Sunday, March 16, 2008

PREDESTINATION

---by Matthew J. Slick

If you're a Christian, you've heard of predestination. You must have because the Bible uses the word and teaches the idea. But what is predestination? How does free will fit in? What about man's sinfulness and God's sovereignty? Is predestination a fair doctrine or does it make God out to be dispassionate and tyrannical? In this paper, we will attempt to answer those questions.

Predestination is the doctrine that God alone chooses (elects) who is saved. He makes His choice independent of any quality or condition in sinful man. He does not look into a person and recognize something good nor does He look into the future to see who would choose Him. He elects people to salvation purely on the basis of His good pleasure. Those not elected are not saved. He does this because He is sovereign; that is, He has the absolute authority, right, and ability to do with His creation as He pleases. He has the right to elect some to salvation and let all the rest go their natural way: to hell. This is predestination.

In response to this definition, some will protest, "Unfair!" It may seem so at first, but you will see that it is quite fair. More importantly, it is biblical. To help you understand predestination, I would like to address several areas in order:
The Eternal Covenant
Man's Sinful Condition
The Result of Sinful Man's Condition
Man's Free Will
The Necessity of Predestination
God's Sovereign Election
Conclusion
Objections Answered

(1) The Eternal Covenant
Usually, the best place to start a study is at the beginning, and in order to understand predestination better we need to start at its beginning. Its origin can be found in what is called the Eternal or Everlasting Covenant. Hebrews 13:20 says, "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

If you have never heard of the eternal covenant, then you need to familiarize yourself with it because it is vital to a proper understanding of one of the ways God deals with His people. Essentially, God works covenantally.

A Covenant is a pact or agreement between two parties. It is a contract. The Old and New Testaments are really the Old and New Covenants. Testament comes from the Latin "testamentum", which means covenant. In the O.T. the Hebrew word for covenant is always b'rith. In the N.T. it is always "diatheke." There are OT covenants that God made with individuals, i.e. Adam (Gen. 2:15-17), Noah (Gen. 9:12-16), Abraham (Gen. 17), the Israelites at Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:28), and David (Sam. 7:12-16), etc., and in the NT there is the New Covenant (Luke 22:20; Matt. 26:28; Heb. 7:22) that was prophesied in Jer. 31:31-37.

The Eternal Covenant, then, is the covenant made between God the Father and the Son with regard to the elect. This covenant was made before the universe was created and it consisted of the Father promising to bring to the Son all whom the Father had given the Son.

(John 6:39 ) And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

(John 17:9 ) I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

(John 17:24 ) Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

In the Eternal Covenant, the Father would prepare the Son a body (Luke 1:35; Heb. 10:5); give the Son the Spirit without measure (Is. 43:1,2; 61:1); always support and comfort the Son (Is. 42:1-7; 49:8); deliver the Son from the power of death (Ps. 2); bring to the Son all whom the Father had given Him (John 6:39; 17:9,24); and give the Son a number of redeemed that no one could number (Ps. 22:27; 72:17). The Son's part was to assume human nature (Gal. 4:4,5; Heb. 2:10,11,14,15); be under the Law (Ps. 40:8; Gal. 4:4,5; Phil. 2:5-8); and to bear the sins of His people (Is 53:12; Jn 10:11,15; 1 Pet. 2:24).

In the Eternal Covenant we see that God has given a certain number of people to the Son and that the Son came to redeem them, to "lose none of them" (John 6:39). We can conclude from this that God had in mind a certain people whom would be His elect. Since God knows all things, He knows those whom He has chosen. Hence, they are predestined from the very beginning of time.

(2) Man's Sinful Condition
Man is sinful. He does not become a sinner by sinning. He sins because he is a sinner. He is depraved, which means that sin has corrupted all that he is: mind, soul, spirit, emotions, and body. Man is so engulfed in sin, so thoroughly touched by it, that there is nothing in him that merits or enables salvation. He, therefore, is born into a state of condemnation: "...were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." (Eph. 2:3). This is not to say that we are as evil as we can be, rather, that all of what we are is affected by sin.

