Wed June 21st, 2017
Our question today is whether you and I were born directly by divine decision.
God told Adam to reproduce and fill the earth - so by having babies like you and me, Adam and Eve were doing God's will - surely that is a 'yes'? After all isn't everyone created in God's image?
Jeremiah has something to say on this matter regarding himself:
Jeremiah 1:4 The word of the Lord came to me:
5 I chose you before I formed you in the womb;
I set you apart before you were born.
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
So it was definitely the understanding of the prophet Jeremiah that God made some decisions about him before he was born.
David also has something to offer our considerations
Psalm 139:13 For it was you who created my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
So King David also saw God’s involvement in his life before he was born
If a particular prophet or the greatest King of Israel, were born by the will of God, is it true for us too?
A traditional view from an Augustinian viewpoint or from Reformed Theology is that God predetermines everything; this of course means that everyone is born at the direct will of God. But is this a valid interpretation of scripture?
The Greek word translated as predestination is only used 7 times in the New Testament
27 “For, in fact, in this city both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, 28 to do whatever your hand and your will had predestined to take place
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to these words: This Jesus of Nazareth was a man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him, just as you yourselves know. 23 Though he was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him
These first two uses of the word predestination are about Jesus, and all of scripture backs up the idea that God had a plan of salvation that he carried out in Jesus.
The other five occasions that ‘pre-destined’ is used are about the future of the church.
Firstly, 1 Cor 2:7-9
6 We do, however, speak a wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age, or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 On the contrary, we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery, a wisdom God predestined before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age knew this wisdom, because if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written,
What no eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no human heart has conceived—
God has prepared these things for those who love him
Here scripture reveals that it is our destiny to reveal our glory, to manifest God’s wisdom in the earth. All of this is because God has prepared ‘these things’ for those who love him.
Romans puts it this way:
Romans 8:18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of him who subjected it—in the hope 21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children
In other words, it is our glory that will be revealed to set creation free from bondage!
The next use of the word is in
4 For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him.,5 He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ 10 as a plan for the right time—to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him.
11 In him we have also received an inheritance, because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will,
This is about being predestined to receive adoption. There is a sense in which we are adopted now, but this scripture is talking about the Parousia – the end of time, when our adoption will be complete – for example:
23 Not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
It is not that we were predestined to be Christians but that we are predestined to a glorious future destiny
28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.
Clement of Alexandria, an early church father, linked predestination with adoption, and said that if we get a clear enough vision of what our predestined adoption will look like then we will not fall into pleasures or fears or be occupied with ‘repression of the passions’. Certainly, the early church fathers (before Augustine) did not see predestination meaning anything about becoming a Christian, but rather about entering our ultimate adoption at the end of time.
The Will of Man
It is clear that we are all ‘born again’ into God’s will – when we are born again the Father’s breath enters our ‘lungs’ as it did Adam’s. We receive the spirit of adoption, but look forward to our predestined ‘full adoption’.
John 3:8The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
John also reminds us that when we are born again we are born of the will of God, rather than man.
John 1:12-13 But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.
You could assume therefore that it is possible to be born of the will of mankind or perhaps of their passion, other than the will of God.
So, it is my conclusion that we are not all born into this world as babies by the specific will of God, except for those who have a particular destiny, like the prophet Jeremiah, or King David, but all of us can experience a new creation by His will, when we are born again by God. I do not believe the misreading of some verses about predestination, like those in Romans, but I do believe that God will be involved relationally with any of us who call out to Him.
(Thanks to Roger Forster and God's Strategy in Human History Volume 1, for much of this argument)