Table of Contents
As we look at Predestination vs. Foreknowledge, we are looking at diametrically different views of Scripture. We might say this is a watershed issue. Those who adopt a view that God predestined before the creation of the world those who would be saved and those who would be damned will take a view very different from those who believe Scripture teaches that God foreknows those who will accept the Gospel, who will have a saving faith, and who will receive Jesus as their Lord!
As we begin, we must establish some rules of interpretation. The three rules of interpretation of Scripture that I deem to be of utmost importance are:
q ALWAYS let Scripture interpret Scripture. In law we saw that the interpretation must come from within the four corners of the document. Outside extrinsic evidence is not allowed. Scripture is God’s Word. It is ALWAYS capable of interpreting itself. The legal phrase is: Let the writing speak for itself.
q ALWAYS interpret Scripture in a way that is consistent throughout. Is God incapable of expressing himself? Of course not. Is God consistent? His word says he changes not.
q NEVER take a phrase from Scripture out of context, or out of the meaning of the sentence itself, and claim that is a truth from God.
As we look at the issues presented here, we will look at what Scripture says, how it is often misinterpreted, how consistent (or inconsistent) the interpretation is with other Scripture, and what the effect of one interpretation or the other would be on the Kingdom of God. We will also see how a bad root will affect subsequent fruit. We will see how a serious misinterpretation of Scripture will lead to one bad doctrine after another, all tending to impact on whether or not the people who hold to such views will be saved.
Finally, please do not be discouraged by the idea that this is difficult. Studies have shown that Scripture has been written at the sixth grade level. Yes! The sixth grade! That means all of us should be able to understand God’s word. Isn’t that what he wants? Of course. God is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8).
Predestination is a term that has been popularized from Calvinism. It holds that because God is sovereign, he determined (predestined) before the foundations of the earth who would be saved and who would be damned. The doctrine did not originate from Calvin, but rather from Augustine in the third century. It was advocated by Luther and popularized by Calvin.
Foreknowlege is an attribute of God who is outside time and space and who has the ability to know the beginning from the end. God can foreknow who will be saved. This view believes that God does not predetermine (predestine) who will be saved, but rather foreknows who will be saved.
As we will see, there is a huge difference in the beliefs of those who hold to one or the other of these two beliefs. For many it may be a watershed difference. To believe the wrong way may cause that person to end up in a place very different from what they hoped – the difference could be between heaven or hell.
Likely most readers will agree that Scripture calls the followers of Jesus to be righteous (Matthew 5:20, James 1:20, 1 Peter 3:12, 1 John 3:7), holy (Luke 3:34, John 6:68, Acts 3:14, Acts 4:27,30 – of Jesus; Luke 9:26 – of angels; Acts 3:21 – prophets; Romans 12:1 – all believers) , and obedient to the will of God (Matthew 7:21) and the teachings and commands of Jesus (Matthew 28:20).
I was only 10-12 years old, attending both a Presbyterian and Reformed Church, taking the advanced catechism of both churches, when I concluded that if the doctrine of predestination was true, then whatever I did or didn’t do meant nothing. If God had predestined me by name to be saved before the foundations of the earth, then I would be saved because he is the sovereign God, whether or not I wanted to be saved, whether or not I was righteous, whether or not I was holy, or even whether or not I believed.
Naturally I learned of irresistible grace (both churches were Calvinistic in their teachings) that would cause a person to be saved whom God had predestined to salvation, whether or not he desired to be saved. It does not take a mental giant to realize that the doctrine of predestination takes away all responsibility from man. Man has no reason to do anything in particular with respect to his salvation. He just has to wait around to see whether God will irresistibly save him. If he doesn’t, he must be one of those predestined to be damned. If God does irresistibly save him, then it is not his doing, nor is continuing or persevering in the faith.
It also naturally follows that there is really no reason to have “church.” Why should anyone bother to attend church or meet with other Christians? No one can cause anyone to be saved that God has not predestined to be saved. Though it is possible to be instrumental in helping save someone that God had predestined to be saved, it is not important that we do so, as God would simply have saved that person some other way.
In the same reasoning, it is utterly foolish to have foreign missions or any kind of outreach to our nation or community. We will accomplish NOTHING that God has not already predestined, i.e., we can help save no one that God has not already predestined to be saved. And those that are predestined to be saved will be saved, with or without our help and effort.
The Scripture has no application to those who are predestined to be saved and none to those who are predestined to hell. If a person predestined to damnation kept every law and precept and followed every teaching of Scripture exactly as written, he would still be damned to hell because God is sovereign and has predestined him to hell before the foundations of the earth. On the other hand, all the teachings and commands and warnings of Scripture are meaningless to those predestined to be saved. They will be saved whether or not they keep such teachings and commands and whether or not they take heed to the warnings of Scripture.
Also, Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection are also meaningless. Salvation is not really dependent upon Jesus’ atoning death. Salvation is really only dependent on being predestined to be saved. If you are not predestined to be saved, you cannot be, no matter how much you want to, no matter how much you believe in the atoning death and sacrifice of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and seek to follow him as your Lord.
However, Calvinists recognize that many do seem to start well, with all the earmarks of having been saved (predestined to salvation). Yet, something happens and they fall away. Naturally this is not possible (in the Calvinist’s point of view) if someone has been predestined to salvation. Thus they had to explain the phenomenon of those who begin as apparent believers but later fall away. They did this through what they called “evanescent grace.” Evanescent grace is that grace given to those who are really damned, but which allows them to believe they are saved and to act as though they are saved. At some later time, according to his will (or whim), God withdraws his (evanescent) grace and damns them.
The above is true. Naturally, that does not sound good, and is utterly inconsistent with Scripture, so the Calvinists came up with other doctrines to try to soften what is said above. But the essence of what is related above remains true, notwithstanding all the peripheral arguments advanced. Naturally some Calvinists say that the person predestined to salvation will persevere to the end, and will accept and have faith in the Lord Jesus and in his sacrificial death for the remission of sins. But it obviously is not the critical question, is it? The critical question remains whether or not the person is predestined to salvation or damnation.
Predestine or predestined are two terms that derive from the term Predestination. These terms are found in Scripture. We will examine what God has predestined.
Chose or chosen are two terms which also are used by those who claim predestination is how people have been determined who will be saved.
Elect is used in Scripture of those who are chosen. It is also used by those advocating the doctrine of predestination to refer to those that God has predestined to be saved.
One of the primary rules by which everyone should determine the truths of Scripture is to let Scripture define Scripture.
