Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 8/6/06.
"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Rom. 8:29).
Grace really is one of my favorite topics, for without it, I doubt I'd even be alive. Considering that grace is the bedrock of our salvation, according to Paul, the mechanism by which we are saved, it amazes me that Christians are all over the map in their understanding of it. For the purpose of this discussion, I would like to give you my personal opinion and impressions on the subject based on the Spirit's promptings, my experience and scripture. The word "predestined" carries the thought that God has preordained something over which the person has little or no control. Calvin taught that God had predestined people to either heaven or hell, and there was nothing they could do to change His mind. Maybe because that doctrine is a stench in my nostrils, I never studied predestination very seriously because of the bad connotation it carried with it. Yet, the Apostle Paul is very clear about his conviction on the subject. In the verse after the one quoted above, he expands the theme: "And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:30-31). Who indeed can stand in our way once the truth of Paul's affirmation works its way into our hearts at a cellular level? The Apostle goes on to state the reason he has drawn this conclusion: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" He asks, "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? 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" (Rom. 8: 32-34).
That's fine, you say, but what does it mean for my life? Perhaps the confusion about grace is based upon our poor self image and low self esteem, which is a result of having had Law laid on us most of our lives, Law which, I might add, we never can quite satisfy and therefore, always come up short. On the Day of Pentecost, when the infant church was born in the power and fire of the Holy Spirit, Peter declared to the convicted Jews: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him" (Acts 2:38-39). If we weren't called, we wouldn't be believers according to Peter, but since we can scarcely take our divine calling seriously, we fall short of being able to believe that we are also justified and glorified.
When the believer's very being is filtered through that truth, churches as they are operating now, with their major emphasis on sin, will be out of business and will have to find a new job description. No amount of words can explain what happens when God calls us by His grace, but the Holy Spirit, working quietly in the background, makes the truth about our calling real and vibrant, until it becomes the "wind beneath our wings." His grace is the foundation upon which we can rest in the finished work of Christ. As a result of reading Paul's Two Ins, Part II, by John Gavazzoni (See Link at end), in which he spoke of the Christ DNA being worked into us, I have been feasting afresh on the glorious truth of what it means to be "in Christ."
Many Christians do acknowledge that Christ is in them. That concept was emblazoned upon my mind and heart when I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, but it took decades for me to understand what it means to be "in Christ." Since the New Testament mentions the phrase "in Christ," 89 times, it bears careful and prayerful consideration as to what it means for us. For starters, Paul said, "It is because of him (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God, that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (I Cor. 1:30). To the Ephesians, the Apostle of Grace wrote, "For he (God) chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us IN the One he loves" (Eph. 1:4-6). "In Christ" then, is the treasure trove of all God's goodies: eternal life (Rom. 6:23), God's love (Rom. 8:39), grace (I Cor. 1:4; II Tim. 1:9), victory over death (I Cor. 15: 57), a new creation (II Cor. 5:17), God (II Cor. 5:19), freedom (Gal. 2:4; 5:1), riches in glory (Phil. 4:19), faith (I Tim. 1:14; II Tim. 1:13), salvation (II Tim. 2:10), eternal glory (I Pet. 5:10), and peace (I Pet. 5:14). This is a only partial list. Anyone who has walked with Him knows many more benefits of being "in Christ."
"But how do you get there?" someone asks. Like everything else, it is a "God job." For me, it was a gradual awareness over many years. I want to go back to John's analogy of Christ's DNA being the spiritual filter through which we are brought to maturity. Lenny and I are "Trekkies" (Star Trek fans). The night before I received John's article, I had watched an old rerun of an episode in which the doctor on the star ship Enterprise had become infected with a virus which altered her DNA. Right before our eyes (thanks to Hollywood make up artists), she aged. Each time the camera showed her, she was older, more wrinkled, stooped, with gray hair, halting speech and gait.
She was on a space station and near death when she transmitted what was to be her last report. The transporter technician on the Enterprise had the idea of using her original unblemished DNA as a filter through which to beam her aboard (rematerialize her) on the star ship. If you are NOT a Sci Fi fan and think this is wacky (Or maybe that I am), that's OK, but enough of you probably know what I'm talking about to get this illustration. Sure enough, when the transporter rematerialized her on the Enterprise, using her own DNA as a filter, it corrected the anomalies caused by the virus, and after a few seconds of flickering in and out, she appeared as young and vibrant as she had been before she was infected.
What a good picture of how Christ's DNA affects us when we're filtered through Him, but which came first, being "in Christ" or having "Christ in us?" Since Paul speaks of our being chosen "in Christ" BEFORE the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), and also maintains that God's "grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time" (II Tim. 1:9), I conclude that primarily, we were "in Christ" first. The Evangelicals insist that Christ comes into us when we make a decision for Him. Christ said we didn't choose Him, but rather, He chose us, and yet there is truth to their statement, even though pride causes some to take credit for something that is clearly God's doing. Nevertheless, when God called us, Christ came to live in us. After a saving grace experience, men and women are changed by the life giving Spirit placed within them by God.
