Question #369

What about predestination?

I LOVE your site and use it often. The Revelation and Premillennialism stuff is exceptional. It really puts some difficult material into everyday, understandable, common sense verbiage. How about a discussion on "predestination" and an explanation of those verses in Romans 8 and Ephesians 1.

The Answer:

Thanks for your comments on this website. Large books have been written on this subject and entire theologies have been built around it. It would be impossible to fully discuss the subject, but hopefully this information written by Wayne Jackson and copies form the Christian Courier will be helpful on Ephesians.

Ephesians 1:4 – Predestination By WAYNE JACKSON April 2, 2004

As he commences his letter to the saints in Ephesus, Paul declares that God: “chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world … having foreordained [predestinated – KJV] us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself?” (1:4-5). Does this passage teach that our salvation is strictly a matter of God’s arbitrary election, settled before the world was made, irrespective of any choice that we might exercise in the matter? That was the philosophy of John Calvin. The Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith stated: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and other foreordained to everlasting death” (Article III). This concept makes void every passage in the Bible that teaches human responsibility. If one’s eternal destiny was sealed from the beginning of time, what is the purpose of preaching to the lost? The key phrase in Ephesians 1:4 is “in him.” It was not the case that God chose certain individuals to be either saved or lost; rather, the Lord foreordained that a certain class of persons would be saved. What sort of class? Those who submit to Heaven’s divine plan of redemption, which, in this dispensation, involves obeying Jesus Christ (Hebrews 5:8-9), and entering into that relationship that is described as being “in him” (cf. Galatians 3:26-27). To say the same thing in another way, before the world’s foundation, God elected to save those who would be obedient to His Son. Underline “chose us in him,” and record this comment: Not individual election, but class election.

Predestined to What? As Paul identifies some specific spiritual blessings, he says God "chose us. . . before the foundation of the world. . . having foreordained us. . . " (1:4-5). Clearly God “predestined” or “foreordained” the saved. But what is the nature of this predestination? And is it conditional or unconditional? The word translated “foreordained” (ASV) or “predestined” (KJV, et al.) is from the Greek term proginosko. It literally means “to know before,” being a compound term (pro, before, ginosko, to know – Vine, p. 459). What the Father “decided before” is a very important thing (1:4-5). Did he determine who would be believers and who would be unbelievers? Consider the following biblical truths. We read of man’s obligation to obey God throughout the Bible. We also see the continuous pleading of God for men to believe and obey him (cf. Matthew 11:28-30). It is incredulous to think that God would plead with men who allegedly could not believe. Since people can and must respond to the preaching of the gospel, the Lord commanded us to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15-16). The ones who submit to it will be saved. God did not decide who would believe and who would disobey. He did, however, determine that those who would believe would be saved. It is clear that the Lord’s predestination of a thing does not negate a person’s freewill. God chose Christ (1 Peter 1:20; 2:4). But Christ exercised his own freewill in the redemptive plan (John 10:17-18; Galatians 1:4). If we want to share in the glory God chose for the saved, we must submit to his conditions. Every Spiritual Blessing God “chose us in him. . . that we should be holy and without blemish before him” (1:4). The word “that” expresses the goal of Heaven’s scheme. This means we can be “void of offense” and “unreprovable” at the Lord’s Second Coming (Philippians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 1:8). We know, however, of our many imperfections and weaknesses. Only “in him” is this result possible. The word “sons” (1:5) shows the relationship that Christians have with God. He is our Father. A child of God receives his love (1 John 3:1). A child of God will share in the glory of the Son (Romans 8:29). God freely bestowed his grace in Christ, the Beloved (1:6). “Grace” underscores the reason he is disposed to save us, and it emphasizes our undeserving status. “But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us. . . made us alive. . . by grace have ye been saved” (2:4-5). “God so loved” that he chose to provide a way of salvation by giving his only Son. He has done what we never could do on our own (John 3:16; Romans 8:1-3). Grace is not, however, unconditional. We can be forgiven of our sins (1:7), if we obey the gospel of God (cf. 1 Peter 4:17). Apostolic preaching required a human response. “And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins” (Acts 2:38). When we, by faith, access God’s grace, we are forgiven and redeemed (1:7). “Forgiveness” means “to send away.” God sends away our trespasses by the blood of Christ. “Redemption” means deliverance or release. It contains the idea of the payment of a ransom. The blood of Christ is the purchase-price for our salvation (Acts 20:28). Together, these terms vividly express to us the idea of being released from the penalty of sin. How precious it is to be forgiven. What a blessing! God has not left us in the dark. He has, according to his eternal purpose in Christ, revealed his will (3:9-11). It is a wonderful blessing to know the nature and destiny of his plan — the mystery of his will (1:7-9).

The following information is on Romans 8:29-30.

Notice that verse 29 begins with “for.” Paul is giving a reason for his statement in v. 28 that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose. That reason speaks of foreknowledge, foreordination, calling, justification, and glorification. This language is directly connected with verse 28 and all these verses relate to the same class of people – the lovers of the Lord called according to his purpose. The whole purpose of God with reference to the redemption of man through the gospel is viewed as completed, thus demonstrating how all things work together for the good of the redeemed. God’s foreknowledge was that those who loved him would be conformed to the image of his son. Those who loved him would, of course, keep his commandments (John 14:15). What God predestined was that this group of people would be those were called. The calling was by the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14) to glory. That is paralleled in Rom. 8. They were called, when their love led them to obey the gospel (Rom. 6:1-7, 17) they were justified(1 Cor. 6:11), ultimately by faithfulness to death to be glorified (Rev. 2:10).

Neither in these two passage nor elsewhere was any unsaved person said to be individually predestined to salvation or damnation. That doctrine was manufactured out of whole cloth and then read into scripture. It did not come out of scripture. Predestinationists who take the doctrine to its ultimate conclusion say that every act of good or of evil that has ever occurred or that will ever occur has been predestined by God. Thus, God planned every evil deed. What that does to the nature of God has to be blasphemy. It takes John 3:16 right out of the Bible. How could it be said that God loves “the world” and that “whosoever” believes in him “should be saved” when God created most of them (few there be that find it) already damned to hell. The predestinationists solution to the problem is to come up with another damnable doctrine – limited atonement. This teaches that the atonement of Christ was limited, i.e., it was not for all men. It was only for those predestined for salvation. Even to write these words makes chills run down my spine; to believe it in light of scripture is unfathomable.


God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)