Elect and chosen are defined in 1 Peter 1:1-2:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
We see from the foregoing Scripture, that the elect are those who have been chosen. It is clear from the passage that the two terms are related. What is critical in this passage is that it clearly defines how the elect are chosen: according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.
If you would understand Scripture correctly, it is essential you fix this point firmly in your mind. The passage does not say the elect who have been chosen were predestined to be the elect and the chosen. No, it says the elect were chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. Whenever we see the terms elect and chosen in the future, we can add the parenthetical phrase (according to the foreknowledge of God the Father) to make the passage abundantly clear and to remind ourselves of the correct meaning.
Thus, all instances in the New Testament writings where the words “elect” and “chosen” are used, we know that this refers to those elected or chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. The reverse is also true. Those God foreknows will be saved are the elect and the chosen.
Predestined (as used in Scripture) is defined in Romans 8:29:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).
What does the term predestined mean in vs. 29? It means that God predestined a qualification for all those God foreknew as the elect and the chosen. The predestined qualification is that they MUST BE conformed to the likeness of his Son. This is a qualification pre-determined or predestined by God for all those who will be saved. We also know from vs. 28 that two additional characteristics of the elect and the chosen that God foreknew are that they love him and have been called according to his purpose.
Let’s now look at passages which speak of predestine, elect, or chosen, and see how they read when they are interpreted according to the above scriptures.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:1-14).
The above scripture in bold print are those areas that we will look at most closely, as they contain the key words we’re examining in this study.
To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:1).
This portion of vs. 1 was included as it is always important to see to whom the letter was written. In verses 4 and 5 we see the term “us”. Now we know “us” means the saints, the faithful in Christ Jesus.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight (Ephesians 1:4)
We know immediately how “chose” is to be interpreted from 1 Peter 1:2, don’t we? We can add the parenthetical phrase (according to the foreknowledge of God the Father) after “chose us in him”so the sentence could read: For he chose us in him (according to the foreknowledge of God the Father) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
The phrase which has caused problems is “before the creation of the world.” That is actually a parenthetical phrase simply telling when the event took place. Parenthetical phrases are not necessary to the primary meaning of the sentence. The primary meaning is: For he chose us in him to be holy and blameless in his sight. That is the point Paul is making. He told us when by adding “before the creation of the world.” Perhaps the primary meaning of the sentence would have been clearer had the parenthetical phrase been first, i.e., “Before the creation of the world, he chose us in him to be holy and blameless in his sight.” That is an exact parallel in meaning to the passage, but lessens the difficulties that have been caused by careless reading on the part of those who misinterpret it.
Some have chosen to seek the meaning from just a portion of the sentence: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world.” They put a period after “world” and treat it as an independent sentence. As we have seen, that is not the purpose nor meaning of the sentence, though a truth could still be ascertained, i.e.: “For he chose us in him (according to the foreknowledge of God the Father) before the creation of the world.” That now is a true statement and is Scripture defined by Scripture. However, it is NOT the meaning of that sentence.
I believe Paul was trying to emphasize to his readers that those God chose in him are to be holy and blameless in his sight. That is further supported as we go back to one of our defining Scriptures – Romans 8:29. There we see that those God foreknew he predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. Jesus was holy and blameless. Those God foreknew (chose) are to be holy and blameless, conformed to the likeness of Jesus. You can see how seamlessly the two Scriptures work together. They mean the same thing. Paul is using different terms to state the same message.
Likewise, note the end of Romans 8:28, “called according to his purpose.” What is God’s purpose? It is answered in the next verse – to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. It is also answered in Ephesians 1:4 – to be holy and blameless in his sight.
In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:5).
Here again you can see how easily this can be misinterpreted. But remember that Romans 8:29 defines what we were predestined to do: “to be conformed to the likeness of his Son that he might be the first of many brothers.” Suddenly we see the exact parallel. If we are to be brothers of Jesus, we must be adopted as the sons of God. It is important to include the remainder of the sentence, as it makes the parallel complete: “in accordance with his pleasure and will.” Remember that Romans 8:28 said, “called according to his purpose”? His purpose (Romans 8:28) and pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:5) are that we be conformed to the likeness of his Son (Romans 8:29) and be holy and blameless in his sight (Ephesians 1:4).
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:11-12).
Again, if you had nothing but this Scripture to be your guide, you might come to a wrong conclusion as to its meaning. But now let’s add the parenthetical phrases of the Scriptures which define the terms:
11 In him we were also chosen (according to the foreknowledge of God the Father [1 Peter 1:2]), having been predestined (to be conformed to the likeness of his Son [Romans 8:29] and to be holy and blameless in his sight [Ephesians 1:4]) according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:11-12, with parenthetical phrases included).
Now there is neither difficulty nor ambiguity is there? It is all beautifully consistent, just as we would expect Scripture to be. It is more perfectly consistent as we examine the last phrase “for the praise of his glory.” How will we be for the praise of his glory? When we are conformed to the likeness of his Son and are holy and blameless in his sight.
Let’s look at all other occasions when the terms chose, chosen, elect, predestine, and foreknew appear to see if Scripture continues to be perfectly consistent and whether it can always be interpreted in a perfectly consistent manner.
Paul told the Colossians:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12).
Paul is simply urging God’s chosen people (chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father) to fulfill the teachings and commands of Jesus and to do the will of God which will both be true of those who will be saved. He is also instructing them how to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus. All the qualities enumerated there are the qualities present and displayed in the life of Jesus.
Paul is writing to the Thessalonian Church which he describes in his introduction as: To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5).
Here Paul says evidence of the Thessalonians being chosen (according to the foreknowledge of God the Father) is in part, at least, from what accompanied the Gospel as it was presented to them. It came with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction on the part of the Thessalonians.
ALL those things would be expected from people who would receive the Gospel, just as God the Father foreknew they would.
Again Paul is speaking to the Thessalonian church:
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
Again we find the meaning is consistent. Rephrased, . . . from the beginning God chose you (according to the foreknowledge of God the Father) to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. That is the description of how we are to be saved – through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through a saving faith – belief in the truth.
This time Paul is writing to Titus:
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—(Titus 1:1).
Again, let’s rephrase this: . . . for the faith of God’s elect (chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father) and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.
Here we find both elements, i.e., those who are foreknown by God to be among the saved will have a saving faith. Paul says he is a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect. Also we have found that the purpose is that God’s elect be conformed to the likeness of Jesus, that they be holy and blameless in his sight, and that they be for the praise of his glory. And, as expected, Paul says his secondary purpose is to give the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. How wonderfully consistent is God’s word.
