December 18, 2011

In The Spirit of Giving

As I mentioned in the post Personal Jesus, the first step in a believer’s salvation is God’s foreknowledge of them in relation to salvation. In Acts 2:23 we had:

“…delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” Acts 2:23

I would like to revisit this passage and specifically the words “determinate counsel and foreknowledge”.

As I also mentioned in Personal Jesus, they are a deliberate Greek syntactical and grammatical construction by Luke. When I translated them the first time I tried to apply the best usage of English words as possible to the given context (which I believe I did successfully then). Like any piece of written communication, there is a “window” or “swathe” of acceptable meanings that can apply when translating call the norms of language. This passage is no exception. As a matter of fact there is more “color” that can be added to this passage that I missed the first time that I will “color in” now. I will be using other Scripture to bolster the storyline. Like any English translation from the Greek our English Bibles are accurate in a way that a black and white TV projects a picture to you. It is accurate in detail...but sometimes the color and subtle shadings are lacking. I try to fill them in where I can after looking in detail at theological dictionaries like Kittels, etc and applying them to the context.

The word "foreknowledge" refers to the same thing to which the word "counsel" refers. The Greek word for "foreknowledge" is best understood "to designate before" to a position for a certain reason. The word "counsel" means to exchange opinions, to plan together, to reach an informed conclusion. As you would with a multiplicity of individuals or persons (*hint*). The word "determinate" modifies or is a descriptor of "counsel" and it means (here’s where it gets neat): "to draw a boundary around”. It can also mean to “divide” and to “separate from”. The logical question here is: Separate or divide from what? What is God drawing a boundary around?

These words create a “fixed limit” encompassed by a boundary. Whatever God is putting a boundary around He is doing it to set them apart. This of course sounds strangely familiar. The Greek word that means to set apart is ἁγιάζω / hagiazo. In other words: Consecrated…sanctified which comes from the cognate ἅγιος / hagios or to "make holy". 

A clear picture should be beginning to form in your mind color.

God designated a believer to a position of having been a saved person before Creation was created based on deliberation. These are the same words and intent in Ephesians 1:4’s “chosen”. It’s also the same idea seen in Romans 8:28-30’s "foreknow” and 1 Peter 1:2’s “elect”, “chosen”, “foreknowledge” and “sanctifying”.

In the eternity before the Creation was created, God had it in His being to make someone(s) in the image of His Son Jesus. Living breathing beings created in His image. He didn’t choose the angels…

“For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” Hebrews 2:16-18

He chose us…the sinful fallen messes to be conformed to Christ. He picked the basketcases and the ignoble so that when we did do a turnaround it brought glory to God and mesmorized those who saw it. Perhaps even motivating those that did see it to do the same.

One additional thought as it is Christmas...

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 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. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30

The words “predestinated” again means "to fix the limit or boundary beforehand." God knew we would be sinners ahead of time and still expected us to be conformed to the image of his Son: Holy. A mighty task but not too mighty a task for a Almighty God. As such we need to be sanctified and set apart from the world to allow this to happen. So there is a boundary set up and we are cordoned off (like a hazardous waste dump or a fine work of art, take your pick). We are His and we are off-limits to the world no matter where we are at on our journey. God grabs us out of our sin and drags us to Him kicking and screaming. We're His...hands off! We’re appropriated and earmarked to be conformed to Jesus…by the Holy Spirit.

"Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Cornithians 2:21-22

We were put in the Reserved Bin folks. He wanted us so He gave us a downpayment so that we would be sure to collect what we were promised and so we were assured of our salvation in eternity with Him as His. The downpayment or seal (ἀρραβῶνα) of the Holy Spirit was so He would be sure to collect what was His, it was so what was His would be assured that He was coming back for them when the time came due. 

"Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

It’s just like when you put something aside for later that you want for a specific use…like a Christmas gift stashed away. You own it, you are saving it and will deliver it when the proper time comes due. This thing you set aside stays aside until it can be utilized for the purpose it was reserved for. Shovels dig dirt, hammers hit nails, Christmas gifts are for Christmas and people speak and evangelize the world with the message of the Gospel until their time comes to go to the Lord and enter glorification. We are reserved by Him to spread the message of Him for Him. What better time to evangelize then to do so during the Christmas season?

“Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.” John 17:1-2

We are a gift from the Father to the Son…and from the Son back to the Father. The implication is that it was predetermined since before the foundations of the world or pre-time in eternity past. A sinner (you and I) were kept for this purpose. Surprisingly even we are extended an undeserved gift in this transaction: Grace.

Please note this is a predestination for those willing to obey His call, not against but with God’s will to do so. It is a concurrence of wills not a conflict of wills, like two rails on the same railroad track heading in the same direction at the same time. Albeit for possibly different reasons...the train will arrive at its intended depot on time as determined. It’s an effectual call. The one called responds. By grace we are saved that is the gift of God.

We see gifts all around in this. Set aside for the exact right time, for God and for us.

To think it really didn’t start at Christmas is amazing. Christmas was just the commencement of the culmination. The decision was made long long ago.

“I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” I will proclaim the LORD’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Psalm 2:6-12

Merry Christmas

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