I recently heard of the theological debate between two concepts that have been expressed in two esoteric words: infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism. The debate between infralapsarianists and supralapsarianists concerns whether, logically, God decreed salvation and reprobation after He authorized the fall, or whether He first decreed that He would save some and condemn those left out and then authorized the fall. One highlights the mercy of God, the other His sovereignty.
I am in the majority that lean towards infralapsarianism, but as Kevin DeYoung mentioned, this is no hill to die on. In any case, what interests me is that the debate comes from a verse that mentions the purpose of God:
though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— Rom. 9:11
If all to be gotten out of this verse is a debate over logical orderings, I protest! Simply put, which matters more: the order of God’s decree or what He decreed?
Said another way, without heeding the what we may only highlight the when and where. What is a Biblical view of God’s purpose? Is it to give eternal life to some in another realm (heaven)? John 3:16 adequately tells you of that. Are we destined merely to express God’s sovereignty or His mercy? the supralapsarian/infralapsarian debate will point toward that.
It was in a recent conference on Genesis that I first heard something further touching the what of God’s salvation, which goes like this: there is a line in the Scriptures that stretches from cover to cover and opens a vista on the purpose of God’s election. It’s that man was made in the image of God to express God. Adam was the glove. God is the hand. This is not merely that man has two eyes, a nose, and smooth skin. It’s the inward essences of love, light, righteousness and holiness made present in a vessel but not fully actuated until their Reality comes.
The image of God traced through the Bible:
– In eternity past God foreknew and predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers (Rom. 8:29).
– In creation God made and upholds the universe through Christ who is the exact imprint of His substance (Heb. 1:3).
– The creation bears the characteristics of God’s eternal power and divine nature (Rom. 1:20).
– Man was made in the image of God to express God (Gen. 1:26).
– We have redemption in the Christ who is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:14-15).
– In the growth and transformation of our Christian life when He is manifested we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).
– We shall be transformed into His image (2 Cor. 3:18).
– We’re the new man being renewed unto full knowledge according to image of Him who created Him (Col. 3:10-11).
– At his second coming His believers will be transfigured bodily to be conformed to the body of His glory (Phil. 3:21).
– The One on the throne has the appearance of a jasper stone, as does the New Jersualem (Rev. 4:3, 21:11).
The purpose of God is that man, made in God’s image, would express Him corporately. What this entails is that God’s redeemed, regenerated, transformed, conformed and glorified elect are made not only to bear the image of the man of dust, but also the man of heaven. Adam fell, but Christ rose. What we’re looking at is not merely when and where, but what and whom.