Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
Predestination: The Doctrine of Grace
by Tony Warren
When we hear the word Predestination in our day, it has almost taken on the connotation of being a dirty word to many professing Christians. The prevalent view has shifted from the sovereignty of God to choose, to the untenable view that Christ went to the cross and atoned for the sins all mankind. That is to say, "every single person in the entire world has had their sins atoned for." But the reality is that atonement (by definition) is "to satisfy divine justice for our sins." and so how could it be possible that this satisfaction (or the value of that atonement) was ultimately insufficient to save all for whom the atonement was made? Indeed, how could Christ have borne all of mankind's iniquity in His flesh, died with those iniquities, been raised up from death without them, and yet most of mankind still has to pay for those iniquities atoned for? It makes no biblical, or even logical sense. Those who cling to this idea have obviously come to an erroneous conclusion, based on unbiblical assumptions. Christ did not bear man's sins one and all, He bore the sins of only those whom the Father in His divine Sovereignty, had before chosen. He bore the sins of all "His" people, not all People.
And that is exactly what He did. He saved all "His people" from their sins, not all people from their sins. This is the Reformed Christian view and the only view that is consistent with the whole of scripture. For the Bible teaches the divine pleasure of God to save whomever He chooses, by His sovereign grace alone. He does not save us because we asked of our own free will, but because it was His sovereign pleasure to do so. Nevertheless, there are those who think that free will and Predestination co-exists and that there is no binary opposition between the two. Their thinking is that Predestination is complimentarity to free will, and doesn't imply that man can save himself. However, the truth is that if we hold that the power to believe unto salvation of our own free will and without the moving of Christ within our being, then by definition we have asserted a synergistic soteriology. And this is indeed declaring that man has the free will to save himself. That is inherently flawed, because scripture teaches that it took no effort (work) on our part to decide to choose, believe or serve Him. It was all instituted by the sovereign pre-determination of God, to bring whom He will (for His own purposes) to salvation. In a word, Predestination. To say Predestination is complementary to free will is like saying oil is complimentary to water or hate is complimentary to love. Reformed soteriology is monergistic in that it teaches a single power at work in salvation. In other words, God carries out His work in salvation without prior human action, agency or consent. Man reacts to God's sovereign grace with the fruits of that work. Our faith and repentance are results of God's working, not the cause. By contrast, most of modern Christianity holds to a synergistic view of salvation. That is to say, man and God aiding each other in a cooperative effort to effect salvation. But this view of the salvation process not only strips God of His sovereignty, but His divine purpose and right to have mercy on whomever "He" wills. A Christian may think that He sovereignly chose God of his own free will, but in truth God was working within him withholding man's will, according to God's will (Philippians 2:13). As even the example of Genesis with King Abimelech and Abraham's wife Sarah so clearly demonstrates:
- "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall Save His people from their sins."
The fact is, King Abimelech may have thought that he was a righteous man and refrained himself, but here God reveals the truth of the matter. It was God Himself who held him back from this sin and would not permit him to touch Sarah. That is God's divine economy in predetermining by His own sovereign will, what would and would not take place. Predestination is not a foreign or dirty word, it is very much a Biblical word. It was not invented by Reformed theologians to support their doctrines, it is the very word that God inspired to be used.
- "And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her."
Predestination is the Greek word [pro-or-id'zo], meaning to have been pre-determined or Pre-destined before hand. God knew exactly what He wanted when He inspired this word to be used. Though many theologians in our day have developed a distaste for this God inspired word and thus work diligently trying to strip it of its efficacious meaning, the word stands in stark testimony against salvation by man's own determining. So though some professing Christians may squirm in their seats at the very sound of it, God is not mocked.
In today's world, the answer is often yes. The reason for this disdain for the truth is that the Church doesn't really like what scripture says because it makes them uncomfortable. For in their heart there is pride where they don't want a God that says "He" pre-determined things ahead of time. They vainly want to believe that they have some say in the matter. For truth be told, they don't really want a sovereign God who looks favorably on whosoever He wills, they want a god who reacts to their will or works, favorably. They want a god that will let them be the one to get the glory of having chosen him themselves, without any work from Him. But a sovereign God who has Predetermined ahead of time who He will saved is a God that won't allow man to glory in himself. And that is ultimately why so many look to redefine the word Predestination, and in essence redefine God. For whether we like it or not, "this" Sovereign God is the God of the Bible, so that any other god must be one of their own making.
