The Focus of the Fathers AffectionThe Fathers love is specific
Single-mindedness is one sign of affection. During my courtship, no one doubted that I was in pursuit of a blond named Janet Jolly. In my dorm room in college, my closet door looked like some cultic shrine adorned with photos of my love. Once struck by Cupids arrow, smitten by the love bug, no other woman caught my eye. I recall giving Janet a fright earlier in our relationship when, at a church hayride, someone asked me what my plans were. Thinking I would saying something vague like finish college and go to seminary, I outlined a year by year itinerary which first included Janet becoming my wife. She was the focus of my attention, of my affection. When a man professes his love for a woman, we all expect that love to be specific. A man whose love is not specific, but encompasses all women, is a philanderer. Likewise we should not be surprised that Gods love is specific.
In Ephesians 1:5 Paul describes Gods specific love, the Fathers focused affection.
The editors of our Bibles have long debated where to put the punctuation in the verses. As you know, when Paul wrote they did not have punctuation, not even spaces between the words nor verse numbers to guide us. But once the verses were assigned, editors kept them where they were. The last phrase of verse 4 is "in love," for some scholars thought that best modifies Gods election at the beginning of the verse or describes what our holiness and blamelessness should look like. But the editors of the NIV understood this not to look back but forward. So we should start verse 5 with "In love He predestined us " This continues to establish the tone for the passage. Gods love is the reason for Gods blessings.
While the verse begins with a warm fuzzy love, for some it quickly dissolves into a contentious and controversial word: "predestined." For those of you who carry a picture of John Calvin in your wallet, know what the acrostic TULIP means or say Jacob Arminius with a sneer, this word is like the sweet dew of the morning. For the rest, if the only Calvin you know had a stuffed tiger named Hobbes, tulips are grown in your yard and when someone calls you an Arminian you correct them by saying you're Polish-Irish, "predestined" may be equated with laziness in prayer or evangelism, self-righteous Christians who value their theology more than their Lord. The word may conjure images of a puppet on a string or a robot. But few read this word and picture love.
While last week we briefly examined the word in verse 4, "chose," and discussed the meaning of election, this morning we will look at its sibling: "predestination." For some this is but a distinction without a difference. But that is not so. Paul is not simply repeating himself by using a slight variation; he is really saying something new, something different.
Being chosen clarifies Gods action in making us His own. It precedes Gods gracious gift of salvation. But to be predestined carries with it a much warm, more loving idea.
The word predestinate comes from the Greek word, pro-oridzo, which means to limit in advance, to determine before, to ordain, to set a circle around something ahead of time. From "oridzo" we get the word "horizon," the circumference around us where earth meets the sky. It was used of making vows, detailing what they promise to accomplish and of setting boundary markers to identify where one persons property ends and anothers begins.
Rather than thinking this an inconsequential topic designed by ivory tower theologians, let us see this language for what it is: Gods love language to us. It is a term of affection.
Paul combines two synonymous terms in verse 5 when he says: "in love he predestined us." God set the circle of His affection upon us in eternity past. Gods love is specific, directed, particular and definite. You know a man is love struck when he ceases playing the field and settles down on that special gal. There comes a point in their courtship when all others fade from the screen and he sees nothing but her. Like the young man who has eyes only for his beloved, Gods attention is focused specifically on His people. Rather than this term bearing the odious stench of fatalism, of harsh inevitability, of a God who holds the strings and makes us dance when He wants to be entertained, we have here one of the kindest pictures of God whose love for you and me stretches back into eternity past.
The Fathers love is active
Scripture teaches that Gods love is specific. It is God who makes the choice of whom He will love. Yet some people wonder on what basis He makes that choice. Last week when discussing election I briefly explained why, when we talk of election and predestination, we may not set aside this truth of Gods love by explaining it away on the basis of Gods foreknowledge. We need to clarify that more.
Some will say that Gods choice, His predetermination is based on foreknowledge, that He looks down the corridors of time to determine who will respond in faith to the Gospel message: God sees who will respond to Him so that He can respond to them. Aside from the obvious problems of making humans more powerful than God and setting aside what texts such as these say, this misunderstands what the word "foreknowledge" means. Turn to Romans 8:28-30.
