The Truth Of Predestination

Predestination is a doctrine that Christians have argued a lot on. Some believe that God without seeing any foreseen merit in the creation chose some men to be His elect people and then predestined them to be adopted as children of God in Christ. Some who oppose this said, that God saw the end from the beginning and knew who believers will be and elected them to be His people. Predestination for them was God deciding what to do with these believers - and thus predestined these believers to become Christ-like. So in the former view God chooses sinners and predestines them to be saved, while the second view says that God chooses those who chose Him and predestines what they should be after they are saved. 

For those who are keen on Church History and theology, the former view was held by all the Protestant Reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli and many more. Even before the Reformation, back in the fourth century, Augustine in his effort to proclaim and defend the Sovereign grace in Gospel, held these views on election and predestination. The second view which affirms free will and makes man the decisive factor in one's salvation and election was first proclaimed by the English monk Pelagius, who denied the doctrine of original sin and thus the necessity of divine grace. Then came semi-pelagians who accepted the necessity of grace but denied the sufficiency of it by proclaiming free will notions. These were the Counter Reformation Catholics like the Jesuits. Sadly a generation after the Reformation, people within the Protestant world started proclaiming this and they came to be known by a name after their leader - Arminians, who were officially declared as heretics after the seven month long Synod of Dort. Enough of history, most people do not like church history.

It all boils down to one question - so what does the Bible really say about it and does this matter?

I was raised in an Arminian church and by Arminian teachers. I have heard it almost every time this subject pops up, these teachers saying the same thing - "well the Bible does not say anything about God predestining anyone to go to heaven or hell. The word predestination has to do with what the destination of believers is and that is Christ-likeness, as it is here in Romans 8:29."

True. Romans 8:29 says that God predestined those whom He foreknew to be conformed to the image of Christ-likeness. But the next verse says that those whom He predestined, He also called and those whom He called, He justified and so on. Here we have the predestined ones being justified, which has everything to do with ending up in heaven or hell. 

Another verse to which I have never heard any satisfactory explanation given by these pastors is Acts 13:48 "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed".

Here it is clearly written who among the Gentiles ended up believing the gospel. It says those whom God appointed or ordained to eternal life believed the gospel. Quite contrary to Arminian and Free will supporters' theology, the Bible says here that election causes one's faith. Arminians and those who support free will proclaim that its our faith which results in our election by God.

Another verse which is never taken into consideration is Ephesians 1:5 which says "he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will"

Here is a clear verse which says that predestination has everything to do with one's salvation. Notice those who are being predestined are not already believers or sons of God. They become believers and sons of God because of God's predestination.

So to say that God elects and predestines those who have become believers is not correct. The subject of God's election and predestination is sinners and not believers.God has elected sinners who should become His people, who through the gospel shall be adopted, conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and receive eternal life. 

Does this matter?

For many innocent souls, the whole discussion on such theological topics seems like a waste of time. To such distressed souls, I make the following points 

First, knowing these truths leads one to a greater understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ. This leads one to a greater appreciation of the work of God on one's behalf. Thus knowing this doctrine affects one's worship and thus one's practice of Christianity.

Second, the understanding of a gospel of Sovereign grace leads one to give all the glory to God for one's salvation. This leads to real humility, meekness and fear before God. If you are a believer, it is because God predestined you to be adopted in Christ Jesus. Also if you are such a predestined one, God predestined you without seeing anything in you. His motive behind predestination is the kind intention of His will (Ephesians 1:5 - "in accordance with his pleasure and will") and not any inherent worth in a sinner. Thus this is a humbling doctrine and a pride busting one.

Third, right understanding of how men are saved is critical in our understanding of evangelism. Much of today's evangelism sadly rely on methodologies which try to woo the sinner and get a decision. A firm grip on the Sovereign working of God in evangelism will lead us to faithfully preach the gospel and depend only on God alone to bring about conversion. That kind of evangelism really requires faith in our hearts and the word of God as the rich content, instead of our reliance on our clever light and sound show or props.
That is the truth of predestination in a nutshell. I am grieved that many pastors and preachers who claim to be Protestants do not know or hold these historic and more importantly biblical truths. It is not enough to say grace is necessary, but that grace is both necessary and sufficient.

“If any man doth ascribe anything of salvation, even the very least, to the free-will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright” - Martin Luther


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By Jay Dharan
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