- "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?"
God did five things here for those He elected unto Salvation. He Foreknew them, He predestinated them, He called them according to His purpose, He justified them, and He glorified them. So what part did man have in all this? None. Yet in their pride, there are many who will take the clear language of the scriptures, and by rationalizing or twisting them, will vainly attempt to make them appear to say what God obviously did not inspire them to say. But if a Christian can't believe what is written, what can he believe? God's word is clear that whom He foreknew (or knew ahead of time), He "also" Predestinated, or Pre-Determined that they would be justified in Christ. In other words, that they would be born from above in the image of Christ. Note that it doesn't say that God foresaw that they would do good deeds, or that they would choose Him and then acted accordingly. This of course is what some people "read into" this passage, but it's the private or personal interpretation of this verse. Certainly not at all what the verse itself actually says. Because what God had foreknowledge of is that there was none that would seek after Him, and there was none that did good in His eyes. Because without the agency of God, the heart of man is as stone (Ezekiel 11:19) and hopelessly wicked.
- "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
- For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them he also glorified."
That is what Omniscient God had foreknowledge of. We see the whole of scripture giving evidence for God's sovereign election, but we see not one scripture that either says, implies, or even alludes to God's saving grace being based upon man's own will or work in freely seeking or accepting Christ. When God looked down the halls of time, what He foreknew is that there was not one who would. And that's why He provided a Savior, a Deliverer for man.
- "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
Being Omniscient, God foreknew that there was none, and so He called "His People" to be conformed to the image of Christ, and He predestinated them, and He justified them and He also glorified them. It's not rocket science, t is written that God did it all (Romans 8:29-30). If God conformed or fashioned us to be in the image of His son, then ewe were already prepared unto salvation by Him. Furthermore, the idea that we by our own free will come to Christ contradicts many other scriptures, thus violating the most basic rule of sound hermeneutics. Namely, "no scripture can make another scripture untrue, or null and void." For if God foresaw all of us ahead of time, then what He obviously foresaw was that there was not one of us that would seek after him. Again:
- "The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
- They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
The exact same thing as we read in Psalms 14:2-3. What God foresaw and foreknew was that all our righteousness would be as filthy rags and that we would all be desperately wicked. God saw us for just the unrepentant sinners that we would be. Dead in trespass and sin wherein we were constantly in rebellion against Him. Not as people who would of their own free will come to Him, given the opportunity.
- "God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God.
- Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
This is what God foresaw. And yet foreseeing all this, of "His own" Sovereign good will and pleasure and for His own good purposes, He chose to Choose, call and Predestinate some to be conformed to the image of His Son. He elected them to be reborn into new creatures, regardless of their unrighteousness or inherent refusal to seek after Him. He drew His people of "His" own free will, not ours.
- "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."
This is the love of God that we were born of God a new creation, of "His" own free will. So it's not really a question of if God says that He predestinated us to be conformed to Christ's image, there is no question that He says that. There is also no question that God doesn't say that He foreknew someone would seek or choose Him and therefore He predestinated him according to that inconsistent and incomprehensible doctrine. For we can never be justified by our free work in coming when others didn't. For that is a doctrine of anti-grace. Rather, God says He predestinated us, and also called us, and also Justified us. We can never be justified by what God saw (our good decisions, efforts or works), we are justified by unmerited favor of God. We are justified by the work of Christ, which is by Grace alone.
- "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."
We were predestinated unto adoption as children. And note again that God declares unambiguously and concisely, that He Predestinated us not according to our own (supposed) free will, but that He predestinated us according to the good pleasure of His own will! These are not isolated or ambiguous passages that might be misunderstood. Nor are they subject to our own personal opinions or private interpretations. God says these things clearly over and over again. Salvation is not by the free will of man foreseen by God, it never was and it never will be. How many different ways does God have to inspire it written before man gets the word picture?
- "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will."
We had no free will to be born or God or saved, and our will (apart from the working of Christ in us) is in bondage to the sin of the flesh so that we desire our own ways and means. If we were predestinated according to our own free will, then there would never be anyone seeking after God. There would be no salvation because it is only by the Grace of God that we believe (have faith), and this because God ordained it. As is clearly and unambiguously written.