Several times during his letter to the Romans, Paul uses the terms the chosen, the elect, election, and predestine. We’ll quickly examine each of them in light of the definitions Scripture has already given us:
I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? 4 And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day (Romans 11:1-8).
This is a wonderful passage that explains itself. In verse 2 Paul explains God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Verse 5 declares there is a remnant chosen by grace. Those are “his” people, whom he foreknew (as explained by scripture in verse 2). Likewise in the 6th verse, Paul declares again there is a remnant chosen by grace – “his” people, whom he foreknew.
We have already seen from earlier in the chapter that Paul spoke of God’s people whom God foreknew. Read the following with that in mind:
As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable (Romans 11:28-29).
Let’s restate it with the definition of 1 Peter 1:1-2 included:
As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned (being chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father), they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable (Romans 11:28-29).
When we use Scripture to explain Scripture it becomes so easy to understand. The foreknowledge of 1 Peter 1:2 is the same foreknowledge as began this chapter in verse 2. There is no predestination of those who will be saved. It is by God’s foreknowledge that there are the chosen and the elect.
Let’s look next at one of the most interesting uses of the term “election.” We’ll begin with the text that contains the story of Esau and Jacob, as Paul related it:
In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”
Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad — in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls — she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath — prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory — even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:8-24).
The portion in bold print is the part most often misinterpreted. A casual reading may indeed infer that God predestined hatred toward Essau and love toward Jacob. Scripture often requires more than a casual reading in order to mine the gold of its truths. It is so in this case. A casual reading can lead to false doctrine. Let’s take a closer look.
What is God’s election (as used by Paul in Romans 9:11)? Is it something he predestined before the foundations of the earth that would be required of men without regard for their will? Or is it the result of his foreknowledge?
Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger” (Romans 9:11).
Let’s try to understand this now in terms of what we’ve already learned, as Scripture has defined itself. Election, we’ve seen, refers to the choosing of God’s people, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (1 Peter 1:2).
Let’s examine God’s purpose in election by looking again at Romans 8:28-29:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:28-29).
What is God’s purpose – his “purpose in election“? Isn’t it that we be conformed to the likeness of his Son that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29), that we be holy and blameless in his sight (Ephesians 1:4), and be for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12)? More simply stated, God’s purpose in election for those chosen (elected [according to the foreknowledge of God the Father]) is to be like Jesus (1 John 2:6).
Perhaps that is the thrust of the parable Jesus told of the wedding guests:
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless” (Matthew 22:11-12). The man was not conformed to the likeness of the Son – not dressed in wedding clothes. He was dishonoring to his host, coming to a wedding without wedding clothes, and disobedient to the requirement or custom that wedding clothes be worn to a wedding. What was his punishment? Jesus told us: “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:13).
But Jesus makes one more point at the end of the parable. Many are invited but few are chosen. And isn’t that what we see all around us in Christendom? We have all manner of outreaches and evangelistic campaigns. Many are invited. But few are chosen to be among the elect (according to the foreknowledge of God the Father) because few fulfill God’s purpose in election – to be conformed to the likeness of God’s Son, to be holy and blameless in his sight, for the praise of his glory!
If that is God’s purpose, then Paul’s passage about Essau and Jacob becomes totally understandable. Two boys – twins – were born. Jacob would have faith in God; Essau went his own way in rebellion to God. Why would God say that one he loved; the other he hated?
Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Romans 9:13). From that come two very different interpretations.
The 1st interpretation is the one chosen by Calvinists: Before the foundations of the earth God determined that he would love Jacob and hate Essau. He is the sovereign God – he has the right to determine on whom he will have mercy and on whom he will have compassion.
The 2nd interpretation, consistent with our definition of elect and chosen (the passage above at 1 Peter 1:1-2), is based on the fact that God looked ahead with perfect foreknowledge. He saw that Jacob, who began as a sly, devious person, would grow into a man who feared God, who wrestled with God and required a blessing from him. Of him God said, “I loved Jacob.”
God also looked ahead through foreknowledge and saw Essau who spurned his birthright – the God-given rights of the firstborn – by selling it to Jacob for a pot of stew. Essau’s god, at that moment, was his stomach. God saw Essau would never honor him, just as he did not honor his birthright. Looking ahead, even before the twins were born, God said, “I hated Essau.”
Predestined? Would God be unjust to hate Essau after he had damned him before the creation of the world, even though Essau was not yet born, before Essau could do anything to honor or dishonor God? It would seem unjust, by any standard we could choose to apply, even though the Calvinists say God has every right to do so as he is the Sovereign God.
Foreknowledge. Yet, if God, through his foreknowledge, saw that Essau would be rebellious and reject him, it is both reasonable and just that before Essau was born God could say, “I hated Essau.” God can even use the past tense as he says that as he is outside the time dimension. The future is as the past to him.
How does Paul answer the question, “Is God unjust?”
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:14-15. The same is stated at Exodus 33:19 in the Old Testament).
Paul quoted Exodus 33:19, but its context there is very different than in Romans where Paul discusses Essau and Jacob. Paul used God’s statement at Exodus 33:19 as a truth that could be applied anywhere.
Is this verse saying that God, who is sovereign, is a just God even though he makes arbitrary judgments about who will be saved and predestines those who will be damned to an eternity in hell before the foundations of the earth, before any man had any choice in following Christ or rejecting him? That would seem to be the interpretation of the Calvinists.
Or has the sovereign God, who is a just God, predestined conditions (qualifications) for those who would be saved and foreknows those who will choose to fulfill his conditions for salvation?
God will have compassion on whom he will and not be unjust because of what his Word says. God always acts in a manner consistent with his Word. What does his Word say? Let’s examine some passages:
1. God’s Word says all who believe in God’s Son will have eternal life (John 3:16).
2. God’s Word says salvation is by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8).
3. God’s Word says he has predestined that all who will be saved must be conformed to the likeness of his Son (Romans 8:29).
4. God’s Word says, “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
5. God’s Word says without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
6. God’s Word says, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
7. God’s Word says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).
8. “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).
9. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 12:25).
10. “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Matthew 14:33).
11. “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Matthew 14:27).
As in the few instances shown above, God’s Word sets forth criteria for his mercy and compassion: For example, he will have compassion and mercy on whoever believes in the Son; he will not have compassion and mercy on those who reject his Son. The same is true of the other criteria listed above.
Is this an arbitrary, unfair judgment made before the foundations of the earth, before any man could receive or reject God’s son? No! Instead God is perfectly just. He set up criteria in his Word so all men could know how to be saved.
