Everyone has some Doctrine of Predestination, What is yours?
by Joseph Franks
The doctrine of predestination is one that troubles many a soul. To a segment of Christendom, predestination is a misrepresentation of God and Scripture. To them, one ought not present a Deity who sovereignly selects, before the beginning of time, to deliver justice to some and mercy to others.
Therefore, many in anti-predestinarian camps disagree with the doctrinal conclusions as presented by the Westminster Divines:
God from all eternity did by the most and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions; yet hath he not decreed any thing because he foresaw it as future, as that which would come to pass, upon such conditions. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. (Westminster Confession, 3)
In addition, many anti-predestinarians maintain a strong dislike for Reformed scholars such as John Calvin who wrote:
God preordained, for his own glory and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation. (Institutes of the Christian Faith)
However, to be consistent, they must maintain an equal disdain for ancient theologians such as Augustine of Hippo who taught:
Let us, then, understand the calling whereby they become elected — not those who are elected because they have believed — but those who are elected that they may believe. For the Lord Himself also sufficiently explains this calling when He says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” For if they had been elected because they had believed, they themselves would certainly have first chosen Him by believing in Him, so that they should deserve to be elected. But He takes away this supposition altogether when He says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” And yet they themselves, beyond a doubt, chose Him when they believed on Him. Whence it is not for any other reason that He says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” than because they did not choose Him that He should choose them, but He chose them that they might choose Him; because His mercy preceded them according to grace, not according to debt. Therefore He chose them out of the world while He was wearing flesh, but as those who were already chosen in Himself before the foundation of the world. This is the changeless truth concerning predestination and grace. For what is it that the apostle says, “As He hath chosen us in Himself before the foundation of the world”? And assuredly, if this were said because God foreknew that they would believe, not because He Himself would make them believers, the Son is speaking against such a foreknowledge as that when He says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you;” when God should rather have foreknown this very thing, that they themselves would have chosen Him, so that they might deserve to be chosen by Him. Therefore they were elected before the foundation of the world with that predestination in which God foreknew what He Himself would do; but they were elected out of the world with that calling whereby God fulfilled that which He predestinated. For whom He predestinated, them He also called, with that calling, to wit, which is according to the purpose. Not others, therefore, but those whom He predestinated, them He also called; nor others, but those whom He so called, them He also justified; nor others, but those whom He predestinated, called, and justified, them He also glorified; assuredly to that end which has no end. Therefore God elected believers; but He chose them that they might be so, not because they were already so. The Apostle James says: “Has not God chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised to them that love Him?” By choosing them, therefore; He makes them rich in faith, as He makes them heirs of the kingdom; because He is rightly said to choose that in them, in order to make which in them He chose them. I ask, who can hear the Lord saying, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” and can dare to say that men believe in order to be elected, when they are rather elected to believe; lest against the judgment of truth they be found to have first chosen Christ to whom Christ says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you”?
And, to be consistent, anti-predestinarians must also find themselves either confused by, or at odds with, the Apostle Paul who wrote:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory. (Romans 9:14-23)
But anti-predestinarians must also wrestle with the theology of Jesus, based upon the preaching of Isaiah, which was based upon the vision given him by God:
While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. (John 12:36-41; Isaiah 6:10)
Friends, the doctrine of predestination is nothing new. This doctrine is historically antique. It is found throughout the pages of Scripture. At the beginning, God determined to grant only justice to fallen angels, but then he determined to express mercy to fallen men. Soon in patriarchal history, the reader sees God showing special grace to Isaac and Jacob and not giving the same benefits to Ishmael and Esau. And the remainder of the Old Testament is the story of God electing a people group — Israel — and despite her fallen condition and continuous idolatry determines to grant her undeserved grace. Then consider the teaching of Jesus and his Apostles.
And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matthew 24:31)
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness. (Titus 1:1)
To those who are elect … according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. (1 Peter 1:2)
All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Revelation 13:8)
Therefore friends, when we are troubled by this clearly presented doctrine, let us be careful. When we look down upon the God who creates Lucifer, banishes him not from the Garden of Eden, allows him to roam free when he could be captured and cast into the Lake of Fire, allows sin and suffering to plague the planet, and reserves a place of eternal torment for all who will not worship him properly, let us understand that we are treading hard on sacred ground. God is good. God is wise. God is just. God is righteous. God’s ways are perfect, and there is no better reality than that which he has established. With our heart and mind, let us not be arrogant and found guilty of judging God and finding him guilty of error.
And friends, let us not be guilty of editing God. Let us not be found amongst liberals who take scissors to Scripture and remove those doctrines which appear distasteful to the modern mind. This is not acceptable when Antinomians remove God’s revealed standards of holiness. This is not acceptable when Arminians remove God’s revealed expression of his own sovereignty.
Let us not be guilty of slander. For some, a lack of evangelistic zeal accompanies an understanding of predestination. However, this is wrong, and it is not characteristic of those who understand predestination properly. Be careful in drawing unwarranted conclusions. Jesus, Paul, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Whitfield, and Edwards were exemplary predestinarians passionate about spreading the Gospel of free grace to the nations.
Finally, let us all find great comfort in our current decision to follow Christ. We have “chosen Christ” because we have been “chosen by Christ.” We “love him” because he first “loved us.” Because we are his sheep, we hear and recognize the shepherd’s voice. “No man can come to the Father,” however we have been “drawn to him.” Therefore, regardless of whether or not we wish to give God the full-credit as he deserves, let us find comfort from his predestinarian promise:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:26-39)