Romans 8:29-30 & Ephesians 1:5, 11
††††††††††† God almighty, the one true and living God, the God of the Bible, is a God of purpose, sovereign, eternal, unalterable purpose. Everything that comes to pass in time is brought to pass by the hand of our God, "According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:11). This eternal purpose of God is what we call, in Bible terms, predestination. ďPredestination is the decree of God whereby he hath for his own glory foreordained whatever comes to passĒ (Charles Buck).
A Bible Doctrine
††††††††††† There is absolutely no question about the fact that the Word of God teaches the doctrine of predestination. It is taught throughout the Scriptures and clearly stated in numerous passages of Inspiration (Matt. 25:34; Rom. 8:29, 30; Eph. 1:3, 6, 11; 2 Tim. 1:9-10; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:1-2; John 6:37; 17:2-24; Rev. 13:8; 17:8; Dan. 4:35; 1 Thess. 5:19; Matt. 11:26; Ex. 4:21; Pro. 16:4; Acts 2:23; 4:28; 13:48; Rom. 9:11; Eph. 3:11).
††††††††††† The basis of our faith is the Word of God, and the Word of God alone. We do not believe the doctrine of predestination because it is a logical and reasonable part of a theological system, though it is both logical and reasonable. We do not believe this doctrine, or any other doctrine for that matter, simply because it has been upheld and maintained by true believers throughout the ages of Christianity, though it cannot be denied that Christians have always taught Godís sovereign predestination. This is a doctrine the Church of God has always maintained. Yet, neither logic nor history is the basis of our faith. The basis of our faith is the Word of God alone. We believe this doctrine, rejoice in it, and preach it from the housetops because it is plainly taught in Holy Scripture. The fact that predestination is a Bible doctrine simply cannot be disputed. The only question that needs to be answered is this: What does the Bible teach about predestination?
††††††††††† This is a doctrine which is often deliberately misrepresented by those who oppose it and ignorantly misrepresented by those who try to defend it. In fact, it is hard to say whether this doctrine has suffered more in the camp of its enemies or in the camp of its friends. So we will begin this study by identifying four common misrepresentations of divine predestination.
First, the Bible does not teach that impersonal, stoic philosophy which says, ďWhatever will be will be.Ē That sort of philosophical fatalism attempts to remove from man all responsibility for his actions and for his condition in life. We do not for a moment believe that a man is the master of his own destiny. Yet, the Scriptures make every person responsible for his own soul. Our eternal destiny is our own responsibility.
Second, the Word of God does not teach that religious fatalism which says, ďThe elect will be saved, no matter what.Ē We believe and rejoice in the Bible doctrine of election. It is impossible to believe the Book of God and not believe in election. However, the Word of God never suggests, or even allows the possibility that, ďThe elect will be saved no matter what.Ē The Scriptures plainly declare that no one will ever be saved who does not hear the gospel (Rom. 10:17), believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Mk. 16:15-16), acknowledge and confess his sin (1 John 1:9), repent of his sins (Lk. 13:5), and persevere in the faith (Matt. 10:22). God has predestinated the use of specific means for the accomplishment of his purposes; and the use of those means is as necessary and as certain as the end itself.
Third, the Word of God nowhere teaches or implies that God has arbitrarily predestinated some to go to heaven and some to go to hell. The all-wise God never does anything arbitrarily. He has a wise and good purpose for everything he does and everything he purposed from eternity. Without question, the everlasting condemnation of the reprobate was as much a part of Godís decree as the salvation of the elect (Pro. 16:4; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4). The Bible speaks as plainly about ďthe vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,Ē as it does about ďthe vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto gloryĒ (Rom. 9:21-24). However, we must never fail to recognize that Godís predestination, while securing the salvation of the elect by Godís hand alone, leaves the responsibility for every sinnerís damnation upon his own shoulders. The elect, the vessels of mercy, are prepared for glory by Godís free grace in Christ; whereas the reprobate, the vessels of wrath, are fitted to destruction by their own sin willful unbelief. Salvation is always set before us in the Bible as being Godís fault and Godís work alone. Damnation is always set before us in the Bible as being manís fault and manís work alone.
Fourth, divine predestination is not based upon Godís foreknowledge. Predestination is not Godís foreknowledge of what would come to pass, but his purpose and determination of what must come to pass. It is not the result of what God knew man would do. Rather, predestination is what he determined he would do. The fact is, nothing could be absolutely foreknown that was not absolutely predetermined. That which is foreknown must have been foreordained. God knew the end of all things from the beginning, because he had predestinated the end from the beginning (Isa. 14:24, 26, 27; 46:9-11).