Peter expressed God’s desire: He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation (2 Peter 3:15). Paul wrote the same message to Timothy: “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3). Jesus taught the same message: “God is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost” (Matthew 18:12). Each of those quotations show God’s heart of compassion, having given his son as a ransom so that all men could be freed from slavery to sin and have eternal life, just the opposite of arbitrarily damning some and giving eternal life to others.
A parallel teaching is found in the Old Testament. Moses, on God’s behalf, warned the people of God’s wrath if they did not obey him:
Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land (Deuteronomy 6:14-15).
Then Moses related God’s criteria for receiving his compassion and mercy:
Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the LORD said (Deut. 6:17-19).
There is an even more extensive listing of blessings and curses in Deuteronomy 28, which God said would come upon the people if they did not obey and keep his commandments. Still another exhortation was given by Moses at Deuteronomy 30:15-18:
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
Not once did God say, or suggest, that the fate of the children of Israel was fixed before the foundations of the earth. Instead he urged them to be obedient, to diligently follow his commandments so they could live and prosper. He warned them of his grievous anger, wrath, and punishment if they would not. He stated the criterion for receiving his compassion and mercy – obedience to his commands.
The same is true for the New Testament believer. Jesus did not say or anywhere suggest that man’s fate was fixed by God before the creation of the world. Instead, he also used the criteria of obedience:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
Just as God warned the children of Israel repeatedly, so the message of the necessity of obedience to believers is repeated often in the New Testament. “He (Jesus) became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9). Paul said, “Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5). Paul warned, “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). The Apostle John said,
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did (1 John 2:3-6).
Note that John’s last statement is again a parallel to Romans 8:29, that God predestined that all true believers must be conformed to the likeness of Jesus. John used the terms, “must walk as Jesus did.”
As you see, God determined (predestined) standards – qualifications – which those who would be saved must meet. ALL those who choose to meet those standards will enjoy eternal life. Those who reject them will not. It is each man’s choice – not God’s predestined will – that determines whether his eternal destiny is heaven or hell.
The following statement, standing on its own out of context, could seem to support the Calvinist position that everything to do with salvation is the work of God and that man plays no part in it.
It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy (Romans 9:16).
Let’s consider first the portion of Paul’s statement that it does not depend on man’s desire or effort. In what appears nearly an opposite of Paul’s statement, Peter said: “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (1 Peter 3:14).
Peter has just said, “Make every effort.” Paul said, “It does not depend on man’s desire or effort . . .” Is this a contradiction? Are the writers talking about the same thing?
Consider again Ephesians 2:8: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Because the Word of God is always true without contradiction and (I believe) without tension, there must be a way to reconcile positions that seem contrary to one another. In light of that starting assumption, let’s examine Paul’s statement that it does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.
Paul is discussing the grace of God. As to obtaining salvation by man’s effort or desire, it does not depend on that. It depends on God’s mercy. It is God’s grace expressed in mercy. If not for God’s unmerited favor – grace, having mercy on us, we could not be saved. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Thus salvation does not depend on man’s desire or effort. It depends upon God’s mercy.
Peter is discussing the elements of faith – salvation through faith – that requires much more than mental assent. The person with a saving faith must live out the life of Christ Jesus in his own life – he must walk as Jesus did (1 John 2:6) – and be conformed to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). Did Peter say salvation is all of God and man has no part in it? Just the opposite. He told his readers to “make every effort.”
Peter’s statement is consistent with the teaching of Jesus about salvation when he said, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (Luke 13:24). Reversing the argument, apparently castigating Jews who saw no need to make an effort to gain the Kingdom and the approval of God, Jesus said, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44).
If Paul were saying that no effort should be made in working out one’s faith, he obviously would never suggest that effort should be exerted. Instead his exhortations are the opposite. He told the Romans: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). And to the Ephesians he said, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). To the Philippians he told of the balance – man’s effort and God’s work of salvation: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). Remember the purpose stated in Romans 8:28-29 – that those God foreknew would be saved would be conformed to the likeness of his Son, and (Ephesians 1:4) to be holy and blameless. The writer to the Hebrews exhorted, “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11). He urged again, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
Peter, in still another epistle wrote regarding salvation and the Christian life:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins (1 Peter 1:5-9).
But what about when Paul rebuked the Galatians, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3). Surely that must support the Calvinist interpretation that human effort by a person is wrong, that all elements of salvation come only from God. But no, that is not what Paul is speaking against here. Paul is castigating the Galatians for following the Judaizers who tried to put the Gentile Christians under the yoke of the Jewish Law. The Judaizers were saying, “Yes, Jesus died on the cross for your sins, but in addition to the forgiveness gained by the cross, you must also follow the Old Testament laws.” According to the Judaizers, justification was not by faith alone, but also by following the Law. Of that position Paul warned, “As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:9).
Look quickly at 1 Peter 5:9, above. According to the Calvinist position, if one is predestined to eternal life and heaven, his sins – both past and future – are already forgiven. Is that what Peter said? No, he said a person has been cleansed from his past sins. Scripture exhorts us to confess our sins to God and he is faithful and just to forgive them and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
No Scripture says or suggests anyone is forgiven his future sins in advance. Jesus taught that each time we pray we should ask for forgiveness of sins:
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:12-15).
We are to constantly seek forgiveness of sin whenever we sin. We are NOT forgiven our sin in advance. The warning that all should be concerned about: If we do not forgive others, our sins will not be forgiven by God. Jesus died so our sins could be forgiven. There will be no salvation for anyone whose sins are not forgiven.
Isn’t there a conflict when Scripture speaks of God’s desire that “all men” come to repentance, that God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth, and God hardening Pharaoh’s heart? If God hardens a person’s heart, isn’t he arbitrarily preventing him from coming to a saving knowledge of the truth?
I believe the key to understanding Scripture is to understand there cannot be conflict or tension in a correct understanding of Scripture. It is easy to find conflict or tension between doctrines (from a superficial point-of-view). But that does not mean there is a correct interpretation of doctrines when that happens. All doctrine must be understood and explained by Scripture itself, not by human explanations.
Judas, who betrayed Jesus, is an example of one who was called by Jesus, but who ultimately betrayed his master. The betrayal was foretold in Scripture. The amount paid was foretold. Was this predestined? If so, we have a cruel God who would call someone through his Son only to damn him because it was a predestined plan that Judas must betray Jesus and be damned.
