Understanding Predestination and Election
We know that God is Alpha and Omega—the beginning and the end. We know that all things were created by Him and for Him. Yet, we often have a difficult time reconciling the sovereignty of God with mankind’s free will. The confusion is lightened when we can see that this isn’t really an either-or proposition, but rather, it is both. It all comes down to the perspective—whether from our own or from God’s.
This is Part 3 in Series: Building Upon the Living Rock
This is a long one, so you might want to set some time aside for careful reading, prayer, and consideration.
Predestination VS Free-Will Illustrated in the Crucifixion of Jesus
Ask yourself this question: Who was responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? At the time, those who demanded he be crucified surely felt as though they were making a free will choice. They were doing what they felt was right and acted according to their will. With the perspective we have today, along with the Old Testament prophesies of the messiah, we know that it was ordained that Jesus would die the exact way he did.
We are also told that Jesus chose Judas, knowing that he was a devil and would betray him (John 6:70). Did Judas perceive this? I think it’s safe to assume that as far as Judas could tell, he was acting according to his own will. Even so, Jesus had another perspective.
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled (John 17:12).
Does God hold those who crucified Jesus, and Judas who betrayed Christ, responsible for what they did? Did they do wrong, even though it was a predetermined event, carried out by many individuals seemingly acting within their own desires, ethical standards, and will? Absolutely. Jesus said that it was necessary that He be betrayed, but woe unto him by whom he is betrayed.
The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born (Matthew 26:24).
What does this one (of many) examples in the scriptures illustrate? God is in control. He ordains some to follow Jesus and others are ordained to destruction so His purposes are fulfilled, and yet, from our perspective we are acting according to our own will, and we are judged according to the wickedness we do apart from the forgiving grace of Jesus.
It’s also important to understand that Jesus was not crucified to bring eternal life to every living soul. For example, see the above scripture. Those God gave Jesus were kept. Eternal life is for those who are elected to salvation. It is God who does the choosing, though we perceive it as a free will choice.
This seems very complex, and it’s understandable that many would reject these ideas at first, so if you’re not sure, please continue reading. This idea brings up a lot of questions for many, but gaining some understanding of God’s sovereign will, which predetermines man’s will, while still holding man at fault for that will is important.
God’s Sovereignty Over Man’s Will and Election in Christ
The scriptures are full of evidence pertaining to the absolute sovereignty of God. In a nutshell, as mentioned before, God creates all things for Himself and determines the outcome of what will be. He is omniscient, of course—but, He is also in control, from beginning to ending and all that lies in-between. He creates the wicked and the just, establishing the natures of everyone before they are born.
The wicked are vessels of dishonor, created for destruction. Christians are those whom God has given faith in Jesus, whose righteousness is established by the Holy Spirit given through His death and resurrection, which therein lies the promises of salvation from sin and death. We know that only those who follow Jesus Christ are given eternal life—and we know God’s word will be fulfilled.
Here are a few examples of scriptures that help us understand the predestination and election of the children of God:
God creates all things for himself, including the wicked.
The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. (Proverbs 16:4)
God determines the outcome of events.
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD. (Proverbs 16:33) Even the roll of dice is in His control, though we see it as random chance.
God creates our natures, either for honor or dishonor.
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. (2 Timothy 2:20) Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:16)
God creates people whom He will love and hate.
A clear example of this is Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27). We are told that God loved one and hated the other, before they were ever born. That is because one was created to be loved and the other was not. This is not because God knew what each would become. Using God’s omniscience as reasoning does not take into consideration the full purposes Esau and Jacob fulfill.
God hardens hearts.
We are told that Pharaoh was appointed to wrath and his heart hardened so that God’s power could be shown (Exodus 9:16). Even so, Pharaoh was still held accountable for what he did. We also know that God hardened the hearts of many Jews during the time of Christ’s ministry, as mentioned earlier. More on that shortly.
God destroys the wicked.
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (Romans 9:22) These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
Faith in Jesus comes from God.
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44). We cannot simply “choose” Jesus. Faith is something that is given by God.
God Chooses who will serve Him.
Paul the apostle is a prime example of how God chooses whom He will, not based on anything we do, but as it pleases Him and serves His purposes (Acts 9).
All good things in us come from God.
For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17).
God promises eternal life to those who believe in Jesus.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
God is faithful to His promises.
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phillipians 1:6).
This is only a small sampling. Our hairs are numbered (Luke 12:7). God ordains kings and has power over all authorities on this earth (Romans 13:1). The book of Ephesians is also a good place to learn more about God’s sovereignty in general.
