Yesterday we, in the United Sates, celebrated Thanksgiving. It is traditionally a time of year to gather with family and friends over a large meal and create and share memories together. I usually describe it as a “warm” time of year. A time to think (hopefully) and reflect on all that we have to be thankful for.
As believers we have a lot to be thankful for, in addition to all of the material comfort we have here in the States. I would like to take a few moments to reflect on two items in particular and leave you (and me) with a challenge.
1. Be Thankful That You are One of the Elect
Scripture is quite clear: “So then…[God] has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Romans 9:18). Prior to that, Paul writes in chapter 8: “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” (vv. 29-30). So, while God loved the world so much that he sent his Son (John 3:16), Christ’s mission was not to save the entire world from their sin. No, Christ’s mission was to redeem those whom he predestined to redeem through his death on the cross.
Those who are saved, those who have put their faith in Jesus and have accepted the gift of Salvation, are commonly referred to as the “Elect.” The elect are his Church, and his Church is who he died for (Eph. 5:25; John 10:15; 15:13; 11:52; Acts 20:28). I encourage you to be thankful for this. Be thankful that it is “not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16) that you are saved from eternal separation from him. If it were left up to you, no matter how good you think you are (righteousness based on works, see Rom. 9:30-33), you would ultimately fail, for “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (10:4, see also v. 9). It is by faith that you have been saved. Remember: those who he predestined he also called, and those he called he also justified (8:29). Take time today to reflect on this truth and pour your heart of thankfulness out to God because he saw fit choose you “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4).
2. Be Thankful for the Freedom of Religion Enjoyed in the U.S. (but beware of the challenge you face)
Here in the States we enjoy an extremely safe place to practice our faith. We are not persecuted openly for attending church, nor are we told that we cannot practice our faith. Christians in the U.S. ought to be thankful for this freedom of religion that we have. Although it was not the only reason for the early settlers to come to the New World, freedom from the Religion of the Crown in Great Britain was one of the reasons. They sought to settle in a land that was open to many different religions, a land where there was little to no persecution for one’s beliefs. While there are obvious downsides to this, it has allowed Christianity to spread from coast to coast in America and also in other places of the world. So while we recognize that accepting every religion may have consequences, we are thankful for the freedom we have to worship our Lord and God and to spread his Gospel to every person that we are able to without physical harm.
Do not take the above paragraph for granted. I implore you to not become comfortable and lazy in the freedom you have. Also, because of the doctrine of predestination and the Sovereignty of the Gospel spoken of in the section above, you are not allowed to ignore and disobey the command given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
Yes, God has predestined a certain number of his creation to be justified by the blood of Jesus. He has also predestined that those he justified would also preach and evangelize. Take a moment and look with me at Romans 10:14, “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
Divine sovereignty does not give an excuse to not be a faithful witness. “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” Understand the human responsibility in that. God’s predestination does not negate our responsibility. Please heed this warning and take your election seriously.
As Christians we are thankful for the justification we have through Christ and for the responsibility we are given to “make disciples of all nations…baptize…[and] teach” (Matt. 28:19-20).
Just some thoughts today on this post:
Our destiny has already been determiend and when I first read your post, this particular statement is what stood out the most to me:
“If it were left up to you, no matter how good you think you are (righteousness based on works, see Rom. 9:30-33), you would ultimately fail, for “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
The key words there are “to everyone who believes,” but the question that I batteld with most is what if we do believe, but what we are doing is “‘wrong.” And that term is used loosely. In the past few months, I have heard that God is not concerned by what we do, He is more concerned that we trust and believe. So if we have all been predestined, what are we destined to do and be?
Two terms that have been used interchangeably after I did some individual research, are the terms: “Election” and “Adoption.”
Election or to be “elected” means to choose individuals for a purpose. To predestine means to accomplish that purpose for which we were chosen.
God’s election and predestination for us is saying that God does not treat every sinner the same. The idea of predestination and election is to me saying that “only a few have been chosen and called” and He chooses. But if God is all loving and compassionate, wouldn’t He choose all? With the idea of predestination fresh in mind, did He ultimately choose all but left it to our Free Will to decide/choose? If we have all been predestined, called for our purpose, shouldn’t we already know?
Maybe that’s a perplex question.