No, God could foresee the heart of Pharaoh and of Judas. Even though Judas walked with Jesus, heard the same teaching as the other disciples, went out two by two and experienced the power of the Spirit as they cast out demons and performed miracles, nevertheless Judas remained a thief in his heart – stealing from the purse which he held as treasurer for the disciples. He was never conformed to the likeness of the Son of God. God knew this through his infinite foreknowledge. God did not arbitrarily damn Judas. Judas chose a path that damned him. God used this son of perdition to fulfill his purpose, knowing in advance through foreknowledge the choices that Judas would make.
So with Pharaoh. Did God arbitrarily damn Pharaoh? Not at all. Through his foreknowledge, he could see the choices Pharaoh would make – that he would never honor the true and living God. So God used him to fulfill his purposes – to gain honor and glory for himself – as he released Israel from bondage in Egypt. He hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let the people go until God had performed all the miracles he wanted to do there, to let his people know that he was the one and only God who had all power and authority and that Israel could trust him to deliver them.
Is there a way to reconcile without tension the special purpose for which God has (and does) raise up people to fulfill his purposes? I believe there is.
First, I believe God has a special purpose for each person’s life. That is easily seen from Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Thus, in a general sense, each person already has a God-directed life available to him if he will submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and be obedient to his teachings and commands.
There are many specific examples related in Scripture for us to see special plans God has had for people. John the Baptist is one such person. He was to be a Nazarite – neither to have fermented drink nor to cut his hair. Paul was another example. The Lord Jesus came upon him powerfully to reveal his will to Paul. God’s dialogue with Jeremiah powerfully illustrates this point:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
Were all these people predestined to do and be what they became? Or did God have a plan for their life and did God through foreknowledge know each of these would be faithful and fulfill his plan for them? I believe it is the latter.
How many has God appointed as his witnesses to the nations who have not gone, who have rebelled, and who have refused to do what God determined in advance for them to do? Likely there are multitudes. Likely multitudes have not been reached because those God appointed were unfaithful. He appointed; they refused. We saw that example in Jonah though after being thoroughly disciplined Jonah relented and preached to Ninevah. How many may be disciplined by God but do not recognize their problems come from God as his rod of discipline and do not turn and follow him in obedience?
The following paragraph also begs to be misinterpreted. If it stood alone, without the rest of the New Testament teachings and Paul’s other writings, the Calvinist position could be advanced from this. But, alas, such an interpretation is contrary to the clear teachings of other scriptures.
One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?
“Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”
Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:19-21).
In this passage is Paul asking, “Then why does God still blame us?” No, he is putting words in the mouth of one of his detractors. It is as though the detractor had assumed the Calvinist position. Without agreeing or disagreeing, Paul set him straight saying no man has the right to talk back to God. God, as the potter, has the right to make us any way he sees fit, some for noble purposes and some for common use.
Paul tells his detractor God’s truth in the next paragraph:
What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath — prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory — even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:22-24).
Paul advances the truth of the gospel in the form of questions. What if . . . and what if . . .? But standing alone this paragraph also can be easily misinterpreted. It could be claimed that God would choose to show his wrath and make his power known by condemning most of mankind to perdition before the foundation of the earth, and just the opposite for those he predestined would be saved.
But, again, that would be opposite and contrary to the clear teachings of the rest of Scripture. Instead the above passage correlates perfectly with the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 5:44-45:
“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
God shows his great patience with evil people, giving them sun and rain, just as he does with those who are good.
Likewise Jesus told the parable of the wheat and the tares (weeds):
“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn’” (Matthew 13:24-30).
In the parable, as in the passage at Romans 9:22-24, God chose to show great patience, letting the weeds grow together with the wheat though they were prepared for destruction – because they were evil.
But the objects of his mercy he prepared in advance for glory. Here again we see the application of Philippians 2:13: “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” How does God prepare the objects of his mercy in advance for glory? By working in them to will and to act according to his good purpose! And what is that purpose? That each person who will be saved be conformed to the likeness of his Son and be holy and blameless (prepared in advance for glory) that he might be the firstborn of many brothers.
Jesus was describing the terrible times of the last days.
20 If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them” (Mark 13:20).
Did you notice the terms elect and chosen are the same two terms defined by Peter at 1 Peter 1:1-2? The sentence can be restated with Peter’s definition to read: “But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen (according to the foreknowledge of God the Father), he has shortened them.”
There are several uses of chosen. Surprisingly, often the term is used with reference to Jesus.
In perusing the following Scriptures, note how you can add the definition provided by Peter to each of the Scriptures. There is no exception. Just add, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” and the meaning will be retained and made obvious, without contradiction. For example, in the following Scripture: . . . . the Chosen One (according to the foreknowledge of God the Father). In those Scriptures where God the Father is speaking, it would be more appropriate to rephrase to the first person, “according to my foreknowledge.”
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One” (Luke 23:35)
18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations (Matthew 12:18).
35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him” (Luke 9:35).
20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake (1 Peter 1:20).
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— (1 Peter 2:4).
6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6).
An appropriate question is whether even Jesus was predestined or whether the definition of 1 Peter 1:1-2 applies equally well to Jesus. That answer is given by another Scripture:
22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him (Acts 2:22-24).
According to God Jesus’ betrayal and arrest was by God’s purpose but by his foreknowledge, not something he predestined Jesus to do. That would raise the possibility that Jesus didn’t have to obey and could have frustrated God’s plan and purpose for salvation. Note the proof of that by what Jesus said:
53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:52).
Did Jesus learn anything from his time on earth, his betrayal, trial, and crucifixion? We might ask what could the Son of God learn? The writer to the Hebrews said otherwise:
8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Hebrews 5:8).
There seems to be no valid use of the term predestination with respect to the predestined actions and/or ultimate destiny of any person. Predestination seems to be used solely to define criteria God established before the foundations of the earth for those who would be saved.
70 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (John 6:70).
“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen” (John 13:18).
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen (Acts 1:1-2).
23 So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” (Acts 1:23-25).
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15).
14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. (Acts 22:14).
41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead (Acts 10:41).
13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too (Romans 16:13).
13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark (1 Peter 5:13).
To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— 2 because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever (2 John 1-2).
13 The children of your chosen sister send their greetings (2 John 13).
7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? (Luke 18:7).
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world (John 15:18).
33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies (Acts 8:33).
5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace (Romans 11:5).
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12).
5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5).
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).
14 They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” (Revelation 17:14).
Always “chosen” is according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (1 Peter 1:1-2).
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood (1 Peter 1:1-2 – the definition of elect and chosen).
22 If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible (Matthew 24:22-24).
31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other (Matthew 24:31).
20 If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them (Mark 13:20).
22 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible (Mark 13:22).
27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens (Mark 13:26).
7 What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did (Romans 11:7).
Note the following very strange language by Paul:
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10).
