So What Does Predestination Mean, Anyway? (Ephesians 1:5-6)

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

We have come to one of the most controversial words in the Bible: predestination. This term has divided Christians for centuries. As I researched it further I was frankly surprised to see that it occurs only six times in the New Testament: twice in the first chapter of Ephesians, twice in Romans, once in Acts and once in First Corinthians. That’s it!

To shed light on the matter let’s look at the original Greek. It is a combination of two words which mean “to mark out the boundary or limit” and “before.” So the definition of “to predestinate” is “to predetermine something, to mark out something beforehand, to limit in advance.” In the New Testament it always refers to God doing so from eternity, before the world was created.

The controversy surrounding this word has always swirled around who is predestinated, or it is presented as being the opposite of free will. But Paul’s argument is rather focused on what believers are predestinated to. His point is that before even time began God predetermined what will happen to believers who put their trust in Christ. In Romans 8:29-30 Paul mentions that they are “conformed to the likeness of His Son.” In other words, a believer will become like Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 2:7 he talks about the wisdom of God that is given to a believer.

In these verses Paul has in mind the adoption of Christians into God’s family. Through Jesus they become heirs of God. The notion presented here is that of an adult son or daughter, who can now benefit from all the blessings of being in the family. They enter into a new kind of relationship with God, who becomes their Father. Paul goes on to say that God was very pleased to do this. He wasn’t reluctant at all. No one had to twist His arm. He wanted to adopt us, and it gave Him great pleasure to so.

I have several friends who went to great lengths to adopt children, even traveling to the other side of the globe. I can only imagine their great joy when the time finally came to bring the children home, whose lives were changed forever. The kids went from living in an orphanage to becoming a member of a loving family. This is a picture of what Paul is talking about here. God is overjoyed whenever He adopts a new son or daughter, reconciling to Himself someone who had previously been separated from Him. That person is forever changed, becoming a member of the family of the King.

No wonder verse six encourages us to praise God and His incredible grace!

Picture: Carol Schlorff

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