- "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
The idea that God predestinated us according to our own free will to choose is a contradiction of God's word. It wasn't because of our will (which is to do what 'we' want), it was just as God states, "according to the good pleasure of His will." ..by Grace Alone!
- "For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
- And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
Predestinated According to Free Will?
There are many misguided Theologians who will precipitously argue that "yes, God predestinated us, but He did it according to our free will." But all scripture references, including Ephesians 1:5, will not allow such a theory to stand. In context, it is clear that it's by the pleasure of His choice and not our own. And the preceding verses make that clear.
Not according as He had foreseen 'us' make the choice ourselves, but according to "Him" choosing us that we should become sanctified and unblamable. He Pre-determined that we would become adopted sons in Christ according to what He wanted (His good pleasure), and not what we wanted.
- "According as He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:"
Moreover, you cannot be predetermined "to be" something by the will of God, and yet be that by "your own" free will. By who's will was it anyway? God says it is by His good will, but man retorts no, it is by my own free will. Both cannot be correct as that would be both illogical and irrational. If God predetermined thousands of years ago that you would be an adopted son and made you conform to Christ, then how did you freely choose today to be (or not be) that son conformed to the image of Christ? It makes no sense because it's confusion. But man in his arrogance and haughty heart, rather than just surrender to the authority of God's word and receive the gracious unmerited gift, fights the truth of scripture in a vain unconscious attempt to gain some praise, credit, merit or yes, glory for freely coming when so many others didn't. And in order to do so he rationalizes away the text, or reinterprets it any way that will make it appear to conform to his humanistic reasoning. To say "we were Predestinated because God knew we would choose Him" is tortuous of scripture. If that were the case, then we were not predestinated, God merely saw our own good work of choosing and thus saved us according to our will. That's Salvation by our own deeds, which any way that you slice it, cannot be Grace.
- "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
We cannot have it both ways where God saw our free will in doing the good work of choosing Him, and acted accordingly, and yet it all still be by Grace. Grace means not by any effort on our part, but by the unmerited favor of God. And to say, "God chose us because he foreknew that we would choose Him", makes a mockery of what God actually said there. For if God chooses us because we choose Him, then it is not really God's choice, is it? It's God's reaction to our choice. Because in that theology, we're the ones doing the choosing and God is merely responding to our action--our work. That's another doctrine, not the doctrines of grace. These Theologians who teach this make a mockery out of the word 'Chosen,' just as they have of the words 'Grace' and 'Predestinated!'
Not only does God do the choosing, but clearly He also "causes" whom He chooses to seek Him that He might become a servant. So if God chooses and God causes those chosen to respond according to His will, then how are they responding by their own free will? The only rational explanation is that they haven't chosen God, God chose them.
- "Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple."
Here Christ clearly confirms that once again, declaring that His disciples had not chosen Him, but that it was He that had chosen them, that ordained them for the purpose of going out and bringing forth good fruit. How much clearer can it get? The Lord has chosen us, not vice versa.
- "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."
- "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you."
This is the mockery that man makes of God's use of the word Chosen when they attempt to show it really means we freely choose ourselves. Man in his pride and arrogance would change this edict to, "many are called, but few make the choice." This is the ultimate treachery in wresting God's word to make it appear to conform to the worldly philosophies of man in their vain idea of self respect. The truth is, Predestinated by God is really the only way that salvation could be. For we cannot be saved by any decision, effort, merit or choice of our own. For in declaring that, what we would actually be saying is, "while all those others sinners in the world wouldn't freely choose God, I, being being/wiser/better, did choose and was thus rewarded for my choice." Again, that is the merit system which is opposite of sovereign Grace. We cannot be saved because we do something to merit it, and we cannot be saved because we make more righteous decisions than the next guy. And that's exactly what it would be if we indeed are the ones who choose God and thus gain salvation because of that deed. There is none of us who would (on their own) seek God. And that's not rhetoric, that's God's declaration of our spiritual condition before He makes the effort to save us. As we also read in the Psalms, so we read in Romans.
- "Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
- For many are called, but few are chosen."
