DEALING WITH ELECTION, PREDESTINATION, AND THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
This may be a difficult doctrine to understand however, predestination is an explicitly biblical doctrine. The Holy Spirit was not ashamed of this doctrine when He inspired the writing of God’s word; neither should we be ashamed of it. First let me say this: The doctrine of predestination is not the central theme of the Bible; the center is Christ and salvation through repentance and faith in Him.
However, predestination is an important feature of the larger doctrine of salvation by grace alone (Rom.11:5-6). Through grace alone, it makes clear that God saves only by His power, wisdom, and righteousness, not man’s. Predestination is an act of infinite Fatherly love, taking outsiders into His family forever. God’s election of sinners apart from any merit of their own directs salvation “to the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph. 1:6).” However, God is not indifferent to justice. For He predestined His chosen ones to salvation “by Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:5)”, requiring that Christ satisfy His justice by “redemption through His blood (Eph. 1:7).”
We do not understand why God has chosen some and not others. However, why didn’t God choose to save everyone? is the wrong question to ask. In light of man’s rebellion against His Maker, we should ask, why didn’t God condemn everyone? The astounding fact is not that God condemns sinners, but that He saves and reconciles sinners to Himself. Unconditional election is the friend, not the enemy of sinners, for without it no one would be saved. In the end, however, we must bow before God’s rights as our Maker. When people accuse God of injustice because of predestination, Paul replies, “Does not the potter have power over the clay? (Rom. 9:21).” I believe that the Creator has the right to do what He pleases with His creatures. I will stop here and check out the Bible and what it has to say on the issue.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE HAVE TO SAY
The God of the Bible is a God of pre-destination. He predestinates our birth, the circumstances of our lives – and certainly He predestines our salvation. The word “predestinate” means “to determine before hand.” Predestination simply means that God predestined our salvation and our service (that is, He knew ahead of time whether we would be saved or would serve Him).
The Bible makes it plain that God selected a certain number of Adam’s fallen race to spend eternity with Him. Ephesians 1:4-5 says this: “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world….. having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”
The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you (John 15:16).” God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; Before you were born, I sanctified you; And I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” These and many other Scriptures show that God elected His people, even before the foundation of the world.
DOES GOD PREDESTINATE ANYONE TO ETERNAL PUNISH-MENT?
No. There is no Scripture which says that God predestinates anyone to be lost, because initially we are all lost (Rom. 3:10-23). It is only because of the grace and mercy of God that anyone of us is saved today. If God had left man alone, no person in all of this world would ever have come to the Lord. This is the reason election is so necessary.
DO ALL BEINGS HAVE A HUNGER FOR THE LORD?
Apparently not. The Word of God says this; “…. There is none who seek after God (Rom. 3:11).” Nobody wants to know God, nobody wants to be saved, nobody wants to keep out of Hell until God Almighty Himself creates a thirst in a person’s heart. Man by nature is not interested in the things of the Spirit of God. He cannot understand them because, “…. they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).”
DID GOD CHOOSE PEOPLE ON THE BASIS OF FOREKNOW-LEDGE?
It is often taught that God foresaw who would believe and that on this basis He elected people to salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Christ said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you…. (John 15:16).
Why did the Lord choose us? Second Timothy 1:9 gives us the answer: “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” In other words, God chose us and saved us solely on the basis of His good pleasure (see also Philippians 2:13).
WHY DID GOD CHOOSE SOME TO BE SAVED AND PASS OTHERS BY?
The answer is found in Romans 9:14-16. God is sovereign and He can do as He pleases. If God wanted to do so, He could send us all to Hell and would be justified in so doing. It is only on the basis of His love, grace, and mercy that any of us are saved today.
God is not required to give us a reason for everything He does. He says in Romans 9:20: “…who are you to reply against God?”
Why God chose Abraham and rejected others, why God chose Jacob and rejected Esau, why God chose Israel above all other nations is something that we have to leave in the hidden counsels and purposes of God’s own sovereign will.
WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL IF PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE SAVED ANYWAY?
First, it is God’s program that we preach (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). He commands it of us, and the faithful Christian will obey. And secondly, God uses preaching as a means to bring the elect unto Himself. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:21: “…. it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” Actually, the truth of election makes us more zealous for souls.
IS THERE SCRIPTURE WHICH SAYS THAT GOD DID NOT ELECT CERTAIN PEOPLE TO BE SAVED?
Yes. Look at John 10:25-27: “Jesus answered them, I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT OF MY SHEEP, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Here we see that the Pharisees did not believe because they were not of the Lord’s sheep or elected ones. Also, study Acts 13:40-41 and 45-46, where we have another concrete example of the elect and the non-elect.
DID CHRIST DIE FOR ALL MEN OR ONLY FOR AN ELECT NUMBER?
The Bible clearly teaches that ample provision was made at the death of Christ for all men; however, only those who trust Christ for salvation receive the benefits of His atonement. Note the following Scriptures: “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 (John 3:16).” In first John 2:2 we read, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” We also read in Hebrews 2:9, “But we see Jesus…. crowned with glory and honor, that He by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”
God has provided a way whereby all men might have salvation. Let us remember that no one will come to the Lord unless he is drawn by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is why God’s elect and grace is so necessary.
This is so beautifully described in my favorite hymn: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”
Bottom Line: God is God. God is sovereign. He does what He does! We are the lump of clay – He is the Potter. It is only through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit that anyone can come to the Lord. I don’t spend much time or energy on this subject because no one knows the mind of God. Other individuals may have a different view on the subject and that is fine. One thing that we can all agree on is that when we get to heaven it will all be revealed to us.
A Final Comment:
The most common objection to the doctrine of predestination is that it is unfair. Why would God choose certain individuals and not others? We must remember that no one deserves to be saved. We have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and are all worthy of eternal punishment (Romans 6:23). As a result, God would be perfectly just in allowing all of us to spend eternity separated from Him. However, God chooses to save some of us. He is not being unfair to those who are not chosen, because they are receiving what they deserve. God’s choosing to be gracious to some is not unfair to the others. No one deserves anything from God; therefore, no one can object if he does not receive anything from God. An illustration would be a man randomly handing out money to five people in a crowd of 20. Would the 15th person who did not receive money be upset? Probably so. Do they have a right to be upset? No, they do not. Why? Because the man did not owe anyone money. He simply decided to be gracious to some.
The Bible never describes God rejecting anyone who believes in Him or turning anyone away who is seeking Him (Deuteronomy 4:29). The truths of God’s sovereign predestination and also man’s responsibility are not mutually exclusive, somehow, in the mystery of God, predestination works hand-in-hand with a person being drawn by God (John 6:44) and believing unto salvation (Romans 1:16). God predestines who will be saved, and we must choose Christ in order to be saved. Both facts are equally true.