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Many men and women in the world today, if they acknowledge the true God at all, consider Him to be, at best, whimsical and unpredictable. This contention is often accompanied by a “Bible” verse: “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” (Of course, like “God helps those who help themselves,” this verse is not even in the Bible but rather, in this case, is a misquotation from a poem written in the Eighteenth Century!)
In addition to this group, there are those who consider that God is both real and can be depended upon—to be unfair, unmerciful, and unreachable. These are the people who can be heard to ask questions like, “If God is good, why doesn’t He save everybody?”
This would be a perfectly legitimate question if man’s unsaved state were due to God’s actions. But these passionate questioners fail to recognize a simple truth which is clearly stated in God’s Word: God created man to be His closest companion and fully equipped man to walk in this position. He gave man dominion over all that was on the earth. And when He was finished, He pronounced both that man and that creation to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
What changed? Man chose to disobey God’s one and only commandment. Man willingly chose death over life, willingly chose isolation over companionship with God. Man willingly chose unrighteousness.
It was man, and not God, who severed the relationship. Man broke the agreement. This being the case, God owes man nothing. He could depart forever, leaving man to the consequences which he so richly deserves, and God would be no less holy, righteous, or good.
Oh, amazing grace! Instead of abandoning us, God made a promise of redemption. Before even addressing the consequences of man’s actions, God left man with a promise: a promise of restoration. This promise is the subject of the Word of God. Indeed, it is the reason we have God’s Word at all.
In the Old Testament, we see this promise reiterated. In addition, we see every move of God, every Word of God, meticulously laid as stones for the foundation upon which the promise could be carried out. And in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, in his perfect obedience and perfect sacrifice, we see that work of redemption finished.
Yes, it is in Christ, and only in Christ, that this eternal purpose, this heavenly promise, is fulfilled.
But the question remains: why would even a good God expend so much effort on reconciliation with a people who rejected Him? This question is addressed beautifully in the book of Ephesians.
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
The latter part of this verse requires some scrutiny. First of all, the verse says we were predestinated. This means to be “marked out beforehand.” It simply means that, as we have seen, man’s redemption was not an afterthought or an accident, but was something determined by God long ago.
The verse also tells us that this predestination was “according to the purpose” of God. The word “purpose” (prothesis) refers to something which is laid out beforehand. Further, we are told that this purpose was worked out according to God’s counsel. The word “counsel” is translated from the Greek word boule, which means a determination or a plan.
What riches we now have in Christ! And we have them because God first determined to make them available. This is wonderfully comforting to the believer. How much more confident we would be in life if we would simply remember that this spiritual bounty we enjoy was God’s idea. He promised it, He planned it—and He is the one Who decided to make salvation both simple and irrevocable.
But one still might ask why God made a plan at all. Why bother? This verse also answers that question. It tells us that the counsel, the plan of God was of, from, or due to His will. And the word “will” (thelema) means not simply a legal requirement. It is a word best translated as “desire.”
This makes you want to shout “Hallelujah!” doesn’t it? (Go ahead, I’ll wait.)
Think of this. God did all that was necessary to make redemption possible, even to the point of giving His son, because He wanted to! He saved us because He wanted to. He will keep us forever because He wanted to. In other words, as inexplicable as it seems, God loves man.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Note that God loved the world. That’s all of us. No one is excluded, for the plan was made with all in mind, and the offer of salvation is extended to all. But, though the price has already been paid for all, it remains for each to either reject that gift or to accept it, consciously and personally, by believing.
I Timothy 2:4
Who will [thelo, a word related to thelema] have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
God desires for all men to accept this offer, to be made complete, righteous, and perfectly clean in His sight. The decision is left in the hands of undeserving man. Such goodness, such consistent goodness, is almost incomprehensible. Certainly it is not to be found in the world. But thank God, it can be found in Him.