How can one logically believe that there are indeed some who understand, and indeed some who seek after God of, when God Himself plainly declares that there are none who do so? No not one single person who will. The natural or carnal man of the flesh doesn't like hearing God say that, and so he pretends that it's not really applicable, or it can be privately interpreted another way. But the Biblical facts are, we only have the virtue within ourselves to choose to come to Christ because God in His sovereignty gave it to us. Like the Woman who touched the hem of His garment believing she would be made whole (Mark 5:28-30), yet it was out of Him that the virtue came to heal her. The hem of the clothing she touched signified the robe of Christ's righteousness wherein we are all made whole. But the question is, why did she seek Him and why did she believe that she would be made whole by the touch of His clothing? When we know that no one will seek Christ without God pulling them to do so, it is then that we understand why it was that she trusted she might be made whole. It was not of herself, but of Him that called her. God Himself, through no merit of hers, but by His own sovereign good will, and for His own divine purposes (Grace), is the one drawing whomever comes to the Lord. Lest we should glory in ourselves or attempt to take credit for accepting His call. But don't take my word for it:
- "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
- There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
- They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one".
And for emphasis, that Greek word translated draw there is [helkuo], and is more accurately "drag." So here again we have Christ declaring unambiguously that no man can come to Him except God the Father drags him to Christ. So we have two immutable facts of God's law: #1. There is None, no not one, that will seek after God
- "No man can come to the Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day."
#2. So then, the only way anyone does come is if God Himself draws or drags them.
This is the consistent theme all throughout scripture. The sovereignty of God to have mercy on whomsoever He wants, according to His good will and pleasure rather than any alleged free will of man. There are of course many Theologians who read these scriptures and unfortunately lack the spirit to actually hear what they are reading. But "he who hath an earth, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the Churches." There is none righteous, there is none that seeks after God, there is none that understandeth. We're all like a bunch of wicked vipers that are slaves to their own wicked ways. But here and there, some do come, some do understand, some do seek. And here God gives us our answer why. It is because the Father, of His own sovereign will to have compassion on whomsoever He will, draws them. As it is written.
We don't seek Him out, He searches His sheep and seeks them out and draws them to follow Him. What part of Free will is seen in any of these most pertinent verses? None. There is none that freely wants to do God's will, there is none righteous, there are none that seek after God, no not one.
- "For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
- As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day."
There is none lost that seeketh after the Lord and so it is God that has to seek after them. No one can come to Christ unless the father does this (John 6:44). The objection might be raised, "Yes, but we must first receive him.' However, the Biblical fact is that man cannot receive Him of his own will.
- "And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
- For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
So on every avenue, from every passage, the truth rings out loud and clear so that there is no excuse. How can man first receive when the authoritative scriptures tell us "no man can receive?" And how then can man first seek Christ of his own (alleged) free will, when all the unsaved are in bondage to sin and God tells us that no man can come? The answer of course is that he can't! He comes only by the unmerited gift of repentance that is bestowed upon Him by God. Not because he deserved it or because he chose it, but simply by the unmerited Grace of God. Lest any man should boast.
- "John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven."
We are His workmanship and any good we do was long ago ordained that we should walk in them. Not of our own free will or our own virtue or accepting, but through the work of Christ in us. Almost everyone who calls themselves Christian will mouth the words, "we're saved by the Grace of God." But in real application many deny it because they demonstrate by their doctrines that they don't truly understand what Grace actually is. It is undeserved, unearned, unmerited favor of God. In other words, if salvation is by Grace, then it is a completely free Gift. Do we really understand what a totally free gift is? It is a gift that you didn't gain by by paying for it, by choosing it, nor by the deed of asking or accepting it. It was simply given with absolutely no strings attached. That is Biblical Christian Grace! If a gift has any strings attached at all, then it isn't really a totally free gift. This is what so many do not understand. If I offer a gift, but say that first you must come choose it, then it's not free. The price of this gift is that you must come and choose to accept it. If the gift is qualified by some deed, then it's not a free gift. Because the person offering it is indebted to give the gift "only" (dependant upon) if you do certain things first. That's conditional, not unmerited. That's not Grace, that's debt or something required. And God makes this abundantly clear, if we will receive it.
- "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
- Not of works, lest any man should boast.
- For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
The true gospel is a gospel of God's Grace to choose whoever He wants to bestow His free gift upon. Not because they said the sinners prayer or accepted an altar call, but because God was merciful to choose to save them despite that fact that they would not do good or seek after Him. That is why the Christian can be so appreciative and grateful and thankful. Because they know that they were not one bit better than the next person, and yet God saw fit to have compassion on them. That is what that verse means when it says "..According to the good pleasure of His will." We don't repent because we were sorry for our sin against God, we were sorry for our sin because God gave us to be sorry.
