Posts tagged ‘predestination’

Predestination: What the Bible Says

There is no doctrine taught that makes me want to jump out of my pew and yell “STOP” more than that of predestination.  How many people on the brink of accepting the salvation of Jesus have turned away because they heard a message that God picks and chooses.  “Obviously if God is going to hand-pick those He wants in Heaven with Him, He is going to choose the cream of the crop.  I can’t meet that standard, so He must not want me.”  And how many Christians do not share the good news of the Gospel because they have been taught, and believe, that God chooses the ones He wants, so therefore, He will make sure they get to Heaven one way or the other.  “Besides, how can I know who God has chosen?  If Bob or Julie aren’t chosen, then I am just wasting my breathe, and putting all of us in an unnecessarily uncomfortable position.”

So where does this idea of predestination come from, and what is meant by the doctrine?  Allow me to answer those questions in reverse.  The doctrine of predestination says that God has pre-determined who will be saved and go to Heaven, and who will not be saved, and will go to Hell.  Simply put, He decides.  The Bible passage often used to support this doctrine is Ephesians 1:4-5 which says:  “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.” (NKJV)

If we were to look at only this Scripture passage, the message would seem pretty clear cut.  However, we can’t do that.  No verse or passage in the Bible stands alone.  How can what Paul says here to the church at Ephesus stand against what Jesus Himself said in 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.”  If God loves the world (and that would be all of it, every human, past, present and future); and if whoever believes (an open-ended invitation), then how can only part of the world receive God’s love, and only a select few be allowed to believe?

Let’s look at some other verses.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 – “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

These verses not only make it clear that God wants all men to be saved, but also that He is waiting patiently, holding back on His plans to establish His kingdom, so that as many people will come to Him as will choose to.

If God has pre-determined who will be saved, why not just pick the lot of us, establish His kingdom and be done with it?  The answer to that is free will.  That I know of, there is no particular place in the Bible that specifically says we have “free will”.  However, there are a number of passages that allude to the freedom that God gives mankind to choose whether to obey Him, whether to receive His salvation and serve Him, or not.  Adam and Eve, of course, are the very first example of that.  God commanded them to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  But when it came down to it, He allowed them to make that choice.  Don’t fool yourself.  He knew it was coming.  He could have posted guards around it to prevent them from disobeying, but He didn’t.  He gave them the choice, but of course, also allowed them to suffer the consequences of that choice.  Some other verses that talk of mankind taking advantage of that free will are listed below.

Deuteronomy 30:19 (God to the people of Israel) – “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”

Joshua 24:15 – And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Mark 8:34 – “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.'”

Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Again I ask, if we have free will to choose, or not choose, God, how then could we be chosen by Him?  Either He presents salvation to us so that we can make the choice, or He picks us and says, “Here, take this.”  Either God so loved the whole world, and offers salvation to all who choose Him, or He designed a path to salvation for only those of the world that He truly loves.  It can’t be both ways.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commanded his disciples to go into all the world preaching the gospel.  What would the point be?  Unless.  Unless the Gospel is for everyone.  

Romans 1:18-20 says the following:  “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

Paul is saying here that God put in every human being the ability to recognize Him and know Him, so that they/we would have no excuse to not know Him.  Why would He do that when only a select handful would be chosen?  An excuse would not matter if the right to choose was not there.

Take a moment to scroll back up and re-read Ephesians 1:4-5.  Now read these words from John 1:12 – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

So here it is.  God has predestined all those who choose to receive Him and believe in Jesus to become His children.  The predestination is linked to the adoption as a result of salvation, not as the salvation itself.  From the beginning of time, God had a plan to offer salvation to all the world.  Abraham was told that through his seed, all the world would be blessed.  The knowledge of God, and the desire to have a relationship is built into each and every one of us.  The invitation to receive salvation through Jesus is extended to every single person in the whole wide world.  And the promise is that everyone who receives it is already guaranteed, pre-determined to be, adopted children of God Most High.

 

 

Predestination

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.

 

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It is the image of God reflected in you that so enrages hell; it is this at which the demons hurl their mightest weapons. ~ William Gurnall

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