First we must not confuse foreknowledge with foresight
The word used of foreknowledge is "prognosis." It means not just to see into the future, but to know the future. If God looked ahead what would He see? He would see first the stain of Adams sin in each of us as well as our own rebellion. At no time are we seeking Him.
What about looking and seeing faith? Acts 13:48 tells us the biblical order: Gods appointment followed by faith. Gods choice, Gods mercy is not based on us. Romans 9:16 tells us that it "does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy."
But doesnt John 1:12 say that to "all who receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God?" But go on to the next verse: "children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."
Second, foreknowledge is an act, not an attribute
Omniscience is an attribute. God by His nature is omniscient meaning that He is all knowing; He certainly knows the future. But foreknowledge is used as an act. The terms listed in Romans 8:29 are actions, not attributes, God did something.
So what does the word mean?
Romans 8 is about people, not the acting of people. "God works for the good of those who love him (people) for those God foreknew he also predestined " This verse says nothing about God knowing something about particular individuals, i.e., what they would do; but, rather it speaks of God knowing the individuals themselves.
God in His omniscience knows all people, but this verse speaks of His knowing as something special which is comforting and an aspect of our salvation.
Foreknowledge, like predestined, is a term of affection, of love.
Notice how God uses the word "know" in Scripture. Amos 3:2 says: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." It is obvious that God "knew all about every single nation," but He "knew," or loved, Israel in a special way.
In Matthew 7:23 where Christ judges on the Last Day miracles workers, who never did His will, of them he will say: "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" Jesus is not saying that He knew nothing of them. He certainly knows they did evil. What is meant is that Jesus did not love them redemptively.
When we say God foreknows us, His knowledge of us is His love. When God says He knows someone, He loves them. Rather than trying to use foreknowledge to explain away predestination, the term enhances it all the more. Gods love is so great that He specifically sought you out for a reason. He set His boundary around you before you were even born and claimed you as His own.
The Family of the Fathers AffectionThe Fathers affection makes us part of His family
Another characteristic of affection that follows courtship is marriage. Seventeen years ago Janet took on my name; she became a Vogel. Now that may not impress most of you, but that simple action symbolizes the important truth of Scripture that in marriage two individuals become one.
Last week we saw how Gods choice was not a cold deterministic event, but the goal of election is that we be holy and blameless. Rather than an excuse for our complacency, the mark of Gods affection in election produces in us a changed life. In much the same way, predestination is likewise a mark of Gods affection as seen in our adoption whereby we become a part of Gods family
We may think we understand the concept of adoption. In our culture people adopt infants or young children. They are brought into the home and treated no differently than the child who became part of the family through birth. But in the Greek and Roman world adoption was not of a child, but often of a young man. When adopted he obtained the full rights of an adult child. What is more, the adopted child relinquished all rights in his old family while he gained a new and better status. He had a new father, became an heir to the fathers estate.
Adoption denotes status, our legal standing before God. The immediate goal of Gods loving predestination is for us to be taken into His family, made His heir, given the rights and privileges of His child, taking His name as our own. The emphasis here is of our new rank.
We are made a part of Gods family by both new birth and adoption. Each term emphasizes a different aspect. New birth speaks of our new nature, but it says nothing about status in the family. A newborn child may be made an heir or not; a baby has no special privileges. Adoption goes a step further. Here the emphasis is on a special relationship whereby the new member of the family has the full status as an adult heir.
This truth touches us where we hurt the most. It is relational; it fills the void of family and warmth that so many people are missing. It is moving from being an orphan to being adopted as a child. Adoption fills a fundamental need of being wanted, accepted and loved. Justification does not answer this problem. Justification answers "How can I be made right with God?" Adoption answers the question: "How can I be loved by God?"
Our adoption means we no longer have to fear.
In Romans 8:15 Paul explains that in light of our justification we have confidence which dispels fear. As adopted heirs we have the seal of that adoption: the Holy Spirit resides within so that we no longer wonder how we will survive, how we will make it. We have the full rights of Gods family. We have an immensely personal relationship with God. We can call Him Father.