- "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt."
2nd Timothy 2:25
- "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."
Yes, even our repentance is a gift of God. To this end were we called and predestinated (God's word, not mine) according to the sovereign good will of God to do so. The real question is, does God have the divine right to "justly" pre-determine who He wants to save? Of course He does, as it's His good pleasure to do so. And who are we to argue (with God) and presume that it's somehow not fair, or not righteous, because we surmise that we should be the ones to choose Him to our glory--rather than Him choosing us to His. But that's exactly what man thinks. God doesn't move on the basis of what we think is right in our own eyes. He moves according to what is right in His perfect and all seeing eyes. Again God makes that perfectly clear:
- "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;"
Again, our inheritance is according to the purpose of God, not according to our free choosing. In other words, it is reiterated that Predestination was according to the purpose of His Counsel, and so that His will would be done. That is why we were predestinated. Not at all because of our deciding according to our will. That's what God's word declares, it's not something Reformed Christians made up. We were chosen in love, and it wasn't because we had any desire for Him, or because we were virtuous, but because He loved us first (1st John 4:19), inducing the response of our love for Him. By Grace we were chosen unto this from before the foundations of the world. We should give glory to God for His mercy wherein when we were still dead in trespass and sin, God in all His foreknowledge still chose to predetermine we've become saved anyway. It is 'He' who causes us to hear, react, come forth and walk in His statutes.
- "In Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His Own Will."
Dear children, do not overlook that God causes us to walk in His laws and draws us to Christ. When God looked down through the corridors of time, He saw that we wouldn't come to Him of our own will, and so He predetermined that we'd be drawn of His own hand. He ordained that we'd be delivered from the bondage of sin and He causes or makes us to walk according to His will. That is what we call a truly compassionate and merciful God. We should never suppose that God is somehow unrighteous if He calls one unto salvation, and not another. Because by all rights, we should all end up in Hell, and not one of us could protest that we didn't deserve it. But God in His mercy, according to His promise, has seen fit to save some simply by Grace. And He is not unrighteous in doing so, nor is it unfair, or anything that man may imagine in the wickedness of his heart. In his sinfulness, natural man always wants to play the victim, but God is not mocked by any attempts by man to place blame upon Him. In fact, this very scenario and question is answered in Romans 9:15. We should all read and consider these passages very carefully. It is talking specifically about this topic of Election (being Chosen of God), and speaking of the saving of Jacob and rejection of Esau. God says He hated Esau before he was even born. We might (in our human minds) ask, how is that fair since before he was born Esau hadn't done either Good or evil. God anticipates man's question and He addresses it with sharp rebuke. As sovereign God, He's entitled to have mercy on whoever He chooses, according to His own will, not man's.
- "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
- And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
- And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God."
There it is yet again. Not of him that willeth (man's will), but of God's sovereign right to make the selection of whoever He chooses. Just as God said to the prophet Moses (Exodus 33:19). Salvation is not because of what we think, or what we do, or our good deeds, education, heritage or our freely choosing God. It is because He sovereignly decided to have mercy and compassion on us. It was by God's Election or choice, made even before we were born. That's what the word predestination means. Predetermined before. Because God very clearly has the sovereign right to save whosoever He wants, regardless of what they have done or not done. Regardless of the circumstances of either Jacob or Esau in doing any good or evil. God knew the end from the beginning and He ordained that His will would stand that Jacob would become saved because of His love for him. Not because he had done either good or evil. So it's not a matter of if God says these things, but one of if we will believe Him.
- "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
- For He saith unto Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion of whom I will have compassion.
- So then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."?