When I think of the term election, it means to choose among others. In context, God chose some for eternal salvation and passed over others. That to me is the discouraging part.
The argument or thought I have about this is, is for those that are passed over, does God harden and condemn? Well, we know from Romans 8:1 that there is NO condemnation in Christ, but what happens to the ones that He passes over?
God elected, “marked out” a select group of people for salvation. But is God’s absolute authority and soverignty stronger than a Man’s Free Will?
When we are called, God gives us spiritual life and the sinner then comes to Christ in Faith. But, if we were all predestined before birth, weren’t we already called?
God could have chosen to save everyone, because He has the power to do it and Christ’s death was sufficient to pay for our sins. It would have been just if He had shown mercy to no one, but yet He chose to save some and exclude others. What happens to the others?
The question: Does this make God unfair? How can He be merciful?
Julie, good thoughts and questions.
First, I want to make it clear that you cannot just be concerned with what you believe, or think that that is all God is concerned about (please see James 1:22-25; 2:14-26).
Second, you ask a few times what happens to those who do not believe. I am inclined to think that you know the answer to this already, but encourage you to read the paper that will publish here on 12/9 that will answer this question directly.
Third, and finally, “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” (Romans 9:14-18 ESV).
I hope that you see the point Paul is making here. There are some who he created and elected, and there are others who he created and did not elect but has rejected, because they rejected him.
I will follow that thought with vv. 19-24: 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— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:19-24 ESV)
Julie, I hope that these answer your questions. If not, feel free to continue firing away! I love answering questions and hope that my responses are helpful.
Just some closing statements on Predestination:
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. ”
Honestly, this is a daily challenge for me. While learning the Word, listening to it, and understanding it in its context it is written has helped, the application aspect of scripture isn’t difficult, but it can be. But, maybe that’s the true meaning of faith. Actions speak louder than words and I think that clearly sums up this topic of predestination.
I don’t know what the Bible says about or what happens to people who don’t believe. (New believer here). I believe in Heaven and Hell, so I think I just answered that question. But, here is a thought:
Imagine a group of swimmers and the lifeguard is Jesus. A few in the group are drowning. One of the drowning few stretches out their hand to God to be rescued, but God has already predestined them not to be of the elect, the chosen “Few.” What does God inevitably do? (This is the kind of train of thought I’ve had since delving into this topic).
I look forward to your post on Friday. I am sure most of what I think about will be in one way or another be answered or at least mentioned.
The entire topic of predestination had me thinking and while I have read several articles and listened to sermons, I think you summed up the point when you said:
“There are some who he created and elected, and there are others who he created and did not elect but has rejected, because they rejected him. ”
The truth is, and deep down I know this. God knows our heart. He knew it before we were ever born and our fate is ultimately in His hands. And maybe for most of us that is the scary part. We can spend our entire life trying to prove ourselves as Christians, but God knows our heart, and we are in control of ourselves and how strongly we believe in Him.
It is more than that. We have all been predestined and elected, but not all of us will be saved. While the ultimate decision is not ours but God’s, we still have a mission here.
God is in control of what happens, when it happens, and how. This is true for everything that happens in our life and He does it for our good and His glory. Even the things we don’t understand (ie: This topic!). He is not the author of our sins, yet the evil that occurs in this world servies His purposes. He does not violate our free will, yet free will serves His purpose in the grand scheme of things. Our challenge: To believe ALL of that.
No one is saved without faith in Christ. God made the first move with election and predestination, the next move is ours. And it’s a move we make daily in our life, or we’re supposed to.
We are His clay and we are molded as we grow in our faith and relationship with Him and that starts with our heart.
In a perfect world, we would all go to Heaven. God wants us in Heaven. He paid the price for this by the blood of His Son. If someone goes to Hell, it’s not God’s fault, it’s theirs.
Sad, but true.
Julie, I’m glad to see that you are thinking hard about this topic. This is not an easy doctrine to understand, and humanly we will not be able to fully understand some aspects of it (faith plays a huge role in these areas).
I want to clarify that not everyone is elected. Notice in Romans 8:33 that God is in possession of the elect. He has ownership of them. Also notice in verse 34 that the only reason God is able to have ownership of us (the elect) is because Christ intercedes for us. If Christ would not intercede for us we would not meet the standard of righteousness to be called Children of God.
