This post is quite different from my normal ramblings and writings. It is an addendum to a message I needed to abbreviate last Sunday due to some extenuating circumstances that day. I have had several requests and questions surrounding the teaching, and so I am seeking to fill in the blanks, as it were, for the third message in our opening series on the book of Ephesians, “From Galaxies to Governments: The Plan (part 2).”
“Predestination” is a difficult word and concept that has a lot of confusion attached to it. Nevertheless, the Bible states that God “predestines,” or plans in advance, certain things in this universe and in our lives. Predestination is attached to God’s omniscient ability to see the future which is called His foreknowledge. The idea of predestination cannot be divorced from God’s foreknowledge – the fact that he knows all things in advance.
This subject is also intimately connected to what the Bible refers to as being chosen. In some translations of the Bible being God’s chosen is also called being God’s elect. Israel was God’s chosen people, or God’s elect. In exactly the same way, Christians are God’s chosen people, and no less so than the nation of Israel was. In fact, the Bible teaches that the position of people being God’s chosen has moved from only meaning Israel to now meaning anyone and everyone who trusts and follows Christ.
“Being chosen” has at least two primary purposes. It speaks to (1) being God’s family, those with whom He is in family relationship. And as such, (2) His people are also His representatives on planet earth through whom He extends His kingdom and is reconciling the whole world to Himself. Wow, that’s pretty amazing! In a nutshell, that’s the core and purpose of being chosen or predestinated by God.
For centuries God’s people have been divided on what exactly all this means. Does God plan and determine everything that will happen to us so that there is really no such thing as man having free will? Once we are saved, are we forever saved with it being impossible for us to turn away from God? If a person walks away from God, were they really ever “saved?”
Though there is a great deal of controversy surrounding our subject of being predestined, the Bible never really reconciles some of the seeming contradictions between God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free will, but affirms them both! One good example of this biblical tension is found inRomans 9 on God’s sovereign choice and Romans 10 on mankind’s necessary response in faith.
One important thing to remember is that true doctrines (teachings, beliefs) come in relation to other truths, not as single, unrelated truths. A good analogy would be to view a truth or doctrine, as a constellation versus a single star. God presents truth in eastern, not western, genres of thought. Though we westerners may be uncomfortable with this, we must not remove the tension caused by paradoxical pairs of doctrinal truths.
Because of my being able to speak more fully to this matter last Sunday, I am posting my personal message notes below for those who would like to see the rest of this teaching on this matter. I hope this is helpful for those who have requested it. ~MK
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“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 for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:4-6
4 Thoughts on Predestination
The key to this (theological) tension of God’s sovereignty vs. Man’s will may be found in verse 4…
1. Jesus is God’s chosen man and all are potentially chosen in Him.
- “In Christ” denotes the summation, the revelation and execution of God’s own decision, God’s will, in one person – Jesus, the Messiah – emphasizing Christ’s relationship to God, and Christ’s relationship to man.
- The mediation of God’s will through one person is seen typified in Abraham for Israel and all nations, Moses and the people of God and all the peoples of the earth, and David as the epitome of humiliation and defeat, but also of salvation and exaltation by grace alone, leading Israel in songs of praise for salvation from death.
- …and in Noah, who also became a mediator between God and men. Any who entered the ark would be saved.
- Again, “in Christ” – the language describes God’s relationship to a people, the body of Christ, His congregation – not to individuals alone.
- Only as members of that community do individuals share in the benefits of God’s gracious choice.
- Election is not a scheme which divides mankind into two opposing groups. Much more, it is that person-to-person relationship of love which exists between God and His Son.
- God’s choice must not be understood in the Islamic sense of determinism nor in the distorted sense of some versus others, but rather in the covenantal sense.
- The Biblical idea of “covenant” unites the sovereignty of God (who always takes the initiative and sets the agenda) with a mandatory initial and continuing repentant, faith response from humanity. Be careful of proof-texting one side of the paradox and depreciating the other. Be careful of advocating only your favorite doctrine or system of belief.
2. There is no such thing taught in the Word of God as predestination to eternal condemnation. If men are lost, they are lost because they will not respond to the grace of God, which draws all to Christ. We must, on some level, respond to Christ, who draws all to Himself.
- Matthew 18:14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
- 1 Timothy 2:4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
- 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
- There is a striking illustration which the Spirit of God Himself gives us in the last of the book of Acts:
- When Paul and his company were on their way to Rome a terrific storm arose – they began casting out cargo to lighten the ship, but finally they gave up in despair.
- An angel appeared, spoke with Paul, and Paul told the captain, “Be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar: God has given you all them that sail with you” (Acts 27:22–24).
- That was God’s foreknowledge. Every one in that ship would be brought through safely, they would all land in Italy, not one of them would be lost.
- But a little while afterwards Paul noticed something going on among the sailors. They were outfitting a boat and preparing to launch it, putting some provisions into it and getting ready to leave the ship.
- Paul said to the captain, “Except these remain in the ship, you cannot be saved” (Acts 27:31). Had he not already told them that none should perish? That was God’s side. Then he said, “Except these remain in the ship, you cannot be saved”— that was their side.
- They were responsible to see that they did not leave the ship, and so it is in regard to the doctrine of election/predestination and man’s responsibility.
- Every one who is saved will be in heaven because he was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world… and yet every man who is ever saved will be there because as a poor guilty sinner he put his personal trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. You may say, “I can’t understand this.” You don’t need to; just accept it, believe it and be at peace!
Wherever you are on this beautiful but difficult doctrine, if you’re still not settled, and whatever it may ultimately mean…
3. Predestination is a manifestation of the love of the Father.
- It is God who extends us grace.
- It is the Father who has “chooses” us to the adoption of children.
- Nowhere in the Bible are people ever predestinated to go to hell, and nowhere are people simply predestined to go to heaven.
4. Predestination is always to some special place of blessing.
The following are some interesting Bible verses reflecting both sides of this subject.
- John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.
- John 6:40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life
- John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him
John 17:11-12 (11) And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep through Your own name those whom You have given me, that they may be one, as we are. (12) While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name: those that You gave me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition (Judas, who betrayed Him); that the scripture might be fulfilled. (The fulfillment of the verses above?)
- John 12:32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
- Matthew 18:14 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
- 1 Timothy 2:44 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
- 2 Peter 3:99 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.