Romans Chapters 9-11 – The Blinding of Israel
Romans Chapters 9-11 are often used to illustrate ideas about predestination and election. When taken in full context, we see that Paul, in a large part, is talking about the blinding of Israel. Those who argue against predestination stop at that and don’t consider the issue further. Let’s go back to the crucifixion of Jesus. We know that many Jews were blinded, in fact, Christ makes mention of this many times. It’s the reason He spoke in parables, for example.
Why were they blinded? Was it because God ordained it, because they were wicked, or both? One thing we know is that God’s word will be fulfilled. He said through His prophets that Israel would fall away, that their hearts would be hardened, and that the Messiah would come to both provoke them to jealousy and show mercy to the gentiles. So we see, it isn’t an either-or idea. It is both, one and the same simultaneously—but ultimately under perfect control and orchestration by God.
What about those who follow Jesus today? Is Israel still blinded?
First a question. Does God change?
We know that God does not change. If He blinded the original Israel so that scripture could be fulfilled and salvation brought to the gentiles, will scripture not continue to be filled in the blinding of those who profess Jesus today? We know there must be seed on stony ground, professing Christians (the new Israel) to whom Jesus says, “depart from me you who work iniquity, I never knew you.” We also know that through the mercy of the gentiles, many Jews will be redeemed (Romans 11). Can we not conclude that just as God blinded original Israel so gentiles could be brought in, He would also blind many who say they are Christians today so Israel can be brought back in more fully?
I think considering Paul the apostles warnings concerning this matter in Romans 11 along with the understanding that God does not change and also knowing that scriptures must be fulfilled, we see why many professing Jesus are blind to the truth as it pertains to salvation. But why? Is it because they willingly do wickedness and reject the gospel in fullness, or is it God’s will? Just as with the blinding of the Jews and the crucifixion, it is both.
Why God Creates Wicked People
God creates people who will behave wickedly, so that He in turn can blind them, so they in turn do greater wickedness in order to serve a greater purpose to the benefit of those God has chosen. He will then destroy the wicked because they were willingly doing evil.
In other words, God creates people to do what they do—to make the choices they willingly make. It is both His predetermined will and an act of our free will. We will do what it is in our nature to do, but it is God who gives us our natures and places us in His creation for His ultimate purpose which is the bringing up of many sons (Hebrews 2:10). Those who do evil, according to their design, are fitted for destruction. Out of dust they were created and to dust they will return.
Those who are chosen to eternal life are given faith that they might seek Jesus, and those created for destruction are used to set examples for those ordained to life. God does not want to unleash His wrath on His chosen, so for that purpose the wicked are created. They are made to show us evil, to battle against us and grow us, to show us God’s glory, mercy, and His wrath.
Satan himself was created for the good of God’s people, believe it our not. He is the ultimate example of all that is evil, the most formidable adversary, the one that is the final object of God’s wrath. He is the example to all children of God as to what they do not want to be—and what will happen if they were to rebel against Him. There is much more to this for sure, but it’s something for us to think about. All things indeed come together for the good of those who trust the Lord, for those who are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).
Why Understanding Predestination and Election is Important
Believing that God is in absolute control and creates some to be saved and others to be destroyed helps us have the proper perspective on a lot of other matters. Is it required that we know these things in order to be saved? Not in a strict sense, but it does help us in our Christian walk. Much could be said on each point below, but here are some some basics to help get your mind in the right place. This understanding affects:
- How we perceive God. A God that is in complete control is more glorious than one who says He wants to save every soul, but if they do not choose Him, He will destroy them. I’d rather see God as strong and sovereign than pleading for people to believe in Him. He is a loving Father who saves every soul He intends to save, but He doesn’t need any of us. Belief on Him is a gracious gift, beyond the life that we already have, which is an amazing gift alone.
- How we perceive Man. From our perspective, we think mankind is worth so much. Of course we should love everyone, but our worth only goes as far as we are useful for God. We are nothing otherwise, and none of us are entitled to any existence, much less eternal life. I believe this understanding to be critical in the last days, because our self-preservation and how we esteem mankind as worthy of life will be a downfall for many.
- Our patience with others. Knowing that all good things in us – including our love for Jesus – is something we are given helps us appreciate what we have rather than judging those who cannot have faith. Understanding that God is working in us to do His perfect and pleasing will also causes us to make our boast in the Lord rather than ourselves. Knowing that those who struggle with sin are in bonds that they cannot escape without God, and that any freedom we have is of God, gives us the perspective we need to be more patient and merciful rather than self-righteous and holier-than-thou towards others.
- Our peace in the absolute sovereignty of God. Understanding that all things are in God’s control can give a lot of peace, especially when we have faith in our own election. We know that God is causing all things to work to our benefit, and He will take care of our needs—not just of the flesh, but of the spirit so that we can live a life abundantly in the things of the Kingdom of God.
