Romans 8:29-30 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
I’ve recently had a couple conversations regarding Calvinism and the concept of predestination, within the framework of this belief there is the need for it to be addressed.
Predestination, in Christian theology, is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God, usually with reference to the eventual fate of the individual soul. Explanations of predestination often seek to address the “paradox of free will”, whereby God’s omniscience seems incompatible with human free will.
In America, there are several Christian denominations that identify with Calvinist beliefs: Primitive Baptist or Reformed Baptist, Presbyterian Churches, Reformed Churches, the United Church of Christ, and the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. Clearly these concepts have been embraced by many and so the questions as to whether this is an important area of debate becomes more elevated.
Does it matter whether someone is Calvinist or not?
What many will say is if it’s not a key element in the core doctrine of salvation, is not worth being concerned about. As long as a belief system is relegated to the main premise of the Bible as it pertains to Creation, the Fall, Redemption, Restoration, and eventually Eternal cohabitation with God….many people will say it’s not worth the worry.
But Jesus said…..
John 17:17 “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”
I believe the Truth of God to be exact and defined. Just as the road to Salvation is straight and the gate is narrow, so the Word of God is likewise straight and narrow. Truth is not subject to interpretation, it has meaning and purpose that is to be understood by all who wish to follow it. If my belief system is not congruent with God’s Word, I must fit my belief into the framework of God’s Truth, not the other way around. If I try to mold scripture into what I believe, I have to consolidate every reference in the Bible into my belief system. When I can’t fit it all in, I have to have a remedy and that remedy is usually a generalized definition that helps move that which conflicts out of the way.
For instance, when scripture doesn’t align with a belief people will say things like, “who can know the mind of God, it is a mystery”, or “God is sovereign and we cannot know His purpose for everything”. If relegating a conflict to a mystery doesn’t work, many times people will just spiritualize scripture and make it more allegorical rather than definite and defined.
I believe scripture reveals the heart of God. We can know His motivation and where He is leading, we just might not know how we are going to get there. With that being said, what does the Word of God reveal concerning ‘Predestination’?
Predestined or Not?
There is no question that God has a predestined purpose for mankind. The question isn’t whether this is true or not, the question is, what is implied by this concept?
Ephesians 1:3-6 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
First, let’s look at the root of the word….
The word in the Greek for ‘Predestined” is proorízō (from /pró, “before” and /horízō, “establish boundaries, limits“) – properly, pre-horizon or pre-determine limits.
This word occurs 6 times in the New Testament, 8 in the writings of Paul. We see in scripture that it is mentioned in Acts 4:28, Romans 8:29,30, 1 Corinthians 2:7, and in Ephesians 1:5,11.
So the predetermined limits of mankind are the defining rules by which man may attain to salvation. We know that Jesus declared that He is “the way, the truth, and the life“, in John 14:6, so understanding what leads people to this life is the central point of the message.
Calvinism vs. Arminianism
The comparative view of God’s Sovereignty vs. Man’s Responsibility has been debated for generations. When delving into this debate, you will inevitably be faced with a Calvinist and Arminian point of view.
For a quick history, John Calvin was a French theologian who lived between 1509-1564, Jacobus Arminius was a Dutch theologian who lived between 1560-1609.
- Arminianism holds to the partial depravity of man(every aspect of humanity is tainted by sin but not to the extent they can’t come to God on their own accord), while Calvinism holds to the total depravity of man(every aspect of humanity is corrupted by sin thereby human beings are unable to come to God on their own accord).
2. Calvinists believe that election is unconditional(God elects individuals based entirely on His will. Arminians believe that election is conditional(God elects individuals based on His foreknowledge of who will believe).
3. Calvinists believe in limited atonement((the belief that Jesus only died for the elect). Arminianism believes in the unlimited atonement(the belief that Jesus died for all but that salvation is not effectual until someone received Him by faith).
4. Calvinists believe that God’s grace is irresistible(when God calls, that person will inevitably come to salvation). Arminianism believes that individuals can resist the grace of God(God calls all to salvation but many people will deny Him).
5. Arminianism holds to conditional salvation(a believer in Christ can turn away from Christ and thereby lose salvation). Calvinism believes in the perseverance of the Saints(believers will persevere in the faith and will not permanently turn away from Him).
There are 5 point Calvinists and 5 point Arminianism, and at the same time 3 point Calvinists and 2 point Arminans, what many have come to resolve is that within the Body of Christ, there are many different viewpoints so we can’t ultimately know the mystery of God’s Sovereign plan.
