Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever.” As we study Scripture, there are some things that are still hidden and a mystery. Today’s question is one of those things that has a lot of mystery about it. The Bible clearly speaks on this question, however there are a lot of things that we just cannot understand as far as the workings of it. Today’s question is: What is your opinion on predestination?
There are two things I want to alter before we get into this question. First, I want to change the question a little bit. I like to share the question exactly how I’ve received it: what is your opinion on predestination? But I’m going to answer a different question. What does the Bible say about predestination? I can give you my opinion all day long, but my opinions mean nothing if they’re not backed up by Scripture. And Scripture speaks a lot about predestination
The second thing is a clarification. Some of you may be asking, “what is predestination?” I need to define what we mean when we say “predestination.” Another word for it is “election.” I like the definition that Wayne Grudem gives in his Systematic Theology: “Election is an act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereign good pleasure.” That means predestination is the belief that before any of us were created, God had determined which people would be saved.
This is a difficult subject to broach for many people, and I’m not going to spend time going over the doctrine of predestination. I want to hit some of the highlights on what the Bible says regarding predestination and regarding our salvation.
The Bible clearly teaches that God begins and completes salvation apart from human actions. It is a clear teaching all throughout Scripture. The Bible also clearly teaches that each person must decide to personally trust Jesus as Savior and Lord for salvation. That is another clear teaching all throughout Scripture. So how do these two truths coexist?
For starters we need to understand that predestination – the word and the idea – is Biblical. The Old Testament primarily revolves around the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people. God chooses a specific nation for his purposes. In the New Testament, we read passages like Romans 8:28-30 emphasizing that God predestines those to salvation. Romans 8:28-30 says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified” (emphasis mine.) In other words God was involved in acting from the beginning of salvation all the way to the end. It is God who works apart from human action.
In the very next chapter, Paul wrote about the story of Jacob and Esau in the Old Testament. Romans chapter 9:11-13 says, “For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to election might stand – not from works but from the one who calls – she was told, The older will serve the younger. As it is written: I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.” This is a picture of God’s elective work before Jacob and Esau were ever born. It is clear in the New Testament and the Old Testament that God chooses some and uses them for salvation.
If those aren’t passages enough you can look up Ephesians 1:11-12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Timothy 1:9, 1 Peter 1:1, 1 Peter 2:9, and Revelation 13:7-8. These are just a small sampling of passages that speak on predestination or election. So we shouldn’t shy away from this theology. Just because it makes some of people uncomfortable doesn’t mean it can’t be true. Let’s trust what the Word of God clearly teaches: that God begins the work of salvation, He is the one who enacts salvation, and He completes salvation apart from our own work or merit.
However, it is important to understand that predestination does not contradict human responsibility. The questions we ask when discussing election and predestination are: What about freewill? What about our decision to follow Christ? Does that mean that we’re not involved at all, and we just sit back and let God cherry-pick who He loves and who He decides to save?
Scripture clearly teaches that you and I have a responsibility to make a decision. The Bible clearly puts the decision of salvation on the individual. Jesus issue a personal invitation to salvation in Matthew 11:28-30. Listen to the calls to action: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (emphasis mine). Jesus offers this invitation come and act on what you are hearing. Make a decision to come and follow Jesus.
In John 1:11, John writes a similar invitation when he says, “[Jesus] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” Jesus went to the people of Nazareth, and they did not act on his message. Verse 12 says, “But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believed in his name.”
Jesus issues another invitation in Revelation 3:20. Speaking to the churches Jesus says, “See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he with me.”
Romans 10:9-10 – the very same book in which Paul is teaching predestination and election – reminds us that we have a personal responsibility to accept Jesus Christ. “If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.” It is your confession of Christ as Savior and Lord by which you are saved.
Paul then gives more human responsibility when he says in Romans 10:14-15, “How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” There is a responsibility not just for us to accept the gospel, but for us to share the gospel so that others will hear and make the decision to repent.
So there are two contrasting teachings in Scripture that are unavoidable and absolutely true. The Bible clearly teaches that God begins and complete salvation apart from any human action. The Bible also clearly teaches that each person must decide to personally trust Jesus as Savior and Lord for their salvation. How do these two truths coexist? “The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
You can do some study for yourself by reading Romans 8, 9, and 10. You can see how Paul unfolds this teaching that God is choosing people for salvation. Then in chapter 10 you can see the reminder that we still have a responsibility to accept that salvation. I would encourage you to delve in and ask more questions. Send them in to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and study the Scriptures for yourself.