The heart is often referred to in scripture as the deepest part of man and the center of his spiritual nature (Esther 7:5; 1 Cor. 7:37; Rom. 6:17; Deut. 29:4). From the heart man understands (Prov. 8:5), reflects (Luke 2:19), feels joy (Isa. 65:14), and experiences pain (Prov. 25:20). Because of his depravity (sinful condition), man's heart is not only impure but desperately wicked: (Jer 17:9 ) "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Also, it is out of the heart that we speak "...out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matt. 12:34), and what is in the heart of the person is what comes out of him: "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man" (Mark 7:21-23). It follows then that man's understanding, reflection, feelings, and experiences are all stained by sin.

The unregenerate person is a slave of sin: "(Rom 6:20 ) For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness." That means that doing good is not a concern or need of the unbeliever--and naturally so for a person with a sinful nature. The unregenerate is inherently against God: "having abolished in His flesh the enmity...so making peace" (Eph. 2:15). Enmity is hatred, bitterness, and malice toward an enemy. That was our relationship to God prior to salvation; there was enmity between us.

So, the Bible reveals the true nature of man. It is evil (Mark 7:21-23), wicked (Jer. 17:9), a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20), at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15), and, of course, naturally belongs in hell (Eph. 2:3). It then follows that out of his utterly sinful condition, only sinful desires and effects will follow. The question must then be asked, "How can a sinful person ever desire God?"

(3) The Result of Man's Sinful Condition
Because of man's sinfulness, he is unable to understand God, seek God, or do any thing good: "(Rom 3:9-12 ) What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; {10} As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: {11} There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. {12} They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Because of his sinfulness, he loves darkness rather than light; he loves evil rather than good: "(John 3:19 ) And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Because of his depravity, he is incapable of accepting the things of God or understanding them: "(1 Cor 2:14 ) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The natural man is the unregenerate man. The natural man cannot understand the things of God. Notice it does not say, "has trouble understanding," or "can if he's sincere," or "will be able to if he chooses God." It says he cannot understand. Salvation is one of those "things of God," and so is the understanding of being lost, of being a sinner, of needing repentance, etc. All of these are out of reach of the natural man. He cannot understand them.

So, in light of these scriptures, how can an unbeliever come to an understanding that he needs salvation if the Bible teaches that he cannot understand his need (1 Cor. 2:14), that his nature is evil (Mark 7:21-23) and that he does not seek God (Rom. 3:11)? It would seem that man's sinful condition does not permit him to desire, understand, or want God. What effect, then, does this condition have upon his free will?

(4) Man's Free Will
Many believe that man, by his free will, by something that resides in him, is completely able to independently accept or reject God. But this belief is not supported in scripture. As I stated above, man's will by nature is sinful. What then will a sinful free will choose? It will choose sin. His free will, then, would never allow Him to reach out to God.

But we must ask, "What is free will?". Generally it is accepted to mean the freedom to choose according to one's desires. This seems true. But someone is only as free as his nature is free. His will is limited to that which is within his nature. The unregenerate can only choose what his nature allows him to choose. Since he is full of sin, not goodness, his choices can only be sinful.

In other words, a person can choose to do only that which his nature allows him to do. He cannot simply will to suddenly vanish into thin air or fly like Superman because he is incapable of such feats; his nature limits him. So too with the nature of fallen man. He is severely limited by what he can and cannot do. The sinful man: cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14); is full of evil (Mark 7:21-23); does not seek for God (Rom. 3:11); is lawless, rebellious, unholy, and profane (1 Tim. 1:9)

How then can the good desire to want God come out of the unsaved's evil heart? It cannot! How is he able, in his sinful free will, to desire God when his inclinations are always to reject Him? He cannot. How can he, with his blind and sinful will that is deadened, hardened, and enslaved by sin (Rom. 6:20) ever choose God? He cannot! It is impossible. That's why Jesus said, "(Mat 19:26 ) But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

But some still maintain that God works on a person and slowly teaches and guides him or her into believing. Others say that there is something in a person's free will that enables him to choose God. They maintain that everyone is equally able to accept or reject. But if they are equally free and equally able, then why don't they all equally accept God, or why don't they all equally choose to reject Him? Why are there variations in choice? Are the variations a result of a tendency that God gave them? But God made them that way. Is it because of their environment? But God put them there. Is it because of some physical inclination? But God gave them their bodies. Is it because of their parents' influence? But God gave them their parents.