Which brings me back to the question of predestination and what the Bible says as a whole.
In the book “Does God love Everyone?”, by Jerry Wall, the question was asked as to whether God loves everyone He created or only those He called and predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son?
John 3:16 states “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life”. If this scripture is only for those specific to God’s call, then this means God does not love everyone in the world.
If God’s nature is love, 1 John 4:8,16, then to say God does not love everyone is counter to His nature. The way Calvinists counter this scripture is by declaring that God was pleased to ordain some people to wrath for their sins so that God’s glory and justice might be made known.
1 John 2:2 says “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
How can Christ die for the sins of the whole world and not offer Salvation to anyone other than those He chose out of the world?
Calvinism usually distinguishes between two kinds of gospel calls: the general call that goes out to everyone, and the effectual call which is meant only for God’s elect. If the gospel is shared with everyone and the irresistible call is heard by the elect and non-elect, then God is unjust in withholding salvation to a group of people who might have responded to this irresistible call and yet are not allowed to do so. As Walls pithily sums it up, “For the elect, God makes them an offer they literally cannot refuse, but those who are not elect receive an offer they literally cannot accept”
The dilemma in Calvinism is if salvation is accomplished by God alone and is in no way dependent upon humans, what prevents the general call and effectual call from reaching the same end? It is here where Calvinists conclude that God’s divine Sovereign plan cannot be known and thereby we must trust Him for His purposes.
Regardless of God’s divine plan, if God created all yet only selected certain individuals, then God would be unjust. Why create them at all if the plan was only to destroy them? Just so that God’s divine glory and justice might be known within the elect who had received an irresistible grace in the first place?
God’s Plan for Humanity
Despite the Calvinist’s protestation that God has other goals he desires to accomplish through the reprobate—the full manifestation of his glory, wrath, and justice—the idea that damnation makes possible other greater goods falls flat once we realize that the greatest good for humanity and the greatest glory for God is for us to know God and enjoy him forever, which is what Christ’s atonement is all about.
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
Some may claim this scripture is only relevant to the elect, since the opening to this second letter of Peter states “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”
If Calvinists believe that the elect will never turn away from God, also known as Eternal Salvation, then why would Peter be concerned about anyone of God’s elect perishing?
I am convinced that once the Spirit of God is placed as a seal on the heart of an individual, that seal is never broken.
Ephesians 1:13,14 “And in Him, having heard and believed the word of truth—the gospel of your salvation—you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the pledge of our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession, to the praise of His glory.”
I am also convinced that once a person is sealed with the Spirit of God and begin to walk in the knowledge of that salvation, they cannot lose their salvation nor will they ever walk away from it.
1 Peter 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
To those who reject God’s salvation, an eternity of corruption and suffering is all they have to look forward to.
Hebrews 6:4-6 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”
Do you know who are represented in this passage?
These are the ones who have heard the gospel, seen evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit, and at times enjoyed the fruit of the Spirit in others around them…and then rejected it!
Tasted(sampled), partook (came along side), but never accepted it as their own. They heard the call and chose not to humble themselves and repent of their sin.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10 “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
To repent of sin requires humility. The redeemed recognize the call of God and the devastating judgement of sin, humble themselves from their perch of self-justification and repent of their sins.
The world hears the call, recognizes their sin but rejects the call to humble themselves before God and the sorrow of sin leads to death.
Whatever your position may be, eternal life and death are at stake here. In looking over the various points, I find myself drawing from both positions but not in either camp.
I am in the camp of Jesus and what His Word says is True. I have found that the Bible confirms itself throughout scripture, from the Old Testament to the New Testament the message remains the same.
God is Just and God is Loving.
His Sovereign will may not be understood in detail but it is understood in premise. He didn’t create people to suffer, His Creation was made in perfection and His intended goal will be realized at the culmination of the Church Age. If you have not known the grace of God in your life, the offer stands until the day of your death, after that comes judgement. If you are filled with the Spirit, you will witness the working of the Spirit in your life, you can test yourself by this measure. If you pass the test, you are His for eternity, He will never let you go, nothing the enemy attempts can thwart God’s plan.
God’s predestined plan is that all who would believe and receive would be saved.
John 1:10-13 “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Will you be among the camp of the redeemed?
When God calls, it’s your choice.