By Mike Willis
Having rejected the Calvinist doctrine of predestination and election, we now propose to consider what the Bible actually does teach is predestined and what the Bible actually teaches about election. That the Bible actually does teach on these subjects is apparent from a cursory consideration of some of the following passages:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified (Rom. 8:28-30).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will (Eph. 1:3-5).
Let us consider these passages and a few others to see exactly what the Bible teaches about the doctrines of predestination
and election. We are not interested in this article about the Calvinist perversions of these doctrines; we are only interested in what the Scriptures actually teach about the subject.
God’s Work Through Jesus Christ
From beginning to end, the Bible is concerned about God’s work through Jesus Christ. God predetermined from the beginning of all time to redeem mankind through His Son Jesus Christ. Hence, when we begin to speak about the doctrine of predestination, we begin by recognizing that God’s predetermination was to save men through His Son. It was God’s will that Jesus die for our sins; hence, Peter stated on the day of Pentecost, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:22-23).
God’s plan for the salvation of man was predetermined from the beginning. When man sinned, God began to work to save him. He planned to do this through the sending of Jesus Christ. God took upon Himself the form of a man and dwelt among us. He even endured the agonies of Calvary that we might be redeemed from our sins. If we will but remember that this is the primary thing predetermined by God, and not the salvation or damnation of specific persons, we will have moved a long way in understanding a difficult subject. Now, let us look at some of the specific passages which teach about predestination and see what has been predetermined.
Please open your Bibles to this passage and specifically examine the individual verses which I mention in this discussion. Space will not allow me to reproduce the verses at this place. Let us, therefore, notice what God has chosen in this passage:
1. To bless us through His Son. The thing which God has predetermined is to bless all men through the Son of God. Notice the specific statements: (a) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ (v. 3); (b) “According as he hath chosen us in him . . .” (v. 4); (c) “having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ . . .” (v. 5); (d) “. . . wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (v. 6); (e) “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. . . ” (v. 7); (f) “that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ” (v. 10); (g) “in whom also we have obtained an inheritance” (v. 11).
Hence, God predetermined the realm in which men would be saved-in Christ! No one can be saved, blessed of God, except in Christ our Redeemer. The predestination which we read of in the Scriptures, therefore, is God’s predetermined plan to give all of His spiritual blessings to mankind through His Son Jesus Christ.
2. To have those who are redeemed in Christ to be holy and without blame (v. 4). God has not only predetermined the realm in which men would be saved (in Christ), He has also determined the character of those who will be saved. Those who will be saved must be holy and without blame. Man is “without blame” through the forgiveness of sins made possible through the precious blood of the Lamb of God. Having his sins washed away through Christ’s blood, man stands before God with6ut blame. His character is that of a saint; he tries to walk in moral purity. All of this, God predetermined before the first man was ever saved. He predetermined the character of those whom He would save. God never thought about saving the man who rebelliously walks in wickedness; He predetermined to save those who walk in moral purity.
3. To adopt these who are saved in Christ as children (v. 5). The text reads, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ . . .” (v. 5). God also predetermined that those who would be redeemed through Christ would receive the adoption as sons. (See Gal. 4:1-6 for further discussion of the idea of adoption as sons.) Again, we read nothing about a specific person being chosen for salvation and another person chosen for damnation through the arbitrary will of God. Rather, we read what God predetermined to do for those who were saved through Christ-to adopt them as children.
4. To gather together in one all things in Christ (v. 10). In addition to the things previously mentioned as being a part of God’s predetermined will, Paul added, “that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ . . .” (v. 10). And this is what God has done. He brought together both Jew and Gentile in one body through Jesus Christ. Regarding this, Paul wrote, “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:16). What God predetermined to do was to save both Jew and Gentile in the one body (the church) through the one Savior, Jesus Christ.
5. To obtain an inheritance (v. 11J. Verse 11 reads as follows: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” God also predetermined to grant an inheritance to those who are redeemed through His Son.
Notice, in summary, what Eph. 1:3-14 teaches. It does not teach that God predetermined before the foundation of the world and without consideration as to what He might see in man (such as faith and obedience to His will) to save a given individual and to damn another. Rather, God chose His plan for the redemption of man through Jesus Christ and the blessings which He would grant to men through that Christ.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
This passage gives some people a good bit of trouble. Let us begin by noting who is spoken of in this passage. They are variously described as “them that love God” and “them who are called.” Those who love God are those who keep His commandments (Jn. 14:15, 21, 23); the call which God gives to men is through the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14). Hence, we are not discussing some men who received some kind of secret divine call in some mysterious way. We are discussing those who have heard the call of the gospel and obeyed it.
God, before the world began, looked ahead and saw that certain persons would obey His word and that others would not. I do not mean that God foresaw that some would and some would not obey; rather, God foreknew exactly who would and who would not obey His word. Yet, foreknowledge is not predetermination. Furthermore, for God to foreknow what a man with free will is going to do is no more difficult for His almighty power and omniscience than for Him to know what a mere robot would do. Hence, I see no problem in admitting that God knew before the world ever began all persons who would be saved and all who would be lost. To teach that God predetermined both of these groups, however, causes untold problems for the disciple of the biblical text.
Now, here is what God predetermined: “for whom He did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son” (v. 29). God predetermined before the world began that those who would be obedient to His will would be conformed to the image of His Son, i.e., that they would receive the same resurrection body as His Son received.
Here are the other things which God has done for this group: (1) Called them. This has occurred through the preaching of the gospel. Paul later wrote, “whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:14). Those who are going to be saved have all been called through the preaching of the gospel. None else can be saved. (2) Justified them. God predetermined that this group would not only be called but that they would also be justified, i.e., made to stand without sin before the law. He did this through remitting their sins. (3) Glorified. These persons who chose of their.own free will to be obedient to the Lord’s will, God has predetermined to glorify. This, of course, refers to God’s plan to give us a home with Him in heaven.
We see now what the Bible doctrine of predestination actually is. There is nothing in these verses ‘which remotely intimates that God personally chose every man who would be saved without regard to whether or not that person would be obedient to His will or not. Nor, is there anything which intimates that God arbitrarily decided to damn men without regard to their disposition toward Him. Rather, God’s predetermination concerns His work through His Son and His plans for those who obey Jesus.
Truth Magazine XXII: 35, pp. 563-565
September 7, 1978