Confusion over the Predestined
There seems to be a lot of confusion about the whole concept of predestination, or if some people are really predestined for salvation. The understanding that I continue to hear from many is that from the time of creation, God predestined some people to be saved, and others not. John Calvin, historical Christian reformer and the inspirational theologian of the Presbyterian denomination, suggested that predestination is God’s decision to save “the elect”, while others would be ‘barred from access to’ salvation and sentenced to eternal death (Institutes of the Christian Religion, pp.180, 184, summarized here).
But what if God didn’t predestine anybody in particular, but that those who God predestined were actually the Israelites (Jews)? In Romans 8, Paul talks about how God predestined them to be conformed to the image of His Son…by the Law. Remember, the Law was to serve as a nanny, bringing up God’s people in His image. The Word of God is Jesus (the Word became flesh). So God predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son – that He may be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters – so it was the Jews who were predestined. Then, verse 30 would point to those who were righteous in God’s sight, because who else but the Son does God glorify? And those who God glorifies are those of us (Jews and Gentiles) who have accepted the Messiah.
“What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.” —Romans 8:18-30
Notice the context. Paul’s talking to those who grew up under or knowing the Law (7:1). This also explains why Paul mentioned that we call God, “Abba”, Father (8:15). A Greek audience wouldn’t know that Abba meant, nor would they understand the impact of such a word – only a Jewish audience, and they were pre-destined, before anybody else in the world, to behold the Kingdom of God.
I believe this is also confirmed in verse 31, for it must remain in context. There, Paul is talking about those of us who are in Christ. He foreknew, predestined, and called His people (Israel) to Himself in Christ. But many rejected His Messiah. So “then” the Gentiles were also (later) included. They weren’t predestined, only the Jews were. But because of their (the Jews’) rejection of God’s Son, those who were not predestined (the Gentiles) were also called, justified (in Christ) and glorified.
For God foreknew the Israelites. If we were to understand this part as believing that some may have known God before they were born, as some have actually suggested, then we would be speaking of something from New Age, or just plain heresy. Nobody but Christ came from Heaven to earth. So how else could somebody foreknow God? God foreknew His people, the Israelites.
But What About Predestination Among Gentiles?
I’m sure some of you may have clicked on this post because you were hoping I’d talk about the claimed doctrine of predestination. So let’s talk some about that, as I’ve come to perceive it.
One church’s website I was looking at recently said, “…God chose those who would be saved and granted this unearned grace solely based on His sovereign good nature” (scroll down to “Salvation”).
Why I have a problem with the idea/doctrine of the Predestined:
Sorry, but I have a problem with the idea that God chose beforehand who would and wouldn’t be saved, for such the idea suggests that:
- Freedom of choice, then, doesn’t exist after all, for then God’s the one who decides beforehand who will and who won’t choose to accept and live for Christ.
- Since we already know from the parable of the soils that 3 out of every 4 people we share the Gospel with will reject it, then we should disobey Jesus’ command to share the Gospel with everyone, for many of whom we share it with may not actually be pre-chosen to accept. And Paul tells us not to engage in pointless speech (slightly out of context, but meant as slight sarcasm, anyway).
- Peter made a false claim that the reason Jesus hasn’t yet returned because He wishes that none should perish, so God’s being patient with those who may or will. For if God chose beforehand who will perish and who will be saved, then God really doesn’t wish that all would be saved, and He does actually wish that some will perish.
- God’s grace – yes, the “unearned grace that’s solely based on His sovereign good nature”, either doesn’t represent Him very well at all, or is useless, for if you’re already predetermined for destruction, then not even God’s grace can save you.
- We who are saved may boast of our salvation. I mean, if we were predestined for salvation, then we should be able to boast about our elect, right? Granted, Paul told us that we have no right to boast of it because it was by God’s grace, not our own efforts, that we were saved, but if God chose us, out of everybody else in the world (past, present and future), then why shouldn’t we boast? ‘Ha-ha, God chose us and not you.’
Do you see the problem with this? And now that I think of it, the idea of predestination for salvation is actually similar to the Hindus’ caste system, where many are predestined to be higher and preferred than others, and those who were not chosen can’t do anything to change their situation, you know? But none of this is in line with God’s character, nor is it in context with the Bible.
The Gospel is the Good News that God became Man in Jesus Christ to save all of creation from sin, should they accept Him as Lord and Savior.
He was conceived by the virgin Mary, fully human, yet also fully God, and lived in this world among us for about 33 years. He taught, corrected, rebuked, loved, encouraged, built up, (righteously) knocked down, preached, performed miracles, and was rejected, hated, mocked, beaten, persecuted, and killed by crucifixion on a cross. He actually died in our place – that cross was meant for us for our sin.
Three days, Jesus was raised from the dead (just as He said He would be), proving that He is God. He showed Himself to 500 people at one time, hung out with and prepared His friends for another 40 days, raised up into the clouds with the promises of returning one day and salvation to all who repent and believe the Gospel, through faith in Him, from then on to the day He returns (but they must accept Him while they’re living in this physical life).
We do have freedom of choice – the freedom to choose Christ in this lifetime or not. Those who do will be saved and enter into heavenly salvation – those who reject Christ in this lifetime will enter into eternal life, however not in Heaven, but in Hell – the place of eternal torment, fire, and regret. We who have accepted Christ are commanded to share the Good News about Him to everyone, everywhere. John 5:11-12 sum up our message: “And this is the testimony, that God gave eternal life, and this life is in his Son. So those who have the Son has life; those who do not have the Son of God, do not have life.”
If people were saved by predestination, then they wouldn’t need the Son of God to be saved, for they’d have already been chosen. But such an idea, as you can see, not only goes completely against the Word of God, but it even claims that Christ’s death was in vain – not needed to die – as if we could be saved without Christ – and that’s simply impossible.