The Doctrine of Scripture
††††††††††† Essentially the doctrine of divine predestination is this: Before the world began, God sovereignly predestinated all his elect to be conformed to the image of his dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, which he accomplishes in time by his sovereign, irresistible, immutable grace, and foreordained all things necessary to accomplish that great goal in the way which is most honoring to himself.
Eternal predestination is Godís sovereign work. Carefully observe the language of Scripture. ďHe also did predestinate.Ē ďHeĒ is the original cause of all things. ďHeĒ is the source of salvation. Everything springs from him. It is written, ďAll things are of GodĒ (2 Cor. 5:18; Rom. 11:36).
Specifically, predestination is Godís eternal purpose of grace toward his elect. It is Godís determination to save his elect. It is his determination of the everlasting destiny of chosen sinners before the world began. Without question, Godís sovereign purpose and absolute decree included all things, all people, and all events, in heaven, earth, and hell. However, the revealed object of predestination is the salvation of the chosen. Divine predestination is absolutely free, sovereign, and unconditional. This work of God was finished before the world began. Predestination was an immutable, unalterable work of Godís free grace in Christ. Godís predestination is his gracious purpose to save specific sinners, his purpose of grace founded upon and arising from his everlasting love (Jer. 31:3; Rom. 8:29-30; Eph. 1:3-5; 2 Tim. 1:9-10).
Salvation is accomplished by the irresistible power of Godís grace, according to the sovereign purpose of God in his eternal decree, through the merits of Christís blood and righteousness as the sinnersí Substitute. Salvation is not the result of manís will, but of Godís. It is not the sinnerís will that brings him to Christ, but Godís will. Godís will is not ruled by or subject to manís will. Manís will is ruled by and subject to Godís will (John 1:12-13; Rom. 9:16).
Salvation is Godís work. It is accomplished by Godís sovereign, deliberate purpose. It is a work which the Lord God almighty purposed to accomplish from eternity. The means, or method, by which he would accomplish this glorious work was devised and resolved upon from eternity in the everlasting covenant of grace and counsel of peace. This is Godís purpose. -- In eternal mercy, he determined to save a people for the glory of his own great name by the substitutionary sacrifice of his dear Son (Job. 33:24; Ps. 89:19; Rom. 3:24-26; 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:21).
The death of Christ at Calvary was no accident, or after thought with God. †††††† Our Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross to accomplish our salvation by his death as our Substitute, according to his Fatherís own determinate counsel (Lk. 22:22; Acts 2:23; 4:28). It was God almighty who determined the time, place, and circumstances of Christís birth. It was God alone who determined the time and instrument of his Sonís betrayal. It was God the Father who determined the time, place, and circumstances of his Sonís execution at the hands of wicked men. And it was God who determined what the results of his Sonís sacrificial death upon the cross would be. The Father resolved from eternity to save chosen sinners by the sin-atoning death of his own darling Son (Isa. 53:10-11)..
All of this the Lord God resolved upon and predestinated for his own glory in the salvation of his elect. He chose to save sinners by the sacrifice of Christ, through the power of his grace, without any aid or assistance from them, for the glory of his own great name (Ps. 106:8; Eph. 1:6, 12, 14; 1 Cor. 1:30-31).
Whatever predestination affords, brings to pass, and accomplishes is for Godís elect. Read the Scriptures. Predestination concerns Godís chosen. It secures their salvation, their preservation, and their glory. Predestination is much, much more than an abstract theory of theological speculation. Predestination is one of the most practical, blessed, and glorious doctrines revealed in Holy Scripture.
Predestination does not keep anyone out of heaven. People often look upon predestination as a frightful monster which stands at the gate of heaven and arbitrarily shuts multitudes out, saying, ďNo, you cannot come in, you cannot be saved, no matter how much you want to be, because you were not chosen and predestinated to salvation.Ē Nothing could be further from the truth. Godís work of predestination is what open the gates of heaven.
Any sinner who is lost at last and goes to hell will do so as the result of deliberate action on his part. If anyone goes to hell, it will be his own fault. If men refuse to walk in the light God has given them, that is their fault. And when they are cast into hell, they will acknowledge the justice of God in casting them into hell. Reprobation is always presented to us in the Word of God as a judicial act. Judgment is an act of justice. It is something God does in justice in response to manís sin. God sends blindness because men and women choose not to see. He sends hardness of heart to those who harden their hearts against him. He sends men to hell because they will not bow to his Son (2 Thess. 2:10-11; Matt. 23:37-38).