I think you will learn a lot in the next two articles. The first deals directly with Satan (his origin, limited power, and eternal position) and the second one deals with the fate of unbelievers.
I am just curious if you have given any more thought to this topic after publishing your post? From your research alone have you been content enough to walk away with the knowledge you have found prior to posting this article?
Honestly, the more I learn and the more I think, I am still not satisfied. This is a very difficult doctrine to understand. And it’s also slipped into one of the most powerful Chapters of the Bible.
Have you talked to any one about this topic? Your Dad? Any one you’re in classes with? It would probably help me wrap my head around it if I had another perspective.
Thank you for keeping up with my train of thought and I look forward to your post on Friday! 🙂
When I was researching the topic last week prior to publishing the article, I definitely grappled with the doctrine. I understand both that God is sovereign and that he has elected some and not others. I also understand that while God has predestined all of us, there is still human responsibility in answering the call of the Gospel. How these two work together is, I believe, humanly impossible to completely wrap our heads around. It is something that only God can fully understand and comprehend. That being said, my research in anything I write about is not finished, but is merely an introduction. I will never stop learning the truths of God’s Word.
Before I published this article I had my dad review it. I was confident in my conclusion but wanted to double check myself by having him take a look at it. He said everything was sound and was true to Scripture. This is a topic that I researched and wrote about outside of my classes, so I have not had any interaction with a class member on the topic.
I found the systematic theologies of Hodge and Grudem to be very helpful in this topic, also several articles out of the EDT, as previously mentioned (on Twitter I believe). Also, simply reading the passages that speak to this doctrine is very helpful. Reading and rereading and prayfully studying the passages.
In addition to the above, I listen on a weekly basis to sermons by John MacArthur. At the Truth Matters conference this past September he had a sermon about this topic which I found to be helpful as an introduction. You can listen to/watch the sermon here – http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/TM11-9/an-explanation-of-the-sovereign-gospel (follow along with your Bible 🙂 ).
Hope this helps!!
I got into a very interesting discussion about this topic last night. After discussing this with you, I went to an old site I used to blog on and started interacting with other believers and got some interesting feedback that I wanted to bring to your attention to.
Christians and “Election”
“Christians disagree about the nature of election, but they are united in rejecting the idea that people are capable of saving themselves. Pelagius was a monk in the fifth century who argued that Adam’s sin did not change human nature, and that any given person can live a sinless life if they choose to.
Christians officially and uniformly rejected this teaching. Where it gets complicated is when Christians begin interpreting other teachings as “in line” with what Pelagius taught and accusing other Christians of being Pelagians or semi-Pelagians. But when you hear someone accusing someone else of being a Pelagian, you just have to ask yourself, “Is that person teaching that human nature is unfallen? That a person can live a perfect life and be acceptable to God?” Since grace is so central to Christian thinking, it’s almost never the case that a Christian actually believes that, and Pelagianism can rest safely in the distant past. And as long as you don’t come to believe that, whatever perspective on election/salvation you adopt, you are safely within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy.
The Reformed perspective mainly traces to the writings of John Calvin (and so sometimes is called Calvinism, though Calvin himself did not like the term, so I think it’s polite to avoid it unless it’s necessary). The Reformed perspective on salvation is very conveniently summed up in the acronym TULIP.
Total Depravity – That sin affects every part of the human life, and totally cuts humans off from God
Unconditional Election – That those Jesus died for are saved, without any choice, effort or will on their part.
Limited Atonement – Jesus died for a specific group of people, and the merits of his life and death are not applied to anyone outside that group.
Irresistible Grace – Those who Jesus died for are unable to resist Jesus’ call to repentance and salvation
Perseverance of the Saints – Those who Jesus died for will continue to live repentant, God-honoring lives; if anyone does not continue to do so, they were not truly one of the elect
From the Reformed perspective, nobody has free will: fallen humans (that is, all humans) are slaves to sin, and have no more freedom to choose God than an alcoholic can choose not to drink.
So in this view at no point does a person do anything in their salvation. We are saved because Jesus chose us: and we can know that Jesus chose us because we repent, believe and live repentant, God-honoring lives. The good lives that the elect lead do not save them, but are evidence that God has saved them.
