In the classic film, Ben Hur, we learn a lot about grace from Judah Ben Hur, a Jew who becomes the adopted son of a Roman noble, and who regains Roman citizenship after banishment by a rival. Hur rises to become a great soldier and leader. The film itself was destined for greatness.
Most of us know someone who believes in predestination, of a future predetermined. Many hold that salvation, itself, is preordained, and not of our doing. In His infinite love, God has adopted us as His children. Scripture implies that, spiritually, we might all be orphans.
“For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight, in love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves”(Ephesians 1:4-6).
In Roman law, adopted children, even former slaves, enjoyed all the privileges of biological children. Paul uses the term “adopted” to show the strength of our relationship to God. “Freely given us in the One He loves,” reflects God’s gracious acceptance of us (though we don’t deserve it), once we belong to Christ, His son. We are then forgiven our sins in accordance with the shedding of Jesus’ blood.
Without God’s grace, no person can be saved. Grace derives only from God’s mercy and love and cannot be attained by religious, moral or intellectual effort. To receive it, we must acknowledge our inability to save ourselves by our works, that only God is capable of proffering this loving favor through faith in Christ.
Scripture says that we are all predestined to become members of the family of God “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified those He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).
God works in all things on our behalf, not just within isolated incidents. All that happens to us may not be to our liking. Evil is prevalent in our fallen world. But God can turn around any circumstance to our long-term benefit, if we remain patient.
God is not working simply to make us joyful (though I believe that is often the case). He is working to fulfill His purpose. God’s promise of fulfillment must be claimed by those who love God, and are willing to be adopted and called according to His purpose.
Some believe particular verses point to God’s bestowing upon certain people His gift of salvation before the world began, as in Ephesians 1:11: “In Him we have obtained an inheritance being predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” Others believe that God foreknew those who would respond to Him, and upon those, He set His mark (predestination). What is clear is that God’s purpose for us was not an
afterthought, but settled before the foundation of the world.
If you believe in Christ, rejoice with me in the knowledge that God has always known you. God’s love for us is eternal, His wisdom and power, supreme. He will guide and protect us until, one day, those “Destined to be Adopted” will stand in His presence.
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami. To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org.