Words that make us squirm moved Paul and other Biblical writers to praise!

Let’s face it, there are some words and passages in the Bible that just make some of us squirm.  Peter talked about passages like this when he mentioned how some of the writings of the apostle Paul were difficult to understand.  He says in chapter 3 of his second letter to the church:

15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16)

Peter readily admits that some of the things that dear brother Paul wrote were just plain difficult to deal with.  But, Peter doesn’t sweep these things under the rug or tell the church to ignore them and not to worry about them.  In fact, he commends the writings of Paul to the church as beneficial for their growth and places them on an equal level of authority with the writings of the Old Testament (i.e. “the other Scriptures).  Notice Peter says that the ignorant (in the Greek: IGNORANT) and unstable (in the Greek: UNSTABLE) who choose to twist the Scriptures to their own liking do so at the risk of their own destruction.

Now, there are a couple of words in particular that dear brother Paul talks about quite often that tend, for whatever reason, to make modern church people turn especially squirmy.  We love to read verses like Romans 8:28 and then skip quickly down to verse 31.  These, indeed, are wonderful Scriptures, but…what about verses 29 to 30?  In case you’re wondering, those awkward verses that I’m referring to are those that mention the dreaded “P” word and the like (i.e., predestination, predestined, God chose, chosen by God, etc.) and the ever intimidating “E” word and it’s related terms (i.e., elect, election, kept, held, eternal comfort, security, etc.).  I say, if the Apostle Paul, John, Peter and the rest aren’t afraid to talk about such topics and it is a regular and repeated part of Bible vocabulary, then why should we be uncomfortable talking about it?

What I’d like to do is run through a quick catalogue of verses that contain these particular words and simply let Scripture speak for itself.  Then, I’d like to focus in on and briefly highlight Paul’s remarks and reactions concerning said topics and leave off with the question: “if words and Scriptures like this make me squirm and I’m not experiencing the same reaction as the Apostle Paul and other Biblical writers to these particular doctrines, then why is that so?”  I don’t want to get into any theological debates or battles in the comments sections so I’m turning it off for this one.  Rather, I would prefer to leave you and I to wrestle with the Scriptures and ask God in His grace to help all of us to know and understand Him and His word better.  And away we go…

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits [1] to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. 16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, [1] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be [2] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. [3] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, [2] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being [3] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him [4] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us [2] for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known [3] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee [4] of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, [5] to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body [1] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But [2] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Now, let’s quickly examine the Biblical language associated with these particular passages of Scripture and the reactions of Paul in particular:

  • Paul says that “giving of thanks” should be given to God and the Lord Jesus Christ in association with these topics.
  • Paul is moved to worship when discussing the subject and repeatedly exclaims, “blessed be God!” in reaction.
  • Paul says that through Jesus this is Good News and a source of “eternal comfort and good hope through grace.”
  • Paul associates this knowledge with being a “comfort to the heart and a help in establishing us in good words and deeds.”
  • Paul says that the knowledge of these topics help us realize that “all things work together for the good of the called.”
  • He also says that these topics help those that are Christ’s realize that there is nothing that can separate them from the love of Christ.  He is sure of this.
  • Paul is convinced that those who have been called have already been, “justified and glorified.”  He uses verbiage that expresses our standing with God and the eternal state as something that has already been sealed by sheer grace through Jesus Christ.
  • After Paul exclaims, “blessed be God!” in reaction to the knowledge of these topics, he declares that it is a “blessing.”
  • Paul talks about the “richness of God’s mercy.”
  • …the “immeasurable riches of His grace.”
  • …being “made alive in Christ” after once being “dead in sin”
  • …being recipients of the “great love” of God and “beloved children.”
  • …and on, and on, and on, and on…etc.

All in all, I’d say that dear brother Paul is pretty excited about the whole thing.  It seems to make him bubble up to the point of exploding out in worship.  It seems to drive him and fuel him and spur him to keep on working for the glory of Jesus in spite of all the horrible things he experienced personally.  It seems to be a source of tremendous joy, comfort, worship, and hope for his heart and he seems to think that it should be for the church and all believers everywhere as well.  Now, after seeing all this, I’d like to draw us back to my original question: “why in the world, then, should topics that make the apostle Paul praise, worship, hope, rejoice and work like crazy to his dying breath for the glory of Jesus make us feel uncomfortable?

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

Everything that God tells us in His word, even about predestination and election, is profitable to us regardless of whether we fully understand it yet.  I hope that after reading through this, it would help you to squirm a bit less when thinking about these subjects.  I pray that instead all of us would simply ask God to help us to know Him better and understand His word, even those difficult parts, in a greater way so that we can join the apostle Paul in worship and wonder at the great mercy of God and eternal comfort offered to unworthy sinners  (just like me) through the Lord Jesus Christ.

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