The fact remains, man is not entirely free; he is sinfully free. The unsaved can act freely, but only within the limits of their sinful nature which cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14), does not seek for God (Rom. 3:11), hates God, and is in slavery to sin (Rom. 6:17,20), etc. That is why Jesus said, "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him..." (John 6:44), and, "that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father (John 6:65). These are not the statements one would hope to find if the sinner were so free to choose to accept or reject God.

(5) The Necessity of Predestination
I've laid the foundation: Man is completely a sinner who is incapable of understanding and coming to God and has a sinful free will capable only of rejecting God. Therefore, in order for salvation to occur, God must predestine. It can be no other way. If this is so, then there should be verses supporting it. There are:

Acts 13:48: And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; AND AS MANY AS HAD BEEN APPOINTED TO ETERNAL LIFE BELIEVED.

John 1:12-13: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even 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.

Phil 1:29: For to you it has been GRANTED for Christ's sake, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake.

Romans 8:29-30: FOR WHOM HE FOREKNEW, HE ALSO PREDESTINED to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Ephesians 1:5: HE PREDESTINED US to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.

Ephesians 1:11 Also WE HAVE OBTAINED AN INHERITANCE, HAVING BEEN PREDESTINED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE who works all things after the counsel of His will.

The preceding scriptures clearly show that the Lord is very active in salvation. He did not simply provide the means of salvation, the cross, but He also ensured the application of the blood of Christ through predestination. Please consider that
it is God who:
draws people to Himself (John 6:44,65)
creates a clean heart (Psalm 51:10)
appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48)
works faith in the believer (John 6:28-29)
chooses who is to be holy and blameless (Eph. 1:4)
chooses us for salvation (2 Thess. 2:13-14)
grants the act of believing (Phil. 1:29)
grants repentance (2 Tim. 2:24-26)
calls according to His purpose (2 Tim. 1:9)
causes us to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3)
predestines us to salvation (Rom. 8:29-30)
predestines us to adoption (Eph. 1:5)
predestines us according to His purpose (Eph. 1:11)
makes us born again not by our will but by His will (John 1:12-13)
It is man who:
is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9)
is full of evil (Mark 7:21-23)
loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19)
is unrighteous, does not understand, does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12)
is helpless and ungodly (Rom. 5:6)
is dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1)
is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3)
cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14)

How can it be any other way than God's loving predestination to make our salvation not only possible, but also a reality? Left to man, salvation is impossible: "(Mat 19:25-26 ) When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? {26} But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

That is why it must be God who opens the heart: "(Acts 16:14 ) And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

This is what truly glorifies God, that in His infinite mercy He is gracious enough to save those who would always reject Him, always hate Him, and always malign Him. Praise Him and His love!

(6) God's Sovereign Election
God is sovereign. Sovereignty means that God is supreme in power and authority, that He answers to no one, and that He may do as He pleases for whatever reason He chooses. (Isa 46:10 ) Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: ; "(Acts 4:28 ) For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. (Acts 2:23 ) Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

Out of a people of utter sinfulness and inability, God has chosen, by His sovereign grace, to elect some into salvation and not others. Remember, there is nothing in man that merits any favor, blessing, or mercy whatsoever. For there is no favoritism with God (Rom. 2:11). Each and every person is entirely worthy of wrath and incapable of saving himself. That is why God has chosen a people to Himself out of the good pleasure of His heart. Because without His choosing, none would ever come to Him. Therefore, predestination is a loving doctrine: "in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will," (Eph. 1:4,5).

