lock up the majority of mankind in unbelief and then torture them for eternity. They cannot bring themselves to believe in such a God—and rightly so. But the solution is not to reject the great truth of the Jubilee, where all debt (sin) is cancelled and all return to their lost inheritance. The solution is to reject the idea that God will lose most of His creation eternally.
John Calvin understood the sovereignty of God in Romans 9 but not the love of God in Romans 5. One must grasp both of these chapters to know the divine plan and purpose for creation. In fact, I believe that is why Paul set forth the justification of all men in Romans 5:17. 18 long before setting forth the sovereignty of God in Romans 9:15-19.
Nonetheless, in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reverses the order. First he sets forth the sovereign will of God in his opening salutation, and then presents the reconciliation of all things in Ephesians 1:10, 22. This reconciliation, of course, is the outworking of His love for all.
Ephesians 1:4, 5 tells us,
4 In love 5 He predestinated us to adoption as sons… according to the kind intention of His will.
Predestination is something that God determined “before the foundation of the world.” It is not the same as foreknowledge. Men have often watered down the definition of predestination to mean mere foreknowledge. They redefine predestination in this way in order to remove responsibility from God for supposedly choosing most people for ultimate destruction. But this is a misunderstanding of God’s “kind intention of His will.”
As with all of God’s acts, predestination is an outworking of His love, not merely of His power. This includes all of His judgments. His judgments are corrective in nature. They are designed to cast down all vain imaginations that misunderstand God’s nature.
His judgments are designed to bring justice to the world. Justice is not done until all the victims of injustice have been paid restitution. Justice is not mere punishment to be inflicted upon the guilty. Justice is about righting the wrongs perpetrated upon victims of sin. An eternal torture pit could inflict punishment, but it can never restore the lawful order by righting the wrongs that have caused untold suffering in the earth.
Therefore, predestination is not to be abhorred but embraced as an expression of God’s love and kindness. Because “He has predestined us to adoption as sons,” He opened our ears to hear the call of the Spirit, so that faith could be born, and so that we could become sons of God, called to minister the word of reconciliation to those who are not yet chosen (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
Ephesians 1:6 speaks of “the praise of the glory of His grace.” When we understand that grace itself is rooted in the sovereignty of God, we can only praise His grace if we know that it is praiseworthy. Grace is something God grants to those He has chosen. So Romans 11:4-6 says,
4 But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
The “remnant of grace” (KJV) consists of those few whom God has chosen by His own will, much as He chose Jacob in Romans 9:11-13. Such grace is hardly praiseworthy if the result is the glorification of only the chosen few. It is praiseworthy because we know that the remnant of grace is given the calling of Abraham to bless all families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). We are chosen as ambassadors to tell the world that God is “not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Ephesians 1:7, 8 says,
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us…
Redemption has to do with debts being paid or debt notes being sold to another. All sin is reckoned as a debt. When Adam sinned, he incurred a debt that he could not pay. So Jesus paid the debt “through His blood.” His blood was the full payment on the debt that the entire world owed through sin. Jesus did not pay for the sin of the entire world only to claim a small portion of mankind for Himself. No, He paid for everything, and therefore He has the right to claim everything that He redeemed. So First John 2:2 says,
2 and He Himself is the propitiation [hilasmos, “expiation”] for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
To propitiate is to appease with an offering. To expiate is to make amends, to pay the price of an offense. Jesus paid the debt of the whole world, thereby purchasing it as His own, according to the laws of redemption (Leviticus 25:23-34; 47-55).
In the law of redemption, a redeemer may be a near kinsman or a friend or stranger looking to buy a slave that has been “sold for his theft” (Exodus 22:3). The difference is that a near kinsman has the right of redemption, while others do not. In other words, a slave owner cannot refuse to sell his slave to his near kinsman.
Jesus was our Redeemer, our near kinsman, for “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11) and “He had to be made like His brethren… to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). Being a near kinsman means that our former slave master, personified as Sin in Romans 6:22, has no right to refuse His offer (Leviticus 25:48). As our brother, Jesus has redemption rights.
Neither sin nor the devil have the right to retain slaves that Jesus purchased. Furthermore, this negotiation (if we can call it that) was done apart from the will of the slave himself. As a slave, he had no legal standing in the matter, for it was done “above his head.” Our great Redeemer purchased all slaves in the world by grace alone—that is, by His sovereign will.
The only other important factor is whether or not Jesus had sufficient wealth to purchase a world full of debtor-slaves. In my view, Jesus overpaid for these slaves, because His blood was priceless, having infinite value, while all sin-debt is finite.
Hence, on the cross Jesus purchased the entire world of sinners, although He has chosen to lay claim to them at different intervals of time. The fact of universal salvation has been settled; the timing of each one’s salvation is another matter.
The Secret of Timing
Paul writes in Ephesians 1:8-10,
8 … In all wisdom and insight, 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to the kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth…
We have the revelation of “the mystery (secret) of His will.” We know the divine plan to reconcile all of creation in the end, when He sums up all things in Christ. When the great Accountant does the final audit of creation in “the fullness of the times,” everything will be reconciled, and all things will be in subjection under His feet (Ephesians 1:22).
In other words, the divine plan is not complete until He is the King of Creation and God is “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). The Father has subjected all things to Christ, the only exception being the Father Himself (1 Corinthians 15:27).
No wonder that Paul was able to marvel at the divine plan and give God glory and praise for “the kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:5). God’s intentions will not be thwarted, because His will is stronger than the will of man. He is sovereign enough to accomplish His good plan to subject all things, thus fulfilling the original Adamic mandate in Genesis 1:28.