Our Family(my in-laws) recently(December) visited us all the way from Canada. It was a great time for re-uniting the family and sharing memories. A time for catching up on our current dreams and happenings. A family, just like any relationship, requires constant work to keep it together and happily so! If you cease to work at the relationship it will drift apart. So to that end I am grateful for the effort that our far-flung family makes to visit us regularly. We can hopefully return the favour one day.
One of the many things that happen during such a visit, is the sharing of our "faith-experiences". This is not only a strengthening for our family bonds, but also a part of our Christianity, a need to affirm our Christian fellowship with fellow believers. This year, as in the past we shared and discussed many happenings and teachings in our walks with Christ, until the early hours of the mornings! These times of sharing are very special, even though they make for bleary eyed mornings!
On one such occasion my sister-in-law shared her conviction that as Christians we don't truly have a choice when it comes to salvation. That some people are chosen by God and others not, and that those chosen while they might think or feel that they choose God, have no real choice as He has made that choice for us. This "Pre-selection" idea didn't go down very well with me and we had a rather heated debate on it. Neither of us were prepared to move off our stand points and so at length the family intervened and we ended the discussion unresolved. Or rather we agreed to disagree...
I am a firm believer in the biblical teaching "test everything, hold on to the good" 1 Thes 5:21 (however the whole chapter is relevant)
With that thought in mind I felt challenged to "test" this teaching. I found many references to God's chosen people, but none where clear on the the matter of "was everyone chosen and only some responded" or "some where chosen and they all responded". At least none I found. The Bible definitely talks about God's chosen, firstly the Jews in the Old Testament and then those who are born of the Spirit in Christ in the New Testament.
At first I sought only to understand who would be chosen or could be chosen and later I realised that I need to look at it from God's perspective. If He says in His Word that every tongue will confess that He is Lord and every knee shall bow to Him, then it follows to my mind that everyone will have the choice to accept or reject Him. No one will be able to claim that God never gave them a chance - He is the God of LOVE, He is LOVE and I cannot fathom that one person will have a "case" against God that he or she never had the opportunity to embrace that LOVE.
There is scripture that supports the "predestined" teaching, Eph 1 is one of these. However, there can be different understandings of this scripture since the letter is addressed to the believers and since God is All-knowing it follows that He knows who will accept His salvation and who will reject it. This doesn't mean that He doesn't offer it to everyone regardless of their choice. He is after all a Righteous (Ps 96:13) and Equitable (Ps 96:10) God.
From the other scripture I found there was a very definite "all-inclusive" feel. Here are but two of the readings.
Matt 28:18 - 20 : Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Italics and underlining added)
Col 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. (Italics and underlining added)
I am puzzled by the thought of pre-selection. Since if people or for that matter, my childern, are predestined to be with or without God then there's no amount of "caring" or input I can give that will change that. That is contrary to God's Word as He commands us throughout the bible to care for His people(Deut 15:11 and countless verses), He asks us to pray for them(Job 34:28, many Psalms, Eph 6:18 etc etc), He asks us to go to them(Matt 28:18-20 and many more), He asks us to be as Christ to them. On top of His commands I feel an overwhelming need to share Him with everyone I meet, why would His Spirit put that desire in me if it would be a fruitless pursuit. Humankind has had the choice from day one, Adam and Eve where given the two trees to choose from - Life or Knowledge. Why give them a choice if He knew the outcome? To give yourself freely and without condition is a very powerful act, bordering on godly - we are after all created in His image. If we withhold but a fraction in that act we destroy it, so in choosing God we surrender ourselves completely.
If we have no choice, where then is the need to surrender ourselves? the example given by slaves from our past might shed some light. A slave is subject to their masters bidding but in their minds they are free and do not submit to the master, is this what God would have from His people? A servant that merely follows His commands but is not wholly His? is that not what Lucifer suffered? did he not rebel against that "enslavement" since Angels have no choice?
The matter is disputable and I have left the question with God, His prefect understanding and wisdom will make it clear. Until then I stand on the teaching that He desires everyone to come to Him and gives everyone a choice.
Job 5:16 So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth