Was “Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world?” Most of us got this notion from the NIV translation. It gets the first half of verse 13:8 right, but still wrongly uses “from the creation of the world” to modify “the Lamb that was slain.” Other translations use the phrase to modify when the names were written. It’s easy to see there’s confusion even among the scholars around where this phrase belongs.
Ephesians 1:4 “God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God's presence before the creation of the world. God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan...” (CEB). Along with the shocking revelation of the Gentiles inclusion in the family of God, it was just as surprising that anyone could become family with God. God's plan to make (any) people his sons and daughters through adoption was only just being understood at the time of Paul’s writing—the first generation of Christians.
Romans 9 has intimidated more believers regarding predestination than probably any other passage in Scripture. Romans 9:18-21 “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use.” (NIV)
There once was a king who wanted to throw a party. He prepared the finest food and drink and adorned the palace with lavish decorations. But more shocking than all of the extravagance were the unprecedented surprises he planned unveil at the feast. Unknown to the attendees, the king prepared three envelopes for every invitee. The first was a cancellation of all financial and legal debts. The second was a certificate of adoption, giving any person the right to become a son or daughter of the king. The third was the most scandalous of all. It contained a deed of co-ownership of the kingdom and a royal edict to share all authority with the king. Nothing like this had ever been done.
At first glance, Romans 8:29,30 seems to say, “God first chose you to be conformed to the image of Christ, then he called you, then he made you righteous and then he glorified you.” Chosen, called, saved, glorified—in that order—for each individual person. So, this proves that if Joe was not first chosen, then he cannot be called, saved and glorified. Right? Not quite.
Some use the phrase, “all who were appointed for eternal life believed,” from Acts 13:48 as proof of predestination. I hope to show you, that’s not what Acts 13 is saying. Contrary to the way the phrase reads in the NIV, this passage is not suggesting that only individuals who had been chosen by God beforehand can believe. We must remember that the biggest and most culturally disruptive revelation of the New Testament is inclusiveness.
Invitations go out first to the few and then to the many. In the first story, the reward is the wages; in the second, the reward is the banquet itself. Both stories seem to focus on people freely choosing or refusing an invitation. So, why would Jesus conclude, “many are invited to be saved, but only few are chosen to be saved?” He wouldn’t. Because, that isn’t the point of these stories.
Predestination is the idea that God chooses who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell regardless of any human merit, effort or virtue. Calvinism teaches that God must regenerate an individual before she is converted. In other words, before a person can desire to come to Christ and thus truly be saved, her desires must be changed first. And desiring God itself is a gift from God. For a person to really want Christ in their heart, their heart must first be changed to want Christ. (Confused yet?)