Another key word that is used again and again with respect to predestination and election in the Bible is the word “purpose.” We saw in Ephesians 1:4–6 that predestination is according to God’s purpose. Someone who does something arbitrarily does it for no purpose. But, the New Testament makes it clear that there is a divine purpose in God’s electing grace, and part of that is to make manifest the riches of His grace, to display His mercy (Rom. 9:22–24)—that is, to reveal something about His marvelous character, which His grace certainly does. It makes manifest His awesome, marvelous, beautiful mercy. There’s also another purpose, and that’s the purpose of honoring Christ. Remember the promise to Christ that He would see the travail of His soul and be satisfied (Isa. 53:11)? According to His own counsel, God determined from the foundation of the world that the cross of Jesus Christ would yield its appointed fruit and that Christ would be satisfied by the results of His pain, suffering, and death.
Notice that when the New Testament speaks of election and predestination, it always speaks of our being elect, or chosen, in the Beloved, in Christ. Ultimately, the New Testament tells us that people are chosen for salvation so that God the Father can bestow His glory, love, and affection on God the Son (Eph. 1:3–6). Ultimately, we’re redeemed not because of our worthiness but because of the worthiness of Christ. God is gracious to me in order to reward One who does deserve a reward—His only begotten Son. Do you see the intersection here of grace and justice? It is right or just that Christ should receive an inheritance, and we are that inheritance. That we are that inheritance is grace for us and justice for Christ.
The final thing I want to note is found in Ephesians 1:5. We are chosen “according to”—on the basis of—“the good pleasure” of God’s will (NKJV). God chooses and elects us according to what kind of pleasure? “According to the good pleasure of His will.” That word, “good,” makes all the difference in the world, because there’s no such thing as the bad pleasure of God’s will. God does not take pleasure in evil, even if we take pleasure in evil. In fact, we sin because it’s so pleasurable to us. If it weren’t pleasurable, we wouldn’t be enticed to it or tempted by it. But there is no evil will in God. The only thing that has ever pleased God is goodness, the only pleasure that He’s ever had is a good pleasure, and the only purpose that He’s ever had is a good purpose.
Clearly, then, in the mystery of the grace of God, He is never whimsical, capricious, or arbitrary. Though the reason for our salvation does not rest in us, that does not mean that God is without a purpose in choosing His elect. He does have a purpose, and it is a good one.