‘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 (Ephesians 1:3-5).’
In my previous article on the subject of *predestination I only gave a couple of examples of God’s workings in His plan of salvation which He preordained from before time. Both of these examples came from the Old Testament, and they were illustrations of how God’s plan was being worked out. He foreordained what would happen to King Belshazzar and to Joseph, each within their own contexts. Belshazzar acted in pride (Daniel 5:22, 23) and God struck him down (V. 30). Joseph acted in faith (Hebrews 11:22) and God lifted him up (Genesis 41:37-46). Every actor involved in both dramas played their parts in fulfilling God’s purposes. Similarly Esther unknowingly played her part in the preservation of the Jews (Esther 8:1-9:17) from whom came the Saviour Jesus of the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:14).
Basically, there are different camps when it comes to understanding the Scriptures in relation to predestination:
There are those who claim that if they don’t have the freewill to choose whether they want to be followers of Jesus, God cannot hold them to account for their sins, and it would be unjust of Him to predestine them to hell. They also believe they have the freewill to reject God’s grace, and that they can choose Him if they like. For them predestination is a non-starter, despite Scriptures to the contrary: Romans 8:29, 30; Ephesians 1:4, 5, 11; Acts 4:28; 1 Corinthians 2:7.
They believe there is a God, but they do not have faith in His Son. They are not saved.
There is a camp who claim they have total freewill, and as such they can decide whether they will follow Jesus or reject Him. These people repudiate the doctrine of predestination. They believe that if they accept Jesus, and for as long as they continue accepting him, they will be given eternal life. They believe it’s all up to them! This is the epitome of arrogance. By claiming it’s up to them and their works (Cf. Ephesians 2:9), they must consider themselves greater and more powerful than God. Their freewill usurps God’s!
If that’s the case, why would they want to enter God’s kingdom? After all, they could build their own – a kingdom superior to His! They are like the descendants of Noah who lived in Shinar and built the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). We know what happened to them: Because of their pride God separated them to different lands and formed them into nations with their own languages (V.9).
These people justify themselves by their works, and they are not saved.
Another view is that God from before the creation of the world purposed to make a people who would follow Jesus (John 12:26). They would be be justified by faith in Him (Romans 3:28; 5:1; Galatians 2:16; 3:8, 24). Jesus would sacrifice Himself to make **atonement for them, and they would believe (John 5:46; 14:1) and trust Him (Proverbs 3:5). Because of their God-given faith (Ephesians 2:8) they would receive eternal life (John 10:28; 17:2).
Freewill is not an issue for these believers, because they are grateful to have been chosen by God. They are pleased that He has authority over them and that He supplies them with all their needs (Philippians 4:19). They know that He orchestrates everything to work together for their good (Romans 8:28). They gladly accept that God is their Sovereign King. In His mercy He ***chose them from ‘before the foundation of the world’ for salvation (Ephesians 1:4, 5), and He will give them an inheritance (V. 11) in His new kingdom (1 Peter 1:3-5).
As stated above, these are saved (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
The Issue of Freewill
It seems then, that the crucial factor central to the doctrine of predestination is the issue of freewill. I have briefly considered freewill in a previous article on the subject of ***election. Here’s what I wrote:
“What I do know is that I do not have total freedom. The only Person who does, is God. Within the limited freedom He gives us we are free to make decisions. We are free to elect for this or for that. We can choose to do right or to do wrong. We can choose to do good or to do evil (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).”
Freedom and freewill are therefore bound together. So I pose the question, “Are we free to do what we want?” No, because we are restricted by our limitations, i.e., our physical and mental abilities.
The crucial factor to consider is: “Are we free only to do or choose what we want within the limits of God’s will?”
We can do nothing beyond His decreed will. We can do nothing outside of what He has decreed for us to do. You might say this presents a problem; for we are not entirely free to choose what we want. But when you think about it, we are not free to do many things. We are restricted by law and by our physical natures. We can only operate within whatever constrains us – whether it is fences, walls, mountains, oceans, or our mental faculties or our physical abilities. We are designed as we are, and we are constrained by our natures. We can’t fly because we don’t have wings; therefore we are not free to fly through the air as the birds.
None of this prevents us from making decisions, and thus we are accountable for our choices and for our actions. All of them have been preordained within the constraints of God’s decreed will. Even our prayers are preordained and God knows what is in our hearts before we pray (Matthew 6:7, 8). We pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18) to the Father (Matthew 6:6) through Jesus (John 14:6) who is our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).
God has designed us for the purpose of loving (Mark 12:30) and worshipping Him (Matthew 4:10). He has designed us to be like Him in several respects (Genesis 1:26). If we love Him and obey Him (Deuteronomy 12:28), He helps us day by day to conform more and more to His will (Matthew 6:10). We feed on His Word and seek to live according to His commands (Matthew 4:4). Our desire is to become more Christlike and to please God (1 Thessalonians 4:1). This process is known as ‘progressive sanctification’.
We are made saints at the time of our new birth in Christ by God’s Spirit (John 3:3-8), but we do not immediately live saintly lives. Sin still dwells in us (Cf. 1 John 1:9). Sanctification without the impediment of sin will only be possible when we pass from this world into the abode of Christ where our souls will dwell in His presence. At His second coming we shall be made like Him, complete with our new spiritual bodies (1 Corinthians 15:54). Only then shall we be made perfect in the image of Christ.
God’s predestined plan of salvation will be totally fulfilled when the whole harvest has been gathered in (Mark 4:29), and ALL the elect finally enter into His kingdom in His new earth (Revelation 21:1).
God is in charge. He has always been in charge. He leaves nothing to chance. He has predestined all things: past, present and future. At this moment His Son sits at His ****right hand in heaven, and He will come again to the earth to judge all mankind: the living and the dead who will be raised (Revelation 20:11-15). Those whom He pardons will receive eternal life (John 11:25, 26), and those whom He does not pardon will receive everlasting punishment (Mark 9:42-48).
****At the Right Hand of God