“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”
Romans 8:29-30 NIVUK
“For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.”
Romans 8:29-30 NLT

Our verses today from Romans 8 can cause some angst amongst Christians and those close to them. Is it really true that God knew who His people would be one day, long before they were born? If that is the case, then why do we bother to share the Good News about Jesus with our family and friends, our workmates and casual contacts in the street? After all, from these verses it appears that God already has His hand on those He has chosen. To support this view we read what Paul wrote to the Ephesian church – Ephesians 1:4-5, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure”. Part of God’s plan for Planet Earth seemed to be the creation of a people who would be His own, a divine choice spanning the centuries between Adam and the Last Days. So for those of us who are Christians, do we relax a bit, perhaps sin a bit, and assume that we must have been chosen by God, so we will be ok in the end? And what about all those who apparently haven’t been selected by God and who are heading for a lost eternity? Is all that compatible with a God of Love?

So many questions! But, as we know, these verses in Romans must be balanced with other verses in the Bible. Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy these verses in 1 Timothy 2:3-6, “This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time”. Jesus instructed His disciples (including us) to, “ … go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). And of course we have John 3:16-17, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him”. So we have a dichotomy that can be puzzling, but one day we will know all about it because we can ask God.

The fact is that God will never reject anyone who turns to Him. Yes, on the one hand, He predestines people, choosing them to follow Him, but they can of course reject Him if they so wish. We may have been selected for a job after an interview, but we can still choose to reject the offer. On the other hand, God’s love and grace extends to everyone, and He will never reject a repentant sinner. Consider the penitent thief being crucified with Jesus. We don’t know if he was one of God’s chosen ones, but His repentance just before he died assured his place in Heaven. Chosen, or not chosen, by God will, in the end, not make any difference to our final home. 

So, what do we pilgrims make of what has become to be known as the doctrine of predestination? That fact that we are Christians following Jesus, loving and worshiping God, reaching out to those around us with God’s love expressed through the Gospel, is not dependant on our status in accordance with God’s plans, made so many years ago. What matters is that we are doing His will. We can leave the difficult questions for God to answer one day.

Father God. We don’t know if we are on Your “chosen” list but we do know that You love us and, through Your Son Jesus, have brought salvation to us. Our gratitude knows no bounds. Amen.

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