Why I believe in predestination (and evangelism)

predestined 3I hold to and teach the doctrine of predestination for one simple reason: the Bible teaches it.  In fact, the Bible’s teaching on this subject are very clear and understandable, and I have trouble comprehending how so many Christians do not see this grand doctrine in the Bible.  I believe that if you read the Bible carefully and seriously you cannot but hold to this crucial doctrine.

John Calvin wrote that predestination is:

“God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man…Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death” (Calvin’s Institutes III.xxi.5).

Article 17 of the 39 Articles of Religion gives us a good definition:

“Predestination to life belongs to God’s everlasting purpose. By this is meant that before foundation of the world, it is his unchangeable decree, in accordance with his secret counsel to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he has chosen in Christ, and to bring them by him to everlasting salvation, as vessels of his mercy (Romans 9.21ff)…”

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1643) states:

“God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.”

Predestination in the bible

One of the many passages that teach this doctrine is Ephesians 1:

v1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: v2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. v3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

In other words, if we are Christians we have every spiritual blessing available.  No need to go on that Spiritual Blessing conference!

v4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

God chose us before the creation of the world.  According to Paul, we did not choose God,

v5 In love he predestined us…

God predestined us, that is, he decided our destiny or fate before-hand.  Many modern commentators seem to have a problem with this language.  I agree with Clinton Arnold when he says, “This statement gives an endearing picture of God as one who has chosen people to be in  relationship with himself, contemplating this out of a heart of love.  This runs counter to any picture of God where he could appear cold, calculating, or austere in election.”  For what has God predestined us to?

V5 …for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will (not ours!), v6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. v7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, v8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight v9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ v10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

God the Father chose us, God the Son died to actually save us, and God the Spirit calls us to himself at a certain point in time and history.  The Triune God works powerfully and magnificently for our good and his glory.

v11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined (“Predestined” – that word again!) according to the purpose of him who works all things (including our salvation) according to the counsel of his will (not our will!) , v12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 2 also stresses God initiative in our salvation.   V1 says, “And you were dead (not ill, unhealthy or partially impeded) in the trespasses and sins”, and v4-5 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive… together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”

We were dead in our sins and our wills were in bondage.  We could never choose God or make ourselves alive.  But God acted in Christ.

Paul was not a thumb-sucker!

Paul did not make up this doctrine but received it from Jesus.   Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”

The word for “draws” literally means to drag, to lead by force or to compel.   As the ESV study Bible says, “No human being in the world, on his own, has the moral and spiritual ability to come to Christ unless God the Father draws him, that is, gives him the desire, inclination and ability to place trust in Christ.”

 Our role

How does God call people to himself and make them spiritually alive?

The rest of the passage in Ephesians 1 tells us:

v13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, v14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

According to v13, the Ephesian Christians were “made alive”(Ephesians 2:5) when they “heard” and “believed” the gospel.   Someone spoke the gospel so they could hear it.  The means God uses to call people to himself is by Christians speaking the gospel to non-Christians.   When those chosen by God before the foundation of the world hear the gospel they believe it and are made alive.  Non-Christians are brought into God’s family not by magic, telepathy or automatic inclusion, but by them hearing the gospel and then believing the gospel, as a result of Christians speaking the gospel to them.

Jesus said

Again, Paul received this teaching straight from Jesus.  In John 10:14-16, Jesus speaks of himself as the good shepherd and says, “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice”.  

Non-Christians (the “other sheep”) hear Jesus’ voice in the gospel.  When those who belong to Jesus hear his voice they respond by listening to his voice and believing the gospel.

God uses us in the salvation of others.  We call it evangelism.  Our role is to be faithful in speaking the gospel to our non-Christian friends, family and colleagues.  God’s role is to choose, save and call.

 

Here is my follow-up post on two errors to avoid.