A second view is that of Arminius, who starting writing theology right around the time Calvin died. Arminius agreed with Calvin in most of the particulars, except that he was constantly drawn to the passages in scripture that make it look like humans do in fact make a choice to follow God or not. His view was that before the creation of the world God looked into the future and saw those people who would have freely chosen to accept the gospel if they were able to, and elected them to salvation. Modern Arminians have taken these views in a lot of different directions, but that is the basic divergence from Reformed thought.
A third view is the Wesleyan perspective, developed out of the writings of John Wesley. He believed that the Bible taught that God’s grace extended in a basic form to every person, that God desired that all people be saved and made the first move (and second and third and so on), but would not force a person to be saved. He coined the term “prevenient grace,” by which he meant the ability to be saved, which is an ability nobody has on their own, but that God extends by grace to each person. To Wesley, when the Bible talks about “election,” it is discussing what God wants for the person who accepts this grace, not which people will accept this grace. So when Wesley reads Romans 8, he noted that it does not say, “God predestined whom he would foreknow,” but rather that “Those he foreknew he predestined to be conformed to the image of his son.” So it was what they would be that God predestined, not who was to be included.
A fourth perspective is the so-called “open theist” perspective, which is the view that God does not know the future with total certainty at all. In this view, God has certain overriding plans, and accomplishes those plans while allowing humans the free will to choose what they will do, and then reacts to those decisions without abandoning his plans. An open theist reading of Romans 8 would sound a lot like the Wesleyan reading: God chose from the beginning of time to have a people who would know intimately. In this sense, he foreknew these people, though he did not know who would choose to be one of these people. He did, however, choose from the beginning of time that his people would be conformed to the image of his son, etc.
The oldest perspective, however, is the Catholic perspective, which views election and free will as held together in mystery, so that God elects individuals to salvation without ever impugning on their freedom to choose. Like the Wesleyan perspective (Wesley was an Anglican, after all), the Catholic perspective is “synergistic,” seeing continuing in good works not only as an evidence of election, but as a necessary corollary to election. Of course, all people are incapable of good works apart from the animating work of the Holy Spirit, so even the works that come from faith are nothing a person can boast about.
All of these perspectives are held by sincere Christians (indeed, by members of the Evangelical Theological Society), and all can claim to make sense of some portions of scripture better than some of the others. At the same time, there are portions of the Bible that each of these positions have a difficult time incorporating.
None of these positions are incontestably true, and none obviously false. You will have to come to your own conclusions about which view is most persuasive to you personally. They’re all on the table for believers.
What do you think? Do I accurately characterize the basics of each position? Is your favorite (or least favorite) position mishandled? Which perspective do you feel the most drawn to?”
You can visit his site here: http://sirnickdon.xanga.com/
I also mentioned you and your site to him and I hope he at some point interacts with you as well or vise versa.
I did take a few minutes yesterday and listen to the sermon, I wasn’t able to get all the way through it, but definitely will by the end of the week.
Your insight and references have been extremely helpful. I just don’t like ending a topic that I’m so interested in, which is why I keep commenting! lol
Godspeed Aaron! 🙂
Julie, thank you for sharing that with me. Welcome to the world of theology 🙂 This is one of those areas, where no matter how long and hard we think about it, our human minds will not be able to fully grasp what Scripture teaches on this topic. While we can understand certain aspects of it, understanding how it actually words is up to God, as I have previously stated. And the summaries of the various positions on this topic looked good to me. I’m glad that you continue to research and study. Keep that up!!
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As a Roman Catholic Christian, I will look forward to discussing this and many other topics with you. While my view on predestination may differ in some respects we are not as far apart as many may think. I believe, as you do, that salvation can only come through a living faith in the blood sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. I also believe that only God can give us that faith to believe. Thank you for adding my page to yours, and I believe we will learn much as we follow one another online, and mostly as we follow our Lord Jesus Christ to eternity together! Blessings.
Richard, thanks for the comment and for stopping by. I appreciate you being upfront that we may not see eye to eye on everything, all the time. I also appreciate your willingness to be okay with that! I look forward to reading your articles and hope that you equally enjoy reading and discussing mine.
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