In this article I would like to write about the subject of predestination from a Biblical perspective. Many people have many different opinions about the subject of predestination. Opinions are a good thing to have but we must remember that our opinions are like we are, here today and gone tomorrow. New generations come with new opinions so how can we know if our opinions are correct? If we turn to the Word of God, the plumb line of faith, then we can test our opinions and see if they line up with the plumb line. If our opinions do not line up with the plumb line then we must change our opinions because the plumb line is already set. Having said that, let’s move into our subject at hand. The Bible mentions the word “predestination” in the verb form of “to predestine”. The first reference that I would like to look it is a well known set of verses written by the Apostle Paul. People who are pro predestination usually use this text.
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
The word “predestined” here means to limit in advance. Many times, especially those who are pro predestination, will jump to the conclusion that “to limit in advance” means numerically, that is, God has limited the number of people in advance. To limit in advance can also mean to set the parameters, to limit the playing field (for example, a basketball court has the parameters limited in advance, the outline of the court is a form of predestination, if you want to play the game then you are limited by the boundaries). According to the context of this text, what is limited in advance, or in other words, what parameters have been set ahead of time? Verse 29 set the parameters of the believers; they are to be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ. As a true believer your life will be spent being conformed to the image of Christ. How do we know if a person is “chosen”? He is being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. If a person is not being conformed to the image of Christ then we can conclude that he is not part of the “chosen”. My question is, who does the choosing? Is it only God or does man have a part to play in the process?
The next text used by the pro predestination supporters, as evidence that man does not have a choice in the matter of salvation, is also form the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans.
10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”
God chose who would be the leader and carry the blessing between Esau and Jacob. This is clear from the text, but the question is, why did God choose Jacob over Esau? The text does not reveal the answer but the text that is quoted from the Old Testament reveals who Esau was as a person. Esau was a man of the flesh and not a spiritual man (remember Romans 8, the chosen ones are to be conformed into the image of Christ). He sold his birthright for a meal. In other words, he was not interested in the prize that God offered to him as the first born son (the blessing and implementation of the covenant that would bring the Messiah). So we can conclude that Esau made the choice to reject spiritual things and place more emphasis on fleshly things. God knew in advance what Esau would choose but Esau is the one who made the choice. God is just in all of His actions.
The next example comes from this same text, Romans 9, the example of Pharaoh.
17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
Many people latch on to the phrase “I raised you up” and say that it means that God brought Pharaoh to this earth for the sole purpose of punishment and that he (pharaoh) did not have a choice in the matter. His heart was made hard by God so he (pharaoh) could not do right even if he wanted to do it. If we look at the quote from the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for raised up actually means to come to power so God did not make Pharaoh for the purpose of punishment, but instead He allowed Pharaoh to come to power (Pharaoh had his own free will and choices, God just allowed him to come to power).
Exodus 9:13-17 13 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 14 “For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. 15 “For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. 16 “But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth. 17 “Still you exalt yourself against My people by not letting them go.
Plus Pharaoh had chance after chance to repent of his actions yet each time because of his pride, he turned against God and the nation of Israel.
The next text that mentions “predestination” is from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.
The key phrase her is “in Christ”. God has predestined the parameters of salvation (not the number of people). Let’s take a look at the lifestyle of those who choose to follow God’s parameters. They are holy, blameless, son/children, redeemed (no longer slaves to sin). They have wisdom and insight into the mystery of the will of God which gives them hope.
The final text that I would like to look at is from the Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Matthew. This passages teaches that man does has a role in salvation, that is, he must choose to accept God’s offer.
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. 3 “And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. 4 “Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.”‘ 5 “But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 7 “But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. 8 “Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 ‘Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ 10 “Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. 13 “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
There are many who are called. In fact, they were all called but only a few are the chosen. The chosen ones are the ones who accept the calling that God sends out and they come through the parameters that God has set in advance.