How could he endure everything for the elect that they too may obtain salvation? Either Paul is wrong or the Doctrine of Predestination is wrong. According to that doctrine, the elect have salvation and will be saved, no matter what. According to that doctrine, there is nothing Paul could do which could or would affect the salvation of the elect. A similar but slightly less overt statement by Paul follows:
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness (Titus 1:1)
If predestination is true, how could Paul be a servant and apostle for the faith of God’s elect – those who are already predestined to be saved? They don’t need Paul for their faith. They are already predestined to salvation. Just another example of why the Doctrine of Predestination cannot be true.
As we’ve discussed earlier, either predestination or foreknowledge should be in conflict with other doctrines of Scripture. The other should be in harmony with them. That should be another primary way to verify that we have a correct interpretation of Scripture. In the following paragraphs, we will look at some basic doctrines and scriptures and see whether predestination and foreknowledge are in conflict or harmony with them.
So that each section does not have to repeat the known assertion, let us establish what we mean by each subsequent heading of Predestination and Foreknowledge. Please do not assume that all people who believe in one position or another do so exactly as I have stated below. I believe the section on Predestination conforms generally with Calvinistic teachings on that subject. On the subject of Foreknowledge, that conforms to my understanding and belief.
Predestination refers to the belief that before the foundations of the world God predestined each individual who would be saved and who would not. As the sovereign God, he made a determination according to his own counsel and wisdom. He predestined to save some; he predestined to damn all others to hell.
Foreknowledge refers to the belief that the Scriptures teach that God through his foreknowledge knows who will fulfill his criteria for salvation, who will receive his Son as their Lord, who will be faithful to the end, who will be conformed to the likeness of his Son, and who will be holy and blameless in his sight and thus knows such people will be saved, calling them the chosen and the elect. Foreknowledge includes believing that we must exercise our wills to receive Jesus as our Lord, we must accept the gift of God’s atonement through the sacrifice of Jesus for his sins, and we must do the will of God by obeying the teaching and commands of the Lord Jesus.
36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Hebrews 10:35).
“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:7).
12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant (Colossians 1:21-23).
Predestination: Conflict. Scripture says it is only those who persevere to the end who will be saved. But can that be true of those predestined to salvation? They will be saved, regardless of whether they persevere or not. Or is it claimed that it is God’s responsibility to keep them faithful to the end? What if they do not persevere in the faith? Must we always claim that those who fall away were never saved even though throughout many years they were among the most faithful believers?
Foreknowledge: Harmony. Scripture proclaims we must be faithful to the end. It is those who persevere to the end, and those only, that God foreknows as part of the elect, those chosen through the foreknowledge of God the Father. They know that God’s foreknowledge of their salvation depends upon how they finish, not how they begin.
14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
The story of the servant of whom much had been forgiven, who then was unwilling to forgive his fellow servant of a tiny debt, concludes in this way:
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18: 21-35).
Jesus said God reinstated the debt first forgiven and turned that servant over to the torturers until he should repay all – an impossible task. Then Jesus applied it to us, that though we were once forgiven by God, he will reinstate the debt once forgiven and will require us to make payment for our own sins, rather than the forgiveness available in Christ Jesus our Lord, though his atonement on the cross.
Predestination: Conflict. Jesus was speaking to his followers. They were the ones he commanded to forgive and warned what would happen if they would not forgive. How can this passage have any meaning for those who claim God predestined them to be saved? Are they, mysteriously, unable to not forgive so the passage will not apply to them? Or, if they fail to forgive, does the passage not apply to them because they are predestined to be saved? This cannot apply to the damned, so who does it apply to? Or is it of no effect to anyone, just a gratuitous teaching without application? Grave conflict ensues as Scripture has to be disregarded in its plain meaning in order to fit the presuppositions of the doctrine of predestination.
Foreknowledge: Harmony. It is expected that we must fulfill the requirements Jesus laid down in order to take advantage of his promises. We can be forgiven and receive the grace of the atonement of Jesus in payment for our sins IF we have a saving faith and, according to Jesus, forgive others. We are to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). We know Jesus looked down from the cross and asked the Father to forgive those who crucified him. We must do no less. There is harmony, not conflict. God’s elect are those God foreknows will forgive and have a saving faith.
Multiple scriptures require those who would be saved to receive Jesus as their Lord (see Romans 10:9-10, 13, 14:9; Acts 16:31, Acts 20:21; 2 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Peter 3:15; Colossians 2:6-7; Acts 10:36, 5:14, 9:42, 11:21, 16:15, 18:8).
Predestination: Conflict. Suppose a person who believes in predestination also believes that believers must receive Jesus as their Lord. In their view, what happens to those people who fall away, who no longer live with Jesus as their Lord? They apparently must view such a person as one who was never a believer and who had really never received Jesus as their Lord, even though there may have been much evidence that such a person initially lived under the Lordship of Jesus. What of those who claim to be predestined to salvation but have never received Jesus as their Lord? Or, do all those predestined to salvation somehow supernaturally receive Jesus as their Lord and somehow supernaturally continue throughout their lives to honor him as their Lord?
Foreknowledge: Harmony. These know that all who would be saved must receive Jesus as their Lord and know they must continue to have and confess Jesus as their Lord if they would be saved.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. . . 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. . . . If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me” (John 14:15, 21, 23-24).
Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Hebrews 5:9).
8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood (1 Peter 1:1-2).
Predestination: Conflict. Is it necessary for a person to obey who is predestined to salvation? If so, why? Isn’t the person predestined to salvation? Then why any requirements at all, if there are? What if such a person is not obedient? Jesus says he will not enter the kingdom of heaven. But does that not apply to the predestined person who is disobedient? Are predestined persons automatically, supernaturally obedient to the teachings and commands of Jesus, whether they like it or not, without any effort or discipline on their part? Do those predestined to salvation somehow supernaturally know the teachings and commands of Jesus which they are to obey? If not, how do they obey? Is God responsible for their obedience, if they are to be obedient?
Foreknowledge: Harmony. The elect and those chosen through the foreknowledge of God the Father to salvation are those God foreknew would be obedient, would do his will, will be conformed to the likeness of Jesus, and will seek to be holy and blameless in his sight. Further, they are foreknown to persist and persevere in obedience to Jesus as their Lord to the end.
25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:25-26).
17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17).
But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26).
2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
Predestination: Potential conflict. Almost assuredly most who advocate the doctrine of Predestination accept the doctrine of Atonement through Jesus’ death on the cross. If one thinks about it carefully though, the salvation of the persons who accepts predestination as true need not depend on atonement through the cross of Christ Jesus, but rather depends on being predestined by God to be saved before the foundations of the world.