††††††††††† Be sure you understand this. †If anyone goes to hell, it is his own fault alone. He has no one to blame but himself. But if anyone is saved, it will be Godís fault alone, the result of deliberate effort on Godís part. We will have no one to thank and praise for it but God. And Godís salvation began in eternal predestination. Without predestination we would all be damned forever. Predestination is the guarantee of salvation for Godís elect.
God almighty predestinated all things for the everlasting salvation of his elect and the glory of his name. In other words, all that comes to pass in time was purposed by God in eternity, purposed for our soulsí everlasting good and Godís everlasting praise (Rom. 8:28-30; Eph. 1:11-12).
The object of our God in predestination is that we should be conformed to the image of his own dear Son. The one thing God Almighty is determined to accomplish in us by his purpose, his providence, his power, and his grace is an exact likeness to the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4). God predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his Son. I cannot imagine anyone being upset with that fact, except those who yet hate God and his Son.
Through the sin and fall of our father Adam, we all became sinners. We lost Godís image in which we were created, and forfeited life, communion, fellowship, and acceptance with him forever (Rom. 5:12). Yet, Godís purpose was not overthrown when Adam sinned. It was executed exactly according to his sovereign will and infinite wisdom (1 Cor. 15:21-22). God Almighty was determined from the beginning to glorify himself in his creation, by rescuing a multitude which no man can number from Adamís fall and restoring them to his image perfectly, forever through another representative man, the God-man, Christ Jesus.
††††††††††† God looked upon his Son from eternity with such joy and delight that he said, I will have an innumerable multitude of sons and daughters just like him. And when predestination has done its work, every chosen sinner will be exactly conformed to the image of Godís dear Son, ďholy and without blameĒ before God himself
Believers are being conformed to Christ in his nature. -- He is begotten of God and so are we. We are conformed to Christ in his relationship. -- He is the Son of God; and we are the sons and daughters of the Almighty (1 John 3:1). We must also be conformed to Christ in his experience. Like Christ, we must learn obedience through the things we suffer. Like him, we must endure abuse from men. Like our Master, we must suffer the attacks of Satan. Like Christ, we must struggle against temptation and sin. We must be conformed to Christ in his character. Like him, we must be consecrated to God. Like him, we must live by Godís Word. Like him, we must seek our Fatherís will. Like him, we must be loving, kind, and tender toward one another. We must (because God purposed it) at last be conformed to the image of Christ in his glory. Salvation, when it is finished, will be perfect, complete, communion with, consecration to, and conformity to the Lord Jesus Christ forever. This salvation, from start to finish, is accomplished by God, according to his own sovereign purpose of grace in predestination. God predestinated from eternity who will be saved, the means by which he would save them, the time of their salvation, all the events and circumstances necessary for and leading to their salvation, the place where he would save his chosen, their place in glory, and everything required to bring us safely home.
For Christís Sake
The ultimate end of God in predestination, as in all other things, is the exaltation and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has determined to glorify himself in glorifying his glorious Son. He has predestinated his elect unto the adoption of sons, that Jesus Christ his eternal, only-begotten Son, might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:28-30; 11:33-36; Col. 1:16-18).
Predestination gives Christ the pre-eminence, because Christ is the center of Godís decrees. He is the Head of a new, elect race. He is the center and glory of heaven. Predestination gives Christ pleasure, because his delights were with the sons of men before time began. Now he has a race of men in whom and with whom he delights. He loves them; and they all love him. This was the joy set before him, for which he endured the cross, despising the shame. This is the reward of his labor. Predestination gives Christ praise. God has arranged things so that all the population of heaven will owe everything to Christ, so that everyone in glory land will chant Immanuelís praise and Immanuelís praise alone forever.
††††††††††† This is the glorious doctrine of predestination in which we rejoice. It is a most profitable doctrine. It destroys every basis of human pride. It exalts the glory of Christ and the grace of God. It gives us a purpose in evangelism. It gives us a sure hope before God (2 Sam. 23:5). It puts us at peace with Godís providence. It opens the doors of heaven to sinners and guarantees that some shall enter therein. It shuts us up to God for everything (Jer. 9:23-24).