- Our understanding of the corruptions within Christianity. Realizing that God has blinded the Christian world in large, just as He blinded the Jews, helps us understand the corruption in Christianity, including the reasons for all the versions of the bible and the thousands of Christian denominations. Many are called, but indeed few are chosen.
Predestination and Election Q & A
Our human perspective can make it hard to understand God’s sovereign will. Here are some basic answers to questions you might have on this teaching.
Is this Calvinsim?
I don’t think this fits in with Calvinism in a strict sense, and even if it is similar, the truth is not of Man but of God. I’m not for Calvin or Wesley – Paul or Apollos, or Cephas. I’m for Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:12).
What about the scriptures that say God would have “all” be saved?
We have to understand the spirit of the time in which these things were said. One of the great things about Jesus was he made the promises of Israel available to people of “all” nations, not just the Jews. Male, female, bond, free, Jew, gentile (all). Another thing to consider, what about “all” those who lived before Israel was established and before Christ? Why do they deserve to miss out on eternal life and others don’t? God has always retained a people for Himself. Jesus was sent to restore the creation to God, including all nations of Adam – not every single soul. Read Jesus and the Restoration of Mankind
If God creates people to be wicked, how can He judge them for being wicked?
Paul the apostle answered this same question very well. “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hat resisted his will? Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonor? (Romans 9: 19-22). Again, this question presumes that mankind is counted for something. We are not, so who are we to question what God does with what He made? Also, if God did not make evil, many of us would get no life at all. He is good to the wicked in allowing them to live and enjoy good things in the first place.
Does God predestine people to hell?
One of the greatest barriers to accepting predestination and election are false ideas about hell. These false ideas are also a barrier to many for other reasons, like the idea that God wants to save all, but if we don’t choose to love Him He will torture us forever. That is not how God is. Hell is a mistranslated, pagan ideal, usually translated from words that mean the grave, Gehenna, or death. In reality, the wicked are destroyed in the second, final death, not sent to a place where they will be tortured forever without end. Death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death (Revelation 20:14). How is hell cast into itself? More to come on this in the future.
If everything is predetermined, why do anything?
We cannot know the mind of God. As far as our lives go, we live according to our perceptions of choice. That is why so many scriptures say things that tell us to take certain actions, even “choosing” Jesus. We can’t take God’s sovereignty and then use that as a cop out for doing nothing as if there is no point to anything we do. We are not puppets and God the puppet master. We have souls that will be granted eternal life, a life that has a purpose yet to be fully known. There is so much more for the children of God than we understand.
Does God force His elect to love Him?
No. Some say that the idea of election somehow cheapens our love for Jesus because it is forced. God works in us the desire for Jesus, but how can we not love Him? Not just because He died for us and forgave us, but when we see freedom come to us in this present life, freedom from the heavy chains of sin, how can we be anything but grateful? We love Him because of who He is and the righteousness He stands for. His wisdom, mercy, and grace. There are not enough words to contain why we love Him, and being elected in no way dampens that.
How do I know if I am one of God’s elect?
That is a question that often troubles newer believers, and even those who have been walking after the faith for many years. First, if we have a love of the truth that we might be saved from sin and death through Jesus, that’s a pretty solid indicator. From there, once we are given the Holy Spirit, that is the earnest of our inheritance as sons of God. As we see sin removed and our bringing forth of fruit, we have greater confidence.
Read 2 Peter 1. Excerpt: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
How can we tell if someone is a “real” Christian?
Simply put, we can’t. Read the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13). Even the angels do not know who are God’s chosen, especially while they are still being formed. We are given many examples in the scriptures of those who seem to be enemies of the gospel but then end up being chosen to salvation. There is some measure that we can judge these things, just to the extent that we can see when someone is not living according to the gospel presently. We are to be careful and know there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing out there, but we need to be especially careful in pegging people as true or untrue believers. The Lord’s Day will reveal who are his and who are not.
My question to those who believe we choose Christ without being first chosen by God: Is salvation by grace or works? How can we say that salvation is by grace but not works and also say that we must choose Christ? If it is a free will choice, then salvation would be of works from the beginning—our work and will to choose Jesus as our Lord and savior. I believe that our natures are created to receive love of the truth of Jesus, and we then willingly and also irresistibly choose to follow the Lord.
If you have an answer to that question, or need further clarification on this subject, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I know this can be hard to deal with. It was for me. This started with a bible study that led me to searching the scriptures myself (see the notes here), later listening to bad teaching and somewhat falling away from the idea, coming back and again searching the scriptures – and with much prayer and glory to God, this is where I am at this time.
As Christians, we shouldn’t take anything pertaining to our salvation lightly. Seek the Lord often, and He will give you the Holy Spirit who makes all things known to us—not just in our minds, but in our nature, writing the laws of the kingdom in our hearts so that we conform to His image day by day. See Jesus Promises Perfection.