But what about those who don't know Him, or those who turned their back and said, "I want no part of this Christianity deal?" I'll answer that question with another question. If we were chosen "in Christ" from before the foundation of the world, what did we have to do with it? Nothing at all! Like I've been saying for years now, it was a "God job" from start to finish. I told the Saints at Medicalodge last Sunday that I KNOW they were called of God. How? Because they gather in His name. Remember that the elect were chosen for the benefit of the non-elect. There's no use getting puffed up over the fact that you are part of the elect, and you are, because you had nothing to do with it. God is the one who calls and when He calls, we answer. (Saul of Tarsus is the perfect example of this. On the Road to Damascus, he didn't make a decision for Christ UNTIL God had knocked him off his horse.) There's a short list of the elect in the book of Hebrews, but notice that not only do they not really get any glory, but they don't even get to collect on the promise until we all come into it (Heb. 11:39-40). No pressure, as this is a "God job," not dependent upon you or me.
So what about the rotten pukes of this world, the really bad apples? Were they chosen before the foundation of the world? YES, according to Paul. He refers to these unfortunates as "vessels of dishonor" (Rom. 9:22). I suggest you read the entire chapter for Paul's discussion of the absolute sovereignty of God in the lives of men. He discusses Jacob (whom God called) and Esau (whom He culled) before they were even born! (Rom. 9: 11-13). Paul next considers Pharaoh, whose heart God hardened time and again when Moses was trying to get the Israelites freed from Egypt. About that, he concludes, "Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden" (Vs. 18). Paul knows that this is an offensive teaching, especially to the Jews for whom compliance with the Law was their ticket into the Kingdom of God. And yet, his purpose is to show the precision with which God accomplishes His will. He asks the question, "What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath, prepared for destruction?" (Vs. 22). "Ah Ha," someone says, "I knew that not all would be saved. Here's the proof."
To address this, we go to Isaiah, who made the point emphatically that when God's judgments are on the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (Isa. 26:9). Even a beginning Old Testament student knows that most of God's judgments ended in death, including His punishment of Pharaoh. If those punished went to hell, from which religion says there is no escape, what benefit would there be in learning righteousness? Fat lot of good righteousness would do a person consigned to eternal flames.
Paul quotes Isaiah's conclusion about God's purpose: "And Isaiah boldly says, "I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me" (Isa. 65:1; Rom. 10:20). All those God found were "in Christ," which brings me to the answer of the conclusion that Pharaoh and other miscreants, vessels of dishonor, will be sent to hell. If all are "in Christ," sending them to hell would mean sending Christ to hell as well!
And as a matter of fact, Peter said that after His death, Christ went to the place of the dead and preached to the DISOBEDIENT souls in the time of Noah (This would indicate hell rather than heaven. See I Pet .3:18-20). If Christ preached to them, I feel sure they listened and came into fellowship with God. Paul said about Christ, "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men" (Eph. 4:8-10). I see a glorious throng of saved souls, rescued from the bowels of hell. For if He did not save those in Noah's day, then Christ failed in His mission, which is impossible, since He came to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8). Clearly, death is NOT the end of the story, as most Christians believe.
"Where's your proof that all are in Christ, Jan?" Here are but a few scriptures which hold the answer. The Apostle John said of Jesus that, "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world" (EVERY MAN means EVERYONE, don't you think? John 1:9). "He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him" (Vs. 10). The world was "in Christ," but He had not come INTO them YET. "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but BORN OF GOD" (John 1:11-13). This is confirmation of my conclusion that all are "in Christ," and when a person accepts Him, He comes into their lives. They are "born again" by God's will, not man's. The new birth begins the process of filtering one's old nature through the Christ DNA. The carnal nature is ULTIMATELY filtered out and replaced by the New Creation. Old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new (II Cor. 5:17). How long does this take? Sometimes a life time, I think, and other times, faster than that, depending on God's will and purpose for the individual.
As I was writing this, Lenny came in and said he was impressed to tell me that God is in all. Here's the verse: There is "one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and IN all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it" (Eph. 4:6-7). That grace determines when and how fast the filtering process takes place. This demonstrates yet again that God is in charge, not man. He has always been in charge, but the Law was a detour through "free will." Free will was, I believe, a part of what subjected the creation to futility. When we are consigned to disobedience, as Paul declares we are, we are NOT free (Rom. 11:32). Only God is free to will and to do of His good pleasure, which is, to reclaim, restore, and reconstitute all of His creation and every one who ever lived.
"For as in Adam ALL die, so in Christ ALL will be made alive" (I Cor. 15:21-22). Though God has not yet opened everyone's eyes to see this, it is the SAME A-L-L. This is predestination by grace!
The good news about this is that even though Christians appear to be in disagreement over what they believe about every possible topic, nevertheless, it is God who is responsible for bringing us all together. Usually, time only permits me to read the Bible and the zillion e-mails we get each week. In the past few weeks, however, I have read a few articles by various others, writings with a vast divergence of opinion, all given with the greatest confidence in their veracity. Because God has sovereignly changed my theology in a major way at least three times, I don't take myself or anyone else very seriously at all. I write what I see, subject to amendment by the refiner's fire. It doesn't matter that we all see the same thing at the same time because we came from the same Father and we are all in the process of returning to Him. Or as Paul said, "Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? For FROM Him and THROUGH Him and TO Him are ALL THINGS" (Rom. 11:35-36).
Father, reveal Yourself in us and through us. Amen. Jan Antonsson (Rom. 8:29).
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Too Much Grace?
When Grace Floods In
Grace for our Children
The Glory Road
We're always happy to hear from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 08/02/06
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/09/08.