From the beginning it was the will of God to love Jacob and to hate Esau, and God's counsel stands that He will do whatever He pleases. Those are God's words, not man's. And yet the objection of the modern Church is carnal in thinking that this type action by God is somehow not fair. They question how if this is true, why does God still find fault with people if He saved one and not another and it's not based upon merit? Man is questioning God at this point, as if He was a suspect of some crime or unrighteousness. The unfaithful Churches today does this continually in order to try and gain sympathy for their views that go against what is written. But let's go directly to God and get His answer to this most troubling thinking. God continues:
- "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:"
God's answer to man is another sharp rebuke. God replies, "Who are you to question Me!" Clearly man has no right to question the ethics of God in saving one and not saving another, according to His will. He has the sovereign right to do so, and man cannot question Him as if we think it unrighteous to do this. He is not the suspect of some crime, on the contrary we are the criminals who deserve everything we get. He is the lawgiver, we are those obligated to obey His laws. We are the clay, He is the Potter. So who is man to retort against God and insinuate that Predestination or Election unto salvation before we were born, is somehow unrighteous? No it is not unrighteousness. God is infinitely righteous and wiser than we are.
- "Thou wilt say then unto Me. why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?
- Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus?
- Hath not the Potter power over the clay; of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour?
Far from Predestination being man's doctrine, Calvin's doctrine or Reformed doctrine, Election or Predestination is clearly taught throughout the Bible, and there is no way of getting around that fact without all sorts of exegetical and hermeneutical gymnastics. He will do according to His will, and man has no right to ask Him why or question His righteousness in doing so.
Who can say to God, "what are you doing?" There is none, no not one. And so unless we can twist the scriptures in a deceitful unbiblical manner, we must come to the conclusion that man is saved not because he decides of his own will he wants to be, but because God decided for him and chose to draw him according to his own sovereign will. Man has no right to say that this is not righteous, or it is unfair. Who are we to question God? And this is exactly what God is saying here in this verse and in Romans. And if we study the whole chapter carefully, in context, and are honest with ourselves, we will see that these things are true.
- "And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?"
But what about those verses that say all?
There are certain verses in scripture which use the word "all," and these passages are often brought up by some theologians in an attempt to deny the doctrine of Predestination. For example in John 12:
Some have surmised that this means that all men (everyone in the world) will be drawn to Christ, but only some chose to accept Him as Lord and Savior. First of all, this idea is contrary to everything else that the Bible has to say on the subject. Such as, "no man can come to me except the father which sent me draw him, and I will raise Him up at the last day -John 6:44." So If this theory were indeed true, then all men would be saved and raised up on the last day. We then become universalists and make a mockery of scripture. Second, this idea contradicts all the scriptures that say Hell will be heavily populated as the wicked are judged at the last day.
- "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."
Clearly, all were not predestinated, all shall not be saved and all were not chosen. The fact is, the word "all" is usually qualified. In John 12:32 it's used to qualify the fullness of those who believe. In other words, all men without distinction, not all men without exception. Note that this does not modify or change the definition of the word "all," it is simply qualified. It is all of something, not all of everything. Eg.:
- "The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
- And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
The word all doesn't mean all people on the planet, it is qualified by the words "that the father shall give me." All of that group that God chooses to give Him, not that God gives Him all people. So we can see rather clearly that the word "all" always mean all of something, but not necessarily all of everything.What the word "all" means in scripture is defined by scripture, context and reference. Let's look at just a few of the many examples. Because the Bible plainly answers this question regarding the use of the word all.
- "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
Most certainly not every single man, woman, and child (bar none) in the land of Judea went to get baptized that day. It would be ludicrous for any Theologian to make such a statement. Therefore, we must understand without prejudice that the word "all" there, is qualified as all that were inclined. Likewise:
- "And there went out to him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem and were all baptized in the river Jordan"
Again, the "all" is qualified as not every single person in Israel, but all that were inclined to come that day to hear Him teach. It says all and it means all, but it doesn't in any sense mean that every single person in Israel came to listen to Jesus. They could not all fit into the Temple. We understand clearly that the word all is qualified as all who came that day to hear him teach.
- "And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down and taught them."
Did the Apostle Paul witness to every single person on the earth? No, not at all. The word all is qualified.
- "For thou (Paul) shalt be a witness unto all men of what thou hast seen or heard."
Believers don't hate believers, and so again that word "all" is qualified as all those who are adversaries of Christ, not every single person in the world.
- "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake."
All men that came to hear him preach were baptized, not all men on the planet. In all these scriptures we see clearly that the word "all" in context does not mean every man without exception. Either the word "all" is being used in the sense of a hyperbole (referring to a very large number but not everyone without exception), all men of a certain group, or used to speak of all men without exception. So for any theologian make an all inclusive statement that "all" must mean everyone, or it should be understood in scripture to mean all men on the earth, is certainly not accurate and is clearly an untenable position.