He chooses some and ignores others not because of what the person has done, or what is foreknown that he would do, but simply because of God's sovereign choice: "(2 Tim 1:9 ) Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, and, "(Rom 9:11-13 ) (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) {12} It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. {13} As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." see also, Psalm 11:5).

Sovereignty is why God has mercy on whom He desires and hardens whom He desires: "(Rom 9:15-16, 18 ) For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. {16} So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. (18) Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. This is sovereignty! It is God who is in control.

Some He has elected to salvation, others He has not: "(1 Pet 2:8 ) And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

(Rom 9:22-23 ) What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: {23} And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

It seems quite clear that God prepares some for mercy and not others. That is sovereignty.

(7) Conclusion
With a better understanding of scripture, predestination is not the tyrannical doctrine that so many make it out to be. Predestination is really the manifestation of God's mercy and love. It ensures the salvation of the ones He has called. It properly reveals the true nature of man to be utterly sinful, rebellious, and antagonistic to God. It puts God in total sovereign control, where He rightfully belongs. It removes man's ability to take any credit at all for salvation, because even the act of believing could not be self-authored in a sinful free will. And, finally, it reveals the greatness of God's mercy and love and causes the saved to rest in the knowledge that it was God who made their salvation sure, and not their own faulty, sinful wills.

(8) OBJECTIONS ANSWERED
1) How does this doctrine of predestination fit in with a loving God?
But predestination is loving. Without the loving predestination of God (Eph.1:4,5) no one would ever be saved. All would go to hell.

2) If God predestines us, and our sinful wills would never allow us to seek God, then wouldn't God be violating the wills of those He calls?
No, because He doesn't violate their wills when He regenerates them first. Since God calls (Rom. 8:28-30), He first regenerates the nature of the person called. Since the person is then regenerate, with a new nature (2 Cor. 5:17), he is then able to desire God. Therefore, God does not violate his will.

But some say that faith brings regeneration. Again I ask: How can an unregenerate person have faith in the true God? He cannot. It is regeneration that brings faith.

3) Does this mean that even if you wanted to be saved you couldn't if you're not predestined?
This question doesn't reflect a proper understanding of the condition of man. The unsaved don't want salvation or the true God, so they wouldn't ever seek salvation. Also, anyone who truly desires salvation is only wanting it because the Lord is drawing him.

4) Doesn't Romans 8:29 prove that God looked into the future and foreknew who would accept Him?:
"For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called."

There are two reasons why these verses cannot be used to support that idea:
First, if you read the verse, there is a key word that is often missed: "also." The verse says that the ones foreknown are ALSO predestined. In other words, the same ones foreknown are the ones predestined. It does not say that He foreknew all and predestined some; otherwise it would say, "Of those He foreknew, some He predestined."It says He ALSO predestined those whom He foreknew. The foreknown are the group He has predestined to be saved.

Also, God only "knows" believers. He does not "know" unbelievers. Matt. 7:22-23 says, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. {22} Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? {23} And then will I profess unto them, I NEVER KNEW YOU: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

John 10:27 says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I KNOW THEM, and they follow Me";
John 13:18 says, "I do not speak of all of you, I KNOW THE ONES I HAVE CHOSEN..."
Gal. 4:9 says, "But now that you have come to know God, or rather TO BE KNOWN by Him..."
2 Tim. 2:19 says, "...The Lord knoweth them that are his..."

These verses show a "knowing" that is related to salvation. Only Christians are "known." Only the foreknown are predestined. God foreknew; that is, He foreloved His chosen ones and predestined them into salvation. God knows believers, hence the word "foreknown." Therefore, Rom. 8:29 doesn't support the idea that God looked into the future to see who would pick Him.

Secondly, God would not look into a person to see if he would pick Him, because if that were so, then God's choice would depend upon Man's choice and God would not be sovereign.

5) What about the verses that suggest you choose God?
"Whosoever will believe...He who receives... etc." We see in Scripture both God's and Man's hands in salvation. God elects, predestines, draws, and saves. Man chooses, but only after God has saved him (see objection number 2). We experience and understand the act of choosing, but this is because we do so after we're regenerate. If someone says that he freely chose to accept God and that predestination is untrue, then he is establishing doctrine by his experience. This is something that is to be avoided.

