Monday, 11 January 2016

Predestined to Glory

Sometimes it helps to read a whole book in one sitting, in order to gain the sense.

Remember Paul wrote to the Romans before he ever made a visit there; the congregation there had both Gentiles and Jews - and Paul's big concern everywhere he went was that the Gospel be understood properly: especially that the Gospel wouldn't become so diluted with Judaism that it loses its effectiveness.

Seeing he'd been delayed so many times from getting to Rome, he now decides to write to them instead ahead of a visit. His objective is the same: to state the Gospel, and to defend it against misunderstandings and objections - especially against objections with regard to all things Jewish.

With that background then, consider:

Chapter 1
Paul begins by introducing his theme - the Gospel
He proves all Gentiles are sinners despite not having the Law

Chapter 2
He proves all Jews also were sinners despite having the Law

Chapter 3
He then proposes that salvation is instead by grace through faith, for all

Chapter 4
He proves this proposition by going back to the Old Testament and to Abraham for support

Chapter 5
He describes the extent of our salvation

Chapter 6-8
Now he answers an objection that 'salvation through faith' implies anyone can keep on sinning - instead the Gospel actually empowers us to live righteously

He therefore concludes that no-one not even Judaisers and no circumstance not even persecution can accuse or eternally disappoint a believer, since believers were participating in a plan that was truly of God's making - the Gospel - salvation through faith in Jesus.

That's when he finally mentioned our being predestined - to glory. It meant that the Roman congregation, who were participating in God's plan of 'salvation through faith' without relying on the Law, could be assured that they would not end-up being disappointed, embarrassed or condemned as if their faith was misguided, despite not keeping the Law. Their faith would assuredly result in glory - eternal salvation (when Jesus comes).

God of course foreknew who would believe; these He called (in fact, many are called); but those who responded He also chose...and predestined, to glory - on the basis of their faith. Meanwhile unbelievers are destined for wrath.

So God has predestined believers to eternal glory - but not without faith. And whosoever will may come!

The point for the congregation at Rome was: keep your confidence in the Gospel; keep believing in Jesus; don't be swayed by the Judaisers - our faith will pay off in the end!

Chapter 9
Paul now answers some other particular objections.
Did the Gospel mean God's promise (to save Israel) had failed? No, because the Prophets foresaw a believing remnant.

Did it mean God was finished with Jews entirely? No, a Jewish person could always be grafted back in again if he believed. Paul himself was an example of that happening.

Did God give Israel a raw deal? No, it was of His mercy that He offered salvation on the basis of faith rather than through the Law or Jewish ethnicity. It is always God's sovereign prerogative to unconditionally establish, preserve and use nations for his own time and purpose (in this case, Israel). He had used Israel as the custodians of His promises, but it had always been God's plan that salvation, once the promise came, would be solely on the basis of faith. No injustice there, only mercy!

Paul summarises the 'mystery' (the previously hidden plan, now brought to light through the Gospel) like this: Israel was partially missing out, meanwhile many Gentiles were getting saved - and this is how it will be until the end. That was the manner in which God's promised salvation was seeing its outworking. Nothing had failed. There was no injustice. Only mercy.

Chapter 12 and following
Paul then says the only valid response to all this was to devote their lives in sevice to the Lord.
He then dealt with other practical church issues, like:
Functioning in various spiritual gifts
How to behave when there are varying consciences on various issues amongst believers, etc.
And adds final greetings.

Paul did eventually make it to Rome, but under house arrest. He was able to carry on a home-meeting there for a few years at least though.

So that's how I see Paul's treatment of a term like predestination. He wasn't introducing the idea that some can't be saved, as if that was also part of the Gospel. No, he was actually encouraging his readers that if they stick to the Gospel-truth that all who want to can believe and be saved, they won't be disappointed no matter what.

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