- "And they came unto John and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou bearest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men came to him."
As a practical example, if you were to say, "all the children rode the bus to school." That is an absolutely true statement. But it doesn't mean all the children in the world, and it may not even mean all the children at the school. It could mean all the children in a town who ride the bus. In other words, just like in scripture, the "all" is qualified. The word hasn't changed in meaning, it still means all, but it is qualified by "what" all we are talking about. Likewise, drawing all men unto Christ is qualified. It is not all men without exception, it is all men without distinction. People from every race and nation, or all who will ever be risen in Christ. It does not (nor could it without contradiction) mean every single person in the entire world. It's the all who God says in John 6:44 can only come to Him when He draws them. Obviously, all men will not be drawn. Else why would God say no man can come unless he is drawn of God, or that there will be judgment of the wicked on the last day?
What about the verses that say "world?"
Many professing Christians also look at the verses that use the word "world," and they make the same mistake of not understanding or recognizing (in some cases, not wanting to understand) that the word "world" is qualified. eg.:
- "And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world."
They look at these verses (and verses like them) and surmise that Christ is the Savior of everyone in the world, not just an elect group in the world. But It doesn't say He is the Savior of every single person in the world. God could have very easily inspired the words "every person in the whole world" to be penned there, but He did not because that is not what He is saying. The words "whole world" is qualified as the group whom God has given Him to save. Not that the word world has changed, Christ is indeed the Savior of the world, and indeed the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. That is to say, everyone in the whole world for whom Christ died. But not every single individual in the whole world. ie., not everyone in the world without exception, but everyone in the world without distinction. Not everyone in the world unqualified, but everyone in the world who will ever have their sins paid for (Jew, Roman or Greek), will have them paid for by Christ. There is no other Savior, no other propitiation, no other way.
- "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
All who are saved in the whole world, will be saved by Christ. Or to put it another way, "we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." If indeed John 2:2 was saying that not the Jews sins only, but also the sins of the whole world, that would mean that they were contrasting their sins, with the sins of the whole world. Meaning, the whole world who has their sins forgiven, is different from them. This very verse defines what is being talked about when it says that not only for us (the Jewish world) but also of the whole world (the gentile world also). That's obviously what is being said. It is not saying all the Jews, and it is not saying all the Gentiles, but all those for whom Christ died. For if Christ is the propitiation for the sins of every single man, woman and child in the entire world, then by definition there is no one in the entire world who has any sin left. Thus all were then saved and all the scriptures talking about judgment, hades and weeping and gnashing of teeth are foolishness. Because Christ would have satisfied the requirement for every single person's sins, thus leaving them unblamable. Consistently, this idea of paying for the sins of everyone without exception is not only an untenable position, it is a unbiblical one. For He was only the propitiation for the sins of everyone in the whole world without distinction. Not everyone in the whole world without exception. Those who were risen with Him, were clearly washed clean in His Blood. Obviously, that's not every jew in the world, nor every gentile in the world. It is everyone in the world for whom He died and took away all their sins. Not the Jewish world only, but the Gentile world also. This is also illustrated in another verse which uses this same word world.
- "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
2nd Corinthians 5:19
This verse clearly cannot mean every single person in the whole world without exception, because that would make a mockery of scripture. We know that every man in the world was not reconciled to God and thus will not be saved. Every person in the world did not have their trespasses taken from them. On the contrary, death and the grave will be heavily populated. The meaning becomes obvious when we are not predisposed to rejecting what scripture actually says. The unfaithful attempt to circumvent God's word, but the truth of it becomes evident through the revelation of the Spirit. God's Sovereign Predestination and Election is not to the Jews only, but has gone out to the whole world. That is the mystery (Colossians 1:26-27) kept secret from the beginning, but now revealed to the whole world. Salvation has gone out to the ends of the earth, the whole world and not just the Jews.
- "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the WORLD unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation."
How Do I know if I am Predestinated?
