Article 17: Predestination and Election, Sunday 16th February 2020 9:45 and 11:30am
By porthkerryandrhoose, Feb 22 2020 02:46PM
I used to have a favourite wooden spoon. It was the one I always went to whether I was baking a cake or making a sauce or sauteeing vegetables. It did everything you would want a wooden spoon to do. But just before Christmas, I wanted to put up some outside lights, so I tried the exterior plug sockets. The covers were on so tightly that I couldn't get them off. So I asked Darren to help. He decided, in his wisdom, to get my favourite wooden spoon to try and lever the covers off. You can guess what happened next: my beautiful wooden spoon snapped right in half! (Don't worry - he bought me a posh new one from John Lewis!). The problem was, the spoon wasn't made to lever off tight plastic covers. You have to use the right tool for the right purpose.
It's the same with today's Article on Predestination and Election. It is a doctrinal tool with a particular purpose. Its purpose is to encourage the Christian believer. The article describes it as "full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons". It's not a system to be applied, nor is it a weapon to beat the faithless over the head with, nor is it an excuse to opt out of the things God wants us to do. It is there to encourage the believer. If you're a believer here today, this article and this Bible passage is written for you. If you're not yet, then listen in. You're not here by accident. God is calling to you too.
Now, there are references to God's plans for his people all through the scriptures. But the one we're going to focus on today is Romans 8:28-34. You might like to turn it up in your Bibles as it's quite detailed: p1135. We're going to look at it in 2 sections. v28-30 tell us what God has done and v 31-34 tell us about the joyful consequences.
v28-30 What God has done. I hope you're awake this morning as this is a whistlestop tour! We start with a very famous verse, v28 "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him." God is working for our good. He's working for your good. He's working for your good right now. How does that change the way you see things? Even if your life is pretty tough at the moment? Even in that thing, God is working for your good. You might not be able to see it. You might not be able to understand yet. But he is working for your good. And don't try to say "Ah yes, he's at work in those bits of my life, but he can't be at work in these." Paul says "We know that in ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love him." There are no exceptions.
Next words of encouragement: "For those God foreknew". They tell us that God has always known us. That's what's expressed so beautifully in Psalm 139. [We didn't read as far as this, but] v15 & 16 "My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book." He knows us inside and out. We can't go anywhere where he isn't. We can't run and hide. He's there, loving us wherever we go. And it's more than that. He's always known us. He knew us when we were nothing but a ball of cells and he'll know us for eternity. You are not an accident. You are not just one tiny person among billions. God knows you. God has always known you. And he loves you.
He loves you so much that he has a plan for you. It's not a programme of personal fulfilment. It's not a career path or guide to the perfect partner. This is his plan: "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." His plan is to shape us to be like Jesus. That is our destiny and our future with God. And in one sense the focus isn't even on us, but on Jesus. He's the firstborn over all creation. But to be firstborn means there needs to be others. God's future for all his people is to make us like Jesus. He does it by calling us "And those he predestined, he also called." He has called us by name, and like sheep who know their shepherd's voice, we have responded by grace. "Those he called he also justified". Our sins are forgiven. We have been declared not guilty. God in his holiness will hold our guilt against us no longer, because Jesus has dealt with it. Then "Those he justified, he also glorified". Made like Jesus, we are fit for heaven, fit to be in the place of glory with God. Not because we are good, but because he is. Not because of our effort, but because of his. Friends, this is our future.
And of course, it has an impact now. v31-34 tell us of the joyful consequences. As you look down at the text, you will see a string of questions. They are ones we might ask ourselves, and come up with depressing answers for. "Who can be against us?" Lots of people, we might say. People who don't like us, people who oppose Christianity, people who try and make our life difficult. You'll have your own list. But God is for us. He is for us! He gave his Son for us. Is there any greater love? Is there anyone more on our side? No. v33 "Who will bring any charge against those who God has chosen?" We might say 'my conscience is accusing me', or we might feel the weight of the devil himself accusing us, pointing out the many ways we've failed God. The good things we haven't done, the persistent sin we find ourselves in, the weak sort of love we can offer him. But God says 'no. you are justified'. All of those sins, past, present and future have been thrown out of court, as far as the east is from the west. They are gone. They can't be used against us any more. v34 "Who is the one who condemns?" Our hearts might try and condemn us, but Jesus has taken all our condemnation on himself at the cross and continues to pray for us day and night. "Christ Jesus who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." Isn't this wonderful news? Doesn't it fill your heart with joy and wonder to know that God has done all this for you? That is why predestination is " full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons". And we mustn't go further than the text does. We are not meant to turn it round onto the unbeliever or to expand it. That brings harm. The Article says:
" for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfal, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation."
Its purpose is to bring comfort to the believer, and if we've truly understood it we will be left with a sense of awe and humility "Why would God choose me? Who am I?" This is exactly the way the great King David responded to God's promises to him back in 2 Samuel 7 which we were looking at in homegroup on Thursday " ‘Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?" Who am i? That's the response to this doctrine. Who am I? I am foreknown, I am predestined, I am called, I am justified, I will be glorified. I am definitely loved.
So, a very long article and a complex piece of doctrine this morning. But remember to use it for the right purpose - to bring encouragement. Don't expand it where it's not meant to go, don't apply it in a way it's not meant to be applied. Rest in the glorious truth that you are loved because God loves you, and he will hold you fast.