Chosen

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NOTE: This is Day Five of the devotional guide (Volume 1, Issue 2) of our church, Filinvest Community Christian Fellowship, for the message last Sunday, March 8, on Know How Much You Are Worth Part 1” (“Significance” series, a verse-by-verse study of the book of Ephesians). Erratum: I have posted Day Five before Day Four. My apologies for the confusion.

People insist on freedom of choice. We want to choose without being judged and without being punished for our choices. But, when the Bible talks about God making His choices, we struggle with it. That’s why people wrestle with the teaching that God has chosen people for salvation. 
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:4-6, NIV. Emphasis added.) 
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There are two theological terms we need to learn. First, “election.” It is “defined as God’s choice of an individual or group for a specific purpose or destiny.” [1] Second, “predestination.”
“Predestined,” proorisas in the Greek, means “marked out beforehand.” Because God chose to elect us, He placed a special mark on us—He predestined us with the knowledge that He would one day adopt us. [2]
We have to remember that, if there’s someone who has all the right to choose, it’s God. That’s divine sovereignty. There is one God and He is not us. He alone is the sovereign Lord. Does that mean that we have no choice? Certainly not. God holds us responsible for our choices. That’s human responsibility. 

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Like the two tracks of the railroad, divine sovereignty and human responsibility are parallel to each other but will never meet one another. They are both true though they appear opposites or irreconcilable. But the tension only exists in our limited minds. (Read Isaiah 55:8-9.)
It is not that God’s sovereign election, or predestination, eliminates man’s choice in faith. Divine sovereignty and human response are integral and inseparable parts of salvation—though exactly how they operate together only the infinite mind of God knows. … Since the problem cannot be resolved by our finite minds, the result is always to compromise one truth in favor of the other or to weaken both by trying to take a position somewhere between them. We should let the antimony remain, believing both truths completely and leaving the harmonizing of them to God. [3]
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Our Lord Jesus summarized these two sides beautifully for us (in John 6:37, 40 and 44).
All that the Father gives me will come to me, [Divine sovereignty] and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. [Human responsibility] … For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. [Human responsibility] … No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. [Divine sovereignty]
At the risk of being simplistic, let me summarize it this way: If a person believes in the Lord Jesus for salvation, God has chosen him. If a person rejects Him, he is responsible for his unbelief and will be judged accordingly. We cannot say that God did not choose him. It’s like there’s a door with a sign that invites us to enter with these words: “Whosoever believes in Him.” When a person enters the door, there’s a sign on its back that says, “He chose you before the creation of the world.” This is the reason why we should keep on sharing the Gospel. If they believe in Christ, they will have eternal life. If they reject Him, they will perish. 

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Even if we are confused (for indeed this doctrine is puzzling), we actually believe the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. And that includes even those who claim to reject this teaching. How? When we pray. In his classic “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God,” evangelical theologian J.I. Packer wrote
[The] recognition of God’s sovereignty is the basis of your prayers. In prayer, you ask for things and give thanks for things. Why? Because your recognize that God is the source of all the good that you have had already, and all the good that you hope for in the future. … The prayer of a Christian is not an attempt to force God’s hand, but a humble acknowledgement of helplessness and dependence. … In effect, therefore, what we do every time we pray is to confess our own impotence and God’s sovereignty. [4]
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Significant Step

Though this devotional article is long as compared to the others before it, we just barely scratched the surface. But the doctrine of sovereignty should humble us and make us fall on our knees in worship of our awesome God, just as it did to me years ago when I first encountered it. It should also encourage us to dig deeper into the Word of God. Take time to worship and pray as our “humble acknowledgement of helplessness and dependence” upon our sovereign Lord.  

[1] Bruce B. Barton, Philip Comfort, Kent Keller, Linda K. Taylor, and Dave Veerman, “Ephesians” in Life Application Bible Commentary Series (IL: Tyndale House, 1996), 8.

[2] Charles Swindoll, Becoming A People of Grace: An Exposition of Ephesians Study Guide (TX: Insight for Living, 2000, 2001), 25. Italics his. Emphasis added.

[3] John F. MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians (IL: Moody Bible Institute, 1986. Reprinted in the Philippines by CGM, 1989), 13, 11. An antimony is “an apparent incompatibility between two apparent truths.” 

[4] England: IVP Books, 1961, 2008. iBooks edition. Emphasis added.

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