“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even 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 for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”
I love this passage. It let me know that God’s plan to save us from our sins was not an afterthought, a “Plan B” in case things did not work out when Jesus came to earth (as some believe). No, God had Christians in mind before Genesis chapter one, verse one. He had planned even “before the foundation of the world” to save Christians and adopt us as His children through Jesus. It had been His plan all along to bless those of us who are in Christ “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” The biblical doctrine of predestination is real and shows us God’s wisdom and forethought.
Yet many do not understand what the Bible teaches about predestination. The popular notion is that God individually determined before you and I were born whether we would be saved or condemned, regardless of whether we are faithful Christians. Such an idea goes against what the Bible teaches about God’s love. It is mistaken because it has God showing partiality, something the Bible repeatedly says is not in His nature (Romans 2:11; 10:12; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25). It also goes against the biblical teaching that God wants everyone to be saved (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; Titus 2:11; 2 Peter 3:9).
So what does the Bible actually teach about predestination? The Ephesians passage above clearly shows that God definitely decided before creation that some would be “holy and blameless before Him” and “predestined…for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.” Who are they? Examination of the whole passage shows that Paul is talking about “us in Christ” who have been “blessed…with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (v. 3), “us in Him” who were chosen “before the foundation of the world” (v. 4). He continues to talk about “us” being those who were “predestined…for adoption” (v. 5). Clearly, “us” – more specifically, “us in Christ” or “us in Him” – are the ones who are predestined by God for salvation. In other words, only those who are in Christ are the ones God predetermined to be “holy and blameless before Him.”
Who are those “in Christ”? The Bible teaches that those in Christ are “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). It also teaches that one becomes a new creation by being raised to “walk in newness of life” after being buried by baptism “into Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:3-7). God’s Word also says that one “puts on Christ” when one is “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Yet, the Bible also teaches that one must have faith which they confess before others before baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:35-38; cf. Romans 10:9-10). Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). The Bible also says that one must repent of their sins before being baptized (Acts 2:38). To repent means to change one’s mind about sin and turn away from it in order to live as God would have one to live (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). Thus, in order to be “in Christ” and thus be among those whom God has predestined for salvation we must hear God’s Word and believe in it, confess our faith, repent of our sins, and be baptized into Christ. We must then faithfully observe all that Jesus has commanded us (Mathew 28:20), confessing and repenting of our sins so we can continually receive forgiveness (1 John 1:7-9).
God did not randomly predetermine us for unconditional salvation or condemnation. He has predetermined that those who obey His gospel and are “faithful unto death” will receive “the crown of life” Revelation 2:10). Christ is “the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). He has promised that we must do more than call Him “Lord” to enter heaven; we must also “obey the will of My Father” (Matthew 7:21). Does that describe you and me?