After my mothers death, my father remarried to a woman with two young children. Shortly after the marriage, my father wanted to be sure they were treated not as stepchildren, but as full heirs, as Vogels. After a formal legal declaration was made in the judges chambers, my little sister who had just turned five said, "Well, Drew, I guess I had better start calling you Dad." There was a certainty, an intimacy, now available.
If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being Gods child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. (Packer, Knowing God 182)
The Fathers affection is motivated by His pleasure
The final phrase in verse 5 gives the immediate reason that God selected us to be His heirs. There is nothing in us but sin; nevertheless, Gods own pleasure and choice decided for us while each of us, apart from Christ, decided only to rebel. God finds pleasure in making us His children.
When the Father chose a people for Himself, deciding to adopt them as His own children, He was motivated by love alone. Hence, what He did was not of sheer determinism but of supreme delight. A person may be fully determined to submit to a very serious operation or he may be just as fully determined to enjoy an elegant meal. Both are matters of the will. However, the latter alone is a matter of delight, that is, of his wills good pleasure. That is the reason God has gone to such lengths to create you and redeem you. In that you can certainly rest.
The Final Goal of the Fathers AffectionA third characteristic of affection is communication. The loving words used to express affection may be nauseating to those who listen, who are outside the circle of affection, but they declare the strong bonds which exist. I have here a box of letters Janet and I sent to each other while courting. The language in these letters focuses on praising each others qualities, extolling the virtues we found attractive in the other person. Where there is love, there will be an expression of that love in the form of praise. Whenever we encounter this teaching, our immediate response should always be: "Why? God, why would you choose me?" Verse six gives us the clearest and most complete answer: all this is for the praise of Gods glorious grace. All creation exists for one purpose: to praise a God who gives grace. If we reject Gods sovereign work in our salvation we can never fully grasp who God is and what He has done. We will spend our lives imagining that we somehow are better than others, more deserving of being a child of God. At that moment, our praise will focus on ourselves. J.I. Packer makes a penetrating observation regarding the effect of the teaching of cooperative salvation when he says: "It is perhaps, no wonder that our preaching begets so little reverence and humility, and that our professed converts are so self-confident and so deficient in self-knowledge and in the good works which Scripture regards as fruit of true repentance." (Packer, A Quest for Godliness, p. 138)
Instead, all in creation and redemption is motivated by our praise of Gods grace. While this may appear very conceited, conceit is only thinking more highly of oneself than one ought. But an infinite and perfect God can never think too highly, can never imagine anything greater than Himself. Only God can require that He be praised While all is designed to praise God, the content of our praise is the grace of which we are recipients. To emphasize the centrality of grace, Paul repeats himself in verse 6: "to the praise of his glorious grace with which he engraced us." This word translated "freely given" is found in Luke 1:28 when the angel greets Mary by calling her "highly favored." But this word is best translated as one endued with favor undeserved. Why are we the recipients of such favor? Because the Father loves the Son so unspeakably that His love overflows upon all who are found in Him, castled in the security of the everlasting covenant ratified at once with Him and with all whose names are written in the Lambs book of life. The Fathers love of you and me is channeled through His love for His Son. Understanding that suddenly makes Gods love all the more certain. We know it can not be withdrawn. For the Father to pull back from us is to deny His Son whom He has loved for all eternity. What is the effect of Gods grace in your life? When you consider how God has poured out His affection on you? Are you like those young lovers who cant but help but speak of the object of their affection? Are you like that old married couple whose flame of passion still burns and who speak of each other fondly? Does Gods grace fill you with a sense of wonder and praise and amazement? Do you realize that you have been called to the praise of the glory of His grace? As the chief element in sin is not giving God the glory that is due to His Name, so the chief thing about salvation should be that it brings us to a realization of the glory of God. We gain a glimpse of the affection with which the Father has marked us when we wrestle with the love He poured out on us when He predestined us to be adopted as His sons and daughters. When we begin to see the extent to which the Father went to secure our salvation, we can do nothing but give Him praise. If the great truths of Gods marvelous love are nothing more than academic postulations of predestination or if you are repulsed by Gods intrusion into the lives of His children and run from his sovereignty, I want to challenge you to get a glimpse at His powerful love, at how His sovereignty most clearly is seen in the elements you have before you this morning. In the bread and wine we can taste and see the Lords goodness. He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all will He not also graciously give us all things?