Foreknowledge: Harmony. Scripture teaches that salvation itself depends upon the atonement provided by Jesus upon the cross. Man cannot save himself. He cannot atone for his own sins. He must rely upon the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We must all depend on Jesus’ sacrificial death to provide the just punishment for our sins so that we can be saved and so that we can be holy and blameless and free from accusation before the throne of God (Colossians 1:21-22).
37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37-38).
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
“And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).
Predestinations: Conflict. If the doctrine of Predestination is true, will we be saved if we do not carry our cross? Jesus commanded us to do so; he said we cannot be his disciple unless we do. We are to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. If we are predestined to be saved, does it really matter if we do not fulfill this command? Of course not. We will be saved anyway.
Foreknowledge: Harmony. Those holding to the foreknowledge of God know they must obey the teachings and commands of Jesus. When Jesus says, “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27), it means we cannot be his disciple unless we carry our cross and follow him. God’s foreknowledge of our salvation includes his foreknowledge of whether we obeyed and carried our cross and followed him.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29).
6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did (1 John 2:6).
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).
16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing” (John 14:12).
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God
Predestination: Conflict. Is the predestined person simply gifted with true righteousness and holiness, with the mind of Christ, doing what Jesus did, living a life of love, conformed to the likeness of Jesus? It seems not. Scripture is rife with warnings about falling away, about being caught up in sin, and about loving the world. If the person predestined to salvation is gifted with all these requirements (listed above), then those passages of Scripture which warn of dire consequences – including loss of salvation are meaningless. Further, as to the person who is predestined to damnation, they are also meaningless. How could God warn a person already predestined to hell? Or are these warnings only to give God an excuse to damn that person?
Foreknowledge: Harmony. As shown in the partial list above, there are multiple teachings and commands for us to be like Jesus. Romans 8:29 is the most forceful, saying that being conformed to the likeness of Jesus is something God predestined for all would be saved. That simply means that all who will be saved must be conformed to the likeness of Jesus. God predestined it.
It is those God foreknew (as the elect and the chosen – 1 Peter 1:1-2) that God predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. Very simply, if we would be saved, we know it is a requirement that we must be conformed to the likeness of Jesus. One would think that every Christian would immerse himself in the teachings and commands of Jesus in order to be fully obedient to him, and to be conformed to his likeness. Jesus taught us in the Beatitudes what it is like to be a member of God’s Kingdom. The Beatitudes are the Kingdom principles. Jesus lived them out perfectly when he was on earth.
John said it more simply, but just as forcefully, when he said “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
. . . 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:1-2, 5-6).
And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming (1 John 2:28).
Predestination: Conflict. The passages speak of those who are in Jesus – “in me” – and then contrasts those who remain in him from those who do not remain in him. Those who remain in him will bear much fruit. Those who were in him but who do not remain in him are cut off, thrown into the fire, and burned. All spoken of in this paragraph were at one time “in Jesus.” But some bore no fruit. They were cut off. They were lost and condemned. But this cannot happen under the teachings of the Doctrine of Predestination. One you have been predestined to salvation nothing can change your status. Who then does this refer to? Is this a warning for the damned who are damned anyway? Why warn those who have no possibility of salvation because they are predestined to damnation?
Foreknowledge: Harmony. It is only those who remain in him that bear much fruit. God knows those who will remain in Jesus and bear much fruit. God foreknows them as the elect and those chosen for salvation through his foreknowledge. Everyone who does not bear fruit should carefully examine his life to see whether he truly has a saving faith.
33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).
Predestination: Conflict. Do all those who are predestined to salvation before the foundation of the world automatically give up everything they have to become disciples of Jesus? Or, is salvation possible without becoming a disciple of Jesus? Or are those predestined to salvation exempt from the teachings and commands of Jesus? If so, to whom do they apply? Surely they don’t apply to those who are predestined to damnation. There is grave conflict!
Foreknowledge: Harmony. God foreknows those who will give up everything they have to be disciples of Jesus. These are the same who seek to love the Lord their God with all their heart, all their soul, and all their strength. They also have the mind of Christ and are conformed to the likeness of Jesus. These are called the elect and the chosen – those chosen by the foreknowledge of God the Father.
4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace (Hebrews 6:4-6).
Predestination: Conflict. According to the doctrine of predestination, those predestined to be saved cannot fall away because they are predestined to salvation. If that is so, these verses are either not divinely inspired or gratuitously and foolishly inserted because they are without application. They cannot apply to those predestined to salvation, but neither can they apply to those predestined to damnation as they were never saved in the first instance, so they could not fall away. Thus the warning of Scripture is in open conflict with the Doctrine of Predestination. The passage of Scripture is useless, meaningless, and without application to anyone.
Foreknowledge: Harmony. God foreknows those who will come to faith and those who will fall away. The elect and the chosen are those who persist and persevere to the end. Those who have been enlightened, have tasted the heavenly gift and goodness of the word of God, and have shared in the Holy Spirit apparently have no ability to return, perhaps because God will no longer draw them. They have insulted the Spirit of grace and thrown away their opportunity to be saved. This too God foreknows.
26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God (Hebrews 10:26-27).
Predestination: Conflict. The doctrine of predestination conflicts terribly with the warnings in Scripture. The above passage surely does not pertain to the person who has been predestined to damnation (according to the doctrine) and cannot pertain (according to the doctrine) to those who are predestined to be saved. So who does it apply to?
Foreknowledge: Harmony. God’s foreknowledge knows those who will choose to deliberately keep on sinning. They will be judged and damned. But God warns those who are his children so they will not deliberately keep on sinning and so need not be judged and condemned. God desires that all should come to repentance and be saved. He warns his children so they may be and remain pure and holy and blameless in his sight.
9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient (Ephesians 5:5-6).
8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
Predestination: Conflict. Are the above passages warnings for believers? Most would say they are. But how can they be warnings for those who are already predestined to salvation before the foundations of the world? Surely they can’t be warnings for unbelievers predestined to damnation. What happens to the person who was a believer – for whom Jesus was Lord, who backslides into sin and becomes sexually immoral or an idolater or an adulterer? Was this man never saved and among those predestined to damnation? Are those predestined to salvation automatically, supernaturally free from all of the above sins that would deny salvation? If so, why are the warnings in Scripture?
Foreknowledge: Harmony. The warnings are there to deter God’s people from falling back into the world, to cause them to persevere, to seek to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus, to be holy and blameless in God’s eyes. These are the ones who God foreknows will be saved and he warns them to flee from ungodliness so they may be saved.