Acts 13:48 describes the "whosoever." They are the ones who are ordained to believe: "...and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."

It is obvious from this verse that the ones who believe are the ones who are appointed by God to believe. Remember also Phil. 1:29: "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;"

God grants that the elect believe. That is why we are born again not of our wills but of the will of God (John 1:12-13).

6) But it isn't fair to only choose some.
Fairness is that we all go to hell. ALL people deserve damnation (Eph. 2:3). God would be perfectly just to let all slide into the eternal abyss of damnation--and He would still be just as loving, because that is His nature. God doesn't owe us anything. The question isn't "Why would He only choose SOME?"; but rather, "Why did He choose ANY?"

7) What about verses like "I will draw all men to Myself" (John 12:32)?
The "all" are only the Christians. This may sound absurd at first. The Bible says that Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6) and that there is no other name under heaven by which a man may be saved (Acts 4:12). Can the "all" here mean everyone? What about those who never heard the gospel, like the Aborigines 100 years before Christ? Does the gospel message apply to them? I ask this because how can anyone be saved apart from Jesus, especially when they haven't had the opportunity to hear the gospel? It seems to me that the "all" of this verse must apply to the elect.

Incidentally, a discussion of Romans 5:18 sheds light on the biblical usage of "all" when it says, "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."

The "all" there obviously cannot mean everyone, but only a select group, i.e., "many" spoken of in the following verse.

(Rom 5:19 ) For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

In addition, other verses worth examining in this context are 1 Cor. 15:22 and 2 Cor. 5:14. It says in 1 Cor. 15:22, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Adam represented everyone in his death. Christ represented the elect in His death as is evidenced by the fact that the only ones who are made alive in Christ (Rom. 6:11; 8:10) are the Christians. The "all" are the elect.

2 Cor. 5:14 says, "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:" The only ones who die in Christ (Rom. 6:8) are the Christians. The "all" can only be the elect.

8) But I actually did choose to accept God.
That's right. You did. But only because God first regenerated you, freed your will from sin, and thereby allowed you to be able to choose Him. Regeneration precedes faith. The regenerated person is no longer the slave of sin (Rom. 6:6) and is therefore able to desire God. He then DOES choose God.

This act of regeneration is what God does. Remember, your believing is something God has given you: "(Phil 1:29 ) For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Also, "(John 6:29 ) Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." And, "...as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48)

This is also why we are born again not by our own wills, but the will of God: "(John 1:12-13 ) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: {13} Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

3 comments:

Katie said...

"But we must ask, "What is free will?". Generally it is accepted to mean the freedom to choose according to one's desires. This seems true. But someone is only as free as his nature is free. His will is limited to that which is within his nature. The unregenerate can only choose what his nature allows him to choose. Since he is full of sin, not goodness, his choices can only be sinful.

In other words, a person can choose to do only that which his nature allows him to do. He cannot simply will to suddenly vanish into thin air or fly like Superman because he is incapable of such feats; his nature limits him. So too with the nature of fallen man. He is severely limited by what he can and cannot do. The sinful man: cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14); is full of evil (Mark 7:21-23); does not seek for God (Rom. 3:11); is lawless, rebellious, unholy, and profane (1 Tim. 1:9)"

This helped me very much, Sam.
I'm still only half way through it so there will probably be more comments/questions comming. :)

Katie said...

That was very good. It answered basically all of my questions toward predestination. Now... I have a question.
"He is depraved, which means that sin has corrupted all that he is: mind, soul, spirit, emotions, and body."
So does that mean our bodies are sinfull? (INSTE just went through this and I had dissagrements)

srhoyle said...

It means your body has corruption in it\is corrupted...in other words, it is subject to death and vulnerable to sickness, that's the form it takes physically speaking.

Your body is not evil in the sense of producing or being the source of sin.

Consider:
-the Devil has no body and yet is sinful.
-animals have bodies yet commit no sin.