daily biblical sermons


THOSE WHOM HE FOREKNEW HE ALSO PREDESTINED
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Monday, 12th Week of the Year, June 26, 2017
Genesis 12:1-9, Psalm 32, Matthew 7:1-5


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves'" (Genesis 12:1-3).


God's call of Abraham marked the beginning of a new phase of God's relationship with the world. Adam and Eve had fallen out of God's favor and lost their intimacy with him, eternal life, and physical immortality because of their sin. Their descendents inherited this loss, for Adam and Eve could not bequeath to their descendents what they themselves had lost and no longer possessed.


With Abraham, God begins a new chapter in his relationship with human beings. With Abraham he begins his plan to save mankind that had fallen in the sin of Adam and Eve. He would save them through a chosen people who would be Abraham's descendents. These were God's elect or chosen people. He chose them in order to be able to form them by revealing his law to them through Moses and then teaching them further by raising up among them prophets whom he inspired with his word.


He was preparing his people for the incarnation of his Son as a man who would teach them many more things and would then be crucified at their instigation by the Romans as a sin offering, vicariously dying to atone for Adam and Eve's sin and for all the sins of the world, both past, present, and future. His death would make full and just reparation before God for all human sin. This atonement would then be applied to all who repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ.


Henceforth all who believe in God's incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, will be saved and justified, with all their sins forgiven. This means that God will count the merits of Christ's death on the cross as fully paying for their sins so that God might justly forgive them and acquit them of all guilt and declare them to be righteous, with the very righteousness of God himself shining in them.


It is God's desire that everyone should be saved and inherit eternal life. The way to become saved is to believe in Christ and in the good news (the gospel) about how he saved us. No one can be saved apart from him. Only he wins us salvation.


"There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him" (John 3:36). "God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life" (1 John 5:11-12).


God chose his chosen people, his elect nation, the people of Israel. But how does he choose and call individuals within his people, and especially now, since Christ has come, how does he call us? It is quite clear from the Scriptures that God wants everyone to hear about Christ, to believe in him, and to be saved. That is why he sent his apostles to the ends of the earth to preach the gospel to the whole creation (Mark 16:15), to make disciples of all peoples and nations and to baptize those who believe (Matthew 28:19).


That God desires all to be saved we see clearly taught in the Scriptures: "God our Savior ... desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:3-4). "The grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men" (Titus 2:11). "The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? (Ezekiel 18:23).


But we all know that not everyone who hears the gospel believes in it and becomes a follower of Christ. Many reject the gospel. Why is that? Is it because they were not chosen by God to be saved? Is it because God withholds from them the grace they need to respond positively to the gospel? Is it because God has not chosen them and so they can't respond positively to the gospel? Is it because they are not among the elect that God has chosen before the creation of the world to be saved, and so God does not extend his hand to help them believe in the gospel? Or is it because they themselves in their own freedom have freely chosen to reject God's salvation?


What kind of a God would create people so that no matter what they do they cannot be saved, because they are predestined by God for hell? Such a God is not the loving God of the New Testament.


The God of the New Testament wants everyone to be saved through faith in Christ. The merits of Christ's death atone for the sins of everyone, and this will be applied to everyone who puts his faith in Christ. The only reason why everyone is not saved is because God gave us a free will and some people freely choose to reject Christ and the good news of salvation that God makes available to us through faith in him.


Their damnation is not because God predestined them for hell and so left them without the help of his grace so that they would die in their sins. God gives sufficient help and grace to everyone to accept Christ with faith. Those who are lost are lost because they freely decided to reject Christ.


But how about this unusual text? "For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hopes set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe" (1 Timothy 4:10). I think we should understand St. Paul as saying here that God in a general sense is the Savior of everyone, because he shines his sun on everyone and sends his rain on everyone, but of those who believe in Christ, he is indeed their Savior, because these are forgiven, justified, and given eternal life.


And how should we understand this text? "When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of God; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). I think we should understand this text as saying that those Gentiles who had been predestined by God for eternal life believed the gospel that St. Paul was preaching to them.


But the key question is how did God predestine them? Here Romans 8:29-30 will help us: "Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Romans 8:29-30). In other words, those whom God foreknew would freely choose to believe the gospel he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. And these are the ones that God called and justified.


So our conclusion is that God wants everyone to be saved. He does not predestine anyone to damnation against his own free will. The only ones predestined to damnation are those that God foreknew would freely choose to reject Christ. And the only ones that God predestined for salvation are those that he foreknew would freely choose to believe in Christ.

 

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