New Testament scholar Eduard Norden has referred to today's Epistle reading as the "most monstrous sentence
conglomeration that [has] ever [been] found in the Greek language" (Hoehner 153): Monstrous, not in its content, but in the fact that
this sentence runs on for 202 words: Twelve verses, one sentence…so one point.
That point: Blessed be God, who unconditionally
loves you and by grace offers you life with Him everlasting.
Now, in this passage, the Apostle Paul uses what is for some a
scary word: or at least a word that from a preacher's point of view is scary: the word is "predestined". For a preacher this word
is scary because in ten minutes it is impossible to outline, form and discuss the highly complicated theological concepts of free
will contrasted with double-predestination, election, determinism and the like: it will just make my head explode and trust me, that's
But what I can do in the time allotted I think I can give you a flavor of what Paul was trying to convey in this
Eulogy, or if you like, in this hymn of praise to the Almighty. And that taste of Paul's use of the word "predestined" is actually
very comforting and I think you'll find that his use of the word "predestined" ironically calls for a response on the part of those
who hear God's Word today.
And we are going to illustrate this by using Paul's own analogy: adoption.
As many of you know,
Kathy and I spent September 11th, 2001 at the American Consulate in Guangzhou waiting for the American government's recognition of
our adoption of Little QiuZi…who ya'll know as Little Katie.
I can tell you, from first hand experience, that we loved that
child, even before she existed, we loved her. Before she stepped into our lives we had determined that she would be more than a mere
ward, more than just a child we agreed to care for: Kathy and I opened our hearts and decided that this child would be our daughter:
with all the rights and privileges that entails.
And hasn't Almighty God done the same with us. Paul states in verse 4, "For
he chose us in Christ [in Christ, that is an important point we'll get to in a moment] before the foundation of the world", and how
did he choose us? Again in verse 4, "in love": God loved us, before we even existed, before the foundation of the world. If you're
a parent, or an aunt or God-father, you understand this.
And in verse 5, "He did this by predestining us to adoption as his
sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will--". He has adopted us as his own children. Imagine that…by God's
own choosing we, those of us who have been adopted through Christ, have all the rights and privileges of His own Son. We can approach
the Throne of Grace. We can commune with the Father. We can know the peace/the restoration that is uniquely available through His
only begotten Son.
And there is the key to this entire passage: what God predestined is that through Christ and in Christ we
participate as adopted children of God.
Now how do we know that? How do we know that the focus of this entire passage is Jesus?
Well, in this 202 word conglomeration there is a distinct structure. This monstrously long sentence is a marvelously beautiful
combination of Greek hymnody and Hebrew poetic structure. And if you read the rhyming couplets in Greek and follow what is called
the Chiastic poetic structure you can see that this Eulogy, this hymn of praise, builds to a crescendo and then falls off in a denouement.
And in each step that rises towards Paul's main point there is a corresponding step afterwards in grammatical structure, word
choice and topic.
And it is generally accepted that the central climax of any poetic structure in this passage is verse seven.
Referring to Christ Paul writes, "In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according
to the riches of his grace"
It is in Christ; it is through Christ; that God has preordained our becoming His children. God's
plan has always been the redemption of His children through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. It is clear to me when I read the
OT that God has always had a plan for His people and the focus of that plan has always been His Suffering Servant, His Sacrificial
Lamb, His Messianic King. It is through faith in His blood, the blood of Jesus, that mankind is saved from their sins. This has been
God's plan since before the foundation of the world.
Now, my daughter Katie had no choice in our adopting her: our accepting
her into our family as our own. But as she grows up, she does have a choice whether to accept this gift or reject it.
we have no choice: in that God has chosen as his children anyone who accepts by faith the gracious gift of His Son on the cross. However,
we do have free will. And there we do have a choice. Unfortunately we all have the ability to reject the precious gift offered to
us by our Father: paid for by His Son.
As I would grieve if my daughter rejected her adopted family, your Heavenly Father grieves
each time a child turns from light into darkness.
I encourage you, therefore, children of God to accept the most precious gift
in the world. Realize that the Creator of the Universe, has a very personal, a very intimate love for you. He has loved you since
the beginning of time. Just as His Son wears a crown of glory in heaven, one awaits for you too…if…if you accept the gracious gift
of that Son upon the cross. I accept it, as does my wife and as does Little Katie.
What say you?