The question is not, "Am I predestinated?" That God's business. God's word calls all of us to salvation. So the question is, "why don't I answer the call?" If we answer the call, then we will be saved, and we will then know that God loved us and Predestinated us. Those who ignore the call unto salvation could care less that they were not Predestinated. The unsaved are not sitting around thinking, "Gee, I sure wish I was Predestinated." Not at all. It's only the arrogant Church that is arguing about the unfairness of Predestination and the unrighteousness of God's complete sovereignty to select. But who is being short changed here? No one is getting cheated. For anyone who calls on Him will be saved, and the unbelievers don't want to be saved unless they can set conditions. So who is short-changed by Predestination? Scripture teaches us that anyone who comes to Christ, He will in no wise be cast out. That's a fact. If they come, then they were Predestinated and drawn to come. Christ says knock, and it will be opened unto you. And if they knock, then they were Predestinated. But the unfaithful church in its own vanity in seeking approval and credit is upset because the Doctrine of Grace denies them the glory of claiming that they had some part in the reason they are saved. In simple language, they want some credit (Glory). God's sovereign Predestination strips them of their glory in having chosen God, and places it where it belongs. All Glory in true Christianity goes to God for having Chosen us. That's why they look at Predestination as some horrible unrighteous thing. But the age old adage still rings as profound, true and wise as it always has..
"Predestination keeps no one out of heaven, but it keeps a multitude out of Hell."
No man can say he is not going to heaven because of Predestination. The fact is, they are not going to heaven because of their own wilful sin. Their judgment has nothing to do with them being Predestinated to go to Hell. They are going to Hell because of their own iniquities. And try as they may to place the blame on God, it lies squarely at their own feet. The fact that there is none that seeketh after God, is man's sin, not God's. Therefore, there is not one who will be able to righteously complain about being unfairly cast into Hell.
Predestination is God's business. Our business is to spread the Gospel that many might hear and be saved. We are the vessels God uses to get the job done. Our labor in this world is the work of an evangelist, to feed the sheep and to make our calling and election (2nd Peter 1:8-10) sure so that we are not just kidding ourselves. The way to make sure is to make sure we follow (not lead) the word of God. Here is the patience and faith of the saints to keep the word faithfully.
2nd Peter 1:10
My friends, there is a great falling away in the house of God because in large part, the Church has not made its calling and Election sure. Jesus says, He that says he knows Me, and keepeth not My commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in Him (1st John 2:4-5). Those are strong words. Those are ominous words! But the Church continues to say, "have no fear, you shall have Peace and Safety and no evil will come upon you." Brothers and sisters in Christ, we simply cannot continue to eschew the sovereignty of God in teaching that salvation is in our hands and not God's. God is sovereign and in control. He is still on the throne to lift up one and put down another all by His good will and pleasure. And who are we to reply against His rule?
- "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and Election (Being Chosen) sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:"
1st Samuel 2:6-9
Election is not a troublesome word, it is a word demonstrating the mercy and compassion of God upon those whom otherwise would die in their trespass and sin. And being Predestinated is not a dirty word, it is the promise of God to cleanse a multitude from the filth of sin, that they might not see condemnation. People don't like these words because they want to keep their pride (euphemistically called, self respect) and reject the charity [agape] of God. They want to believe that they had something to do with their salvation, when in fact it was all of God's love. He didn't help us a little, He delivered us one hundred percent, All, Total, whatever word you want to use that signifies His complete sovereignty. God did it all. He saw you, He called you, He caused you to hear, He gave you repentance, He drew you to knock, and He opened unto you. It's not the other way around, where you knocked and He heard "your" voice. No, you heard His voice only because He gave you spiritual ears to hear, and then you knocked. Read the scriptures carefully. Face the biblical facts, you were Predestinated and Called according to God's good pleasure and sovereign will, or else you are not called nor Predestinated unto this salvation.
- "The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.
- The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.
- He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them.
- He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail."
Predestination is not a doctrine introduced by John Calvin, it is not a product of the Reformation and it is not a private interpretation. It is a fact of scripture. And just as surely as the scriptures are true and trustworthy, Predestination is the teaching that is written therein. God said it, He explained it and we have a responsibility to believe it. For who are we to argue with righteous God about the merits of its fairness? Who are we to question God about how He made us and yet finds fault? I don't know about anyone else, but I am no one to question God about what He says. ..who are you?
Copyright ©1993 Tony WarrenFeel free to print, duplicate, archive, display or distribute this publication, so long as the copyright notice remains intact, there are no changes made to the article, and there is no fee or charge of any kind applied to it. This publication can be distributed only in its original form, which is unedited, and without cost.
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