How Can the Bible Relate to Us Today?

A Study in Ephesians – Part 2

The Great Mystery of the Ages

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When one begins to get into a study of the messages in Ephesians, one runs smack-dab (US English for “right in the middle of”) the question of predestination.  I tried to avoid it, but the first chapter just slaps one in the face with words such as “predestined,” “chose,” “chosen,” so a student of the book of Ephesians has to address it in some manner.  This will be “Predestination – Extremely Light.” 

Whether you believe the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is literally true or represents spiritual truths, the story in Genesis does depict the beginning of the concept of sin in the world.  It was a time in which humanity first disobeyed the commands of God and understood the difference between good and evil.  God stated the consequences for their disobedience to Adam, Eve and to the Serpent for his part in the debacle.  Of note, though, is verse 15 of Genesis 3. 

So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, . . . I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  [Genesis 3:14a & 15.  NIV]

The third chapter of Genesis depicts separation from God by humankind as a result of their actions. Verse 15, though, appears to foreshadow God’s plan to restore humankind back to a relationship with himself.  That is the plan of mystery Paul refers to.  To Paul, God’s plan of restoration is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, the Christ. However, prior to Jesus’ arrival and ministry on this earth, there were only hints throughout Jewish history, prophecies and writings that this was the plan to be fulfilled in Jesus.  In short, God destined from the beginning of sin – in fact, from before the creation of the world before there was sin – through his plan to bring human beings back into a one-to-one relationship with himself, and he was going to do that through Jesus Christ.

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–- to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”  [Ephesians 1: 9-10. NIV]

Now for the choosing – and this is very simply put to the point of over-simplification:

Some say that God has chosen those who will be believers ahead of time.  By inference, then, God also chose those who will not be believers.  In that sense, God predestined those who believe and leaves others to their own fate.

Others say that God prepared a plan that those who choose to believe in him will be accepted by him, but their belief – or unbelief – is their choice and of their own free will. God predestined the plan.

One can argue both viewpoints – and theologians and philosophers certain have over the centuries – but I personally (my opinion only) lean more toward the free-will of people who choose to accept God’s plan through Jesus Christ that he instituted since before the beginning of creation.  For me, 2 Peter 3: 8-9 gives more than a hint of our free will of choosing to accept God’s plan:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  [NIV]

There will be a final judgment on the earth when God restores all of creation back into a right relationship with himself.  It hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come, as noted in verses 3-4 of 2 Peter 3.  Time is nothing to God.  He is outside time.  However, just because he hasn’t judged the earth to this point doesn’t mean he won’t.  Instead, he is patient with us as he wants everyone to come to repentance.  That is to say, God wants each person to decide to change from their lives of rejecting him and living like there is no God (or being non-committal about it) to a life committed to God (“repentance”).

In summary, the Apostle Paul speaks of the great mystery in this chapter.  This mystery is the plan God has for humanity to bring each person back into relationship with himself.  Through the centuries, people could only get a glimpse of this plan through holy writings and prophecies.  But then God sent his son Jesus the Christ into this world as the fulfillment of this plan by bringing the message of redemption – that is, to bring about an opportunity for persons to believe and follow God in faith.

{If you are interested, the debate between the two factions regarding predestination and free will can be obtained by looking up the teachings of John Calvin (Calvinism) and Josephus Arminian (Arminianism).  Know that many believers often believe in a combination of these two schools of thought as I do with elements of Calvinism and Arminianism.  I URGE you, though, to not get all tied up in it.  Instead, know that God loves you and wants you to be his believing child of faith.}

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