A while back I started to get the feeling that the whole debate over predestination and election between the Calvinists and the Arminians may have actually steered us away from the original message that the applicable texts were trying to convey. I wrote over here about how I was beginning to see Jesus as the ultimate chosen one. Not that Jesus needed to be saved in the sense that the rest of mankind does but more in the sense of Jesus being called to a specific task or tasks. Ultimately, those who God ‘foreknew’ were not individuals that He chose to save beforehand or even those that He could see by looking ahead in time but rather; they were the corporate bride of Christ which He had predestined before the foundations of the world. Anyone found in Christ therefore automatically becomes grafted into her.
Secondly; whenever predestination pops up in scripture it appears to be focused not on those who are in or out regarding eternal life but rather on Gods plan of the glorification of Christ and those who are being conformed into His image. Then thirdly something new that I have discovered since then is that God’s ‘foreknowledge” does not mean ‘to know beforehand’ but rather it means to ‘love beforehand’. Think of it in terms of parents that are expecting the birth of a baby that is on the way. Their love builds and builds in anticipation and by the time the baby is born they are already completely smitten with the child and would do anything to protect him or her. Their love is real even before the baby in their arms had a name.
So what does election and predestination have to do with suffering? Well I am glad that I asked (otherwise this post would be going nowhere)! I would like to suggest that election, as Jeremy Meyers also puts it, is to service rather than eternal life. It is important here to recognize that Jesus is the chief elect one. As Isaiah 42:1 puts it; “Behold! My servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom my soul delights!”
So what was Jesus elected to? Among other things, He came to give his life as a ransom for many, to bring salvation and to destroy the works of Satan, sin and death. He also came as our guilt offering. This is but a few of the things Jesus was called to during His earthly ministry. While God clearly chooses vessels for many purposes. Primarily; in Christ and the Church our election is to service, suffering and even sometimes death.
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. – 1 Peter 2:21
If we are to take Romans 8:29-30 seriously then we need to recognize that the wonderful plan God has for your life will include some uncomfortable stretching from time to time. “All who desire to live godly in Jesus Christ will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). God’s plan from eternity past in moving us toward the goal of glorification means that the Christian walk is often one of enduring. Enduring is not a nice word, it makes me think of painfully walking through something because the goal at the end is deemed to be worthwhile. In Matthew 24:13 Jesus says that “he who endures till the end shall be saved”. The Christian walk is blessed, joyful and liberating but it is also one to be endured.
It is highly probable that God’s calling on you does not include your own private jet or the biggest house and best car available. For Peter, being called meant death by crucifixion (John 21:18-19). For James and John, it meant drinking from the same cup of suffering as Christ (Matthew 20:20-23). For Paul, being a chosen vessel meant suffering for His names sake (Acts 9:15-16). Are you starting to see the picture? Yet our suffering is not in vain. God does not abandon us in the trials and tests that we face but is faithful to carry us through them.
“…we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we also may be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”. – Romans 8:16-18
…and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance character; and character, hope. – Romans 5:2-5
This post is part of the MennoNerds Synchroblog series taking place during Lent on the subject of suffering. To read more articles in this series go to http://mennonerds.com/tag/mennonerds-lent-2015/. To find out more about MennoNerds in general, go to http://mennonerds.com/about.