Christmas Eve found me visiting at the church of a family member this year.  While the message was not about predestination, the topic was raised.  I had never heard of the doctrine of predestination until my teen years when my parents began attending a church that adhered to it.  What a disturbing thought!  The idea that God handpicks a certain few people out of the world to be his children, and tosses the others aside really bothered me.  It left me with this terrible uncertainty…how could I know if I was one of those chosen people?  There was no guarantee!  Even though I had asked Jesus in my heart as a four year old, I might not know if I was actually going to Heaven until I got there…or didn’t.  It was an awful feeling, and a weight that I carried until someone outside of that church described it to me this way:  God calls all people outside of the gates of Heaven to Him.  A sign above the gate says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden.”  Those who chose to come to God enter the gates.  When they turn to look back where they came from, they see a sign above the inside of the gate that says, “You were chosen before the foundation of the world.”  As a teenager, that was enough to settle the matter for me.

On Christmas Eve I sat in church with my four boys, and several nieces and nephews, and cringed when the pastor made it plain that the doctrine of predestination was still alive and well in that church.  I missed the rest of the sermon because I was busy researching my Bible.  As the Lord has taken me through the past few years of my walk with Him, I have learned a very important lesson…read the Bible!  The context of verses is so important to understanding their true meaning, as is researching what the Bible says in other places about the same topic.  I have said this before in more than one post, but it is so important!  I don’t think I can emphasize it enough!  As I researched the predestination topic, I also prayed…the other vital part of learning what God says in His Word.  If you don’t have the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you read and study, you cannot understand the Word (1 Cor. 2:14).  There is my sidebar soapbox:-)

Let me show you the verses the pastor read.  Ephesians 1:4-5 (NKJV) – just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

The predestination doctrine is the view that God picks those whom He chooses, as He pleases, to be those who are called sons of God.  The first verse that came to mind in rebuttal to this was John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

“That whoever believes in Him….”  Doesn’t it bug the bajeebies out of you when the Bible appears to contradict itself?!  How can it be both ways?  Does salvation come to anyone who believes, as Jesus said in John 3:16, or is salvation given only to those favorites chosen by God, as some understand Paul to say in Ephesians?  Allow me to mix things up a little bit more for you.  John 1:12-13 – But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:  who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

If you read those verses just right, you might be able to see the messages of both Jesus and Paul!  But I didn’t put that verse in here to confuse you, I put it in to clear things up.  Lets take a moment to break this down.

John 3:16 says that whoever believes in Jesus would have eternal life.  That means the door is open to anyone and everyone, so long as they believe.  The call to salvation is to the world, the whole world…also stated in the same verse.  John 1:12-13 also states that anyone who receives Jesus has the right to become a child of God.

John 1:13 seems to indicate that becoming a child of God is through the will of God only, and could be seen as God choosing.  Put that together with Ephesians 1:4-5 and the idea that people are predestined to adoption as God’s children, and it appears that indeed only an elite few chosen by God will be His children.

Here is the problem.  John 3:16 is a direct quote of Jesus Himself…and the words of John 1:12-13, and Ephesians 1:4-5 are words written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of the same Jesus through John and Paul.  And yet, none of these three lied, or were wrong.

Salvation, adoption as children of God, is available to anyone and everyone who believes in Jesus (Jo 3:16, Jo. 1:12.  That is the plain fact of the gospel.  That salvation/adoption is offered and provided by the will of God, as opposed to the will of man (Jo. 1:13).  It is not something man can do for himself in any way, shape, or form.  So God chooses to adopt those who believe.  He doesn’t chose who will believe.  This is true.  It is established in the Scriptures, and it is our base.

Consider for a moment the audience.  Jesus’, and John’s audience in the book of John, are people who have not heard the gospel message.  The intent was to share the path to salvation.  This is what it is, this is how you get it…believe.  Paul’s audience, however, is a church of already-believers.  Their salvation has already been established.  So why talk about predestination, unless it is not their salvation that is predestined, but rather what comes with the salvation that is predestined for those who chose to believe.

God decided, from the foundation of the world, that those who would accept His plan of salvation (the sacrifice of Jesus as payment for their sins), would be predestined to adoption as His children.  First you believe.  Once you believe, then it has already been predetermined that you would be adopted as God’s child, but you, and every person to ever live, is first given the opportunity to chose whether or not to believe.  Conversely, those who do not chose to believe would then, by a natural assumption, be predestined to not become children of God.  But it always starts with the personal choice of each human.

In the beginning God knew that sin would enter the world that He had created, and that He would need to have a plan to save it from the natural course of destruction that came with it.  He also knew that not everyone would chose to accept His plan, no matter who much He loved them and wanted them to.  And He would not force them to.   So He decided, then and there, before any of us were here, pre-decided…predestined, that those who did accept His plan, who chose Him (not the other way around), He would adopt as His children, to be holy and without blame.

So going back to the illustration of the heavenly gates…God calls all people to Him.  The sign above the gate saying “Come to me…” is accurate.  Some turn away and choose not to enter.  But those who do enter turn to see, this:  I decided long ago that, if you entered these gates, I would adopt you…welcome my child.