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
Predestination: Conflict. Again the question remains. Can those predestined to salvation not have that righteousness? If they don’t Jesus says they will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. But this is a warning. To whom? Do those who are predestined automatically somehow have that righteousness? If they do, what is the purpose of our churches? Why are there exhortations about living the Christian life. Surely the person predestined to salvation will have whatever righteousness is necessary for salvation. Those predestined to damnation will not have that righteousness, and even if they are righteous have been predestined to damnation so it has accomplished nothing. Jesus’ statement as a warning is gratuitous, meaningless, and has no application to anyone.
Foreknowledge: Harmony. Part and parcel of the requirements for salvation is a saving faith that is displayed through obedience and righteousness. It is the evidence of a saving faith. We expect to have to be righteous. Jesus was righteous and we are to be conformed to his likeness. Over and over Scripture emphasizes that Jesus’ disciples are to be righteous and holy.
14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).
Predestination: Conflict. Are those predestined to salvation automatically holy? What if they are not? Does that negate this Scripture? Or are they saved anyway, just because they are predestined to be saved? If they are, we are back to the question of why we have church services in which holiness and righteousness are preached, to the extent that they are. Again and again, the doctrine of predestination tends to negate the teachings and commands of Scripture. If the doctrine is correct, then Scripture is wrong or useless or without application in the lives of those predestined to be saved.
Foreknowledge: Harmony. One of Scripture’s many emphases is that God’s people are to be holy – “Be holy as I am holy.” The elect and chosen according to the foreknowledge of God are those who are holy – who are conformed to the likeness of Jesus (who was holy).
26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26).
10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10).
18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (1 Peter 3:18).
Predestination: Conflict. The concept of predestination is incompatible with the teaching that Jesus died for all. How could he have died for those who have been predestined for damnation? The Calvinists therefore created the doctrine, contrary to Scripture, that Jesus died only for the elect. Again the doctrine of predestination is in direct conflict with Scripture.
Foreknowledge: Harmony. Again there is perfect harmony with God knowing who will be saved through his foreknowledge. Jesus died for all, just as stated in Scripture. His sacrifice is effective for all who will come to a saving faith, just as stated in Scripture. There is no conflict.
Jesus said: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (Luke 13:24).
Peter said: “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (1 Peter 3:14).
Predestination: Conflict. Predestination is based on God determining before the foundations of the earth that a certain person, by name, will be saved. Why then would anyone make any effort to be saved? It is God’s responsibility and his predestination, none of which can be over-ridden by man or man’s efforts. On the other side of that coin, if man made every effort possible to be saved (to enter that narrow door – as Jesus said), he could not be saved if he is predestined to damnation. There is irreducible conflict between the scriptures above and the doctrine of predestination.
Foreknowledge: Harmony. Naturally there is no conflict, but only harmony, with the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge. God foreknows who will make every effort to enter through the narrow door, who will make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him. Note how the latter conforms perfectly to God’s purposes – to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29) and to be holy and blameless in his sight (Ephesians 1:5).
3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Predestination: Conflict. The argument made by those who claim salvation is only for those whom God predestined to be saved is that God is sovereign and because of his sovereignty he decrees – predestines – who will be saved and who will be damned, and he did so before the foundations of the earth. However the scriptures above show that God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Further, 2 Peter 3:9 says God doesn’t want anyone to perish. How can that be when he has predestined most to be damned before the foundations of the world? Does he want something different than what he has predestined? Is the sovereign God incapable of doing that which he wants? How grossly the doctrine of predestination maligns both the Scriptures and the nature of God!
Foreknowledge: Harmony. As expected, the above scriptures are in perfect harmony with God’s foreknowledge of those who are the elect – those chosen to salvation according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. Indeed God wants all men to be saved. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. The Gospel is freely available to all who will receive it and submit to its requirement of having a saving faith. God foreknows all those who will receive Jesus as their Lord and thus have their sins atoned for by his sacrificial death on their behalf. He also foreknows those who will reject his gift of salvation and be damned.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).
Predestination: Conflict. Why would anyone go into all the world to preach the good news and go and make disciples of all nations? Aren’t all those who are predestined to be saved going to be saved? If they are, then it is unnecessary for anyone to go to them. God will – indeed he must – see to their salvation if he has predestined it. Likewise, why should anyone bother to make disciples? Isn’t that really up to God to do with those he has predestined to salvation whatever he wants? And if those predestined to salvation disobey these commands, it really doesn’t matter as they will be saved anyway. Certainly these commands have no application to those who are predestined to damnation. As with virtually all of the teachings and commands of Jesus, these commands are negated – are in conflict with – the doctrine of predestination.
Foreknowledge: Harmony. As you can instantly see, God’s foreknowledge of those who will be saved in no way conflicts with these scriptures but is in complete harmony with them. God who desires all to be saved wants his people to go and tell the good news to all creation. Because only those who are disciples of the Lord Jesus will be saved, he wants us to go and make disciples of all nations. Once again, there is perfect harmony between God’s foreknowledge and the Scripture.
Contrary to what Calvinism says, God does not arbitrarily save nor damn. He has set forth the criteria for salvation in his Word for all to see, study, know, and obey. Those who receive God’s Son as their Lord are the objects of his love, compassion, and mercy. Those who disobey, who reject his Son’s lordship over them, remain the objects of his wrath.
Through his foreknowledge, God foreknows who will be saved. God has predestined criteria for all who will be saved. They are to be conformed to the likeness of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:29), they are to be holy and blameless in his sight (Ephesians 1:4), and will be for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12).
God’s word is without conflict or tension when handled correctly (2 Timothy 2:15). As we have seen, Scripture is in harmony with the interpretation that God has foreknowledge of those who will be saved – the chosen and the elect (1 Peter 1:1-2). On the other hand, as we have seen, the Doctrine of Predestination does violence to many of the fundamental doctrines and teachings of Scripture. I trust this paper has proven the Doctrine of Predestination to be a false doctrine.
God has given man a free will. Man can accept God’s gift of salvation and bow the knee to Jesus as his Lord, or he can reject God’s gift and live in enmity toward God, rejecting Jesus as his Lord. God desires that all will be saved, but warns that most will be lost. My prayer is that those who read this paper will not be lost because they continued to believe and rely upon the Doctrine of Predestination. Instead, may they reject such all such doctrines and return to Scripture as their source of teaching and truth. May they work out their salvation with fear and trembling and may they be conformed to the likeness of Jesus, that he may be the first of many brothers, for the praise and glory of God.
The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.