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.
"Predestination is the decree of God whereby he hath for his own glory foreordained whatever comes to pass" (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 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Rom. 8:29,30 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Eph. 1:3, 6, 11 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
2 Tim. 1:9-10 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, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
2 Thess. 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth
1 Pet. 1:1,2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
John 6:37;17:2-24 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out...As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. 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.
Rev. 13:8; 17:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world... The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
Dan. 4:35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
1 Thess. 5:9,10a For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who died for us...
Ex. 4:21 And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
Pro. 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
Acts 2:23; 4:28; 13:48 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:...For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done... And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
Rom. 9:11 (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;)
Eph. 3:11) According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
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 God's 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, "Whatever will be will be." 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, "The elect will be saved, no matter what." 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, "The elect will be saved no matter what." 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 God's decree as the salvation of the elect (Pro. 16:4; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4). The Bible speaks as plainly about "the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction," as it does about "the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory" (Rom. 9:21-24). However, we must never fail to recognize that God's predestination, while securing the salvation of the elect by God's hand alone, leaves the responsibility for every sinner's damnation upon his own shoulders. The elect, the vessels of mercy, are prepared for glory by God's 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 God's fault and God's work alone. Damnation is always set before us in the Bible as being man's fault and man's work alone.
Fourth, divine predestination is not based upon God's foreknowledge. Predestination is not God's 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).
Isa. 14:24, 26, 27 The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:...This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?
Isa. 46:9-11 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
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: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
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 God's sovereign work. Carefully observe the language of Scripture. "He also did predestinate." "He" is the original cause of all things. "He" is the source of salvation. Everything springs from him. It is written:
2 Cor. 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
Rom. 11:36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Specifically, predestination is God's eternal purpose of grace toward his elect. It is God's determination to save his elect. It is his determination of the everlasting destiny of chosen sinners before the world began. Without question, God's 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 God's free grace in Christ. God's predestination is his gracious purpose to save specific sinners, his purpose of grace founded upon and arising from his everlasting love:
Jer. 31:3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
Rom. 8:29-30 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Salvation is accomplished by the irresistible power of God's grace, according to the sovereign purpose of God in his eternal decree, through the merits of Christ's blood and righteousness as the sinners' Substitute. Salvation is not the result of man's will, but of God's. It is not the sinner's will that brings him to Christ, but God's will. God's will is not ruled by or subject to man's will. Man's will is ruled by and subject to God's will: Rom.
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: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Rom. 9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
Salvation is God's work. It is accomplished by God's 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 God's 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 Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.
Ps. 89:19 Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.
Rom. 3:24-26;5:8 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;...To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
2 Cor. 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
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 Father's own determinate counsel:
Lk. 22:22 And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!
Acts 2:23; 4:28 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:...For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
It was God almighty who determined the time, place, and circumstances of Christ's birth. It was God alone who determined the time and instrument of his Son's betrayal. It was God the Father who determined the time, place, and circumstances of his Son's execution at the hands of wicked men. And it was God who determined what the results of his Son's 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 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
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 Nevertheless he saved them for his name's sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known.
Eph. 1:6, 12, 14 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved...That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ...Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
1 Cor. 1:30-31 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
Whatever predestination affords, brings to pass, and accomplishes is for God's elect. Read the Scriptures. Predestination concerns God's 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, "No, 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." Nothing could be further from the truth. God's 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 man's 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 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
Matt. 23:37-38 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
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 God's fault alone, the result of deliberate effort on God's part. We will have no one to thank and praise for it but God. And God's salvation began in eternal predestination. Without predestination we would all be damned forever. Predestination is the guarantee of salvation for God's 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 souls' everlasting good and God's everlasting praise:
Rom. 8:28-30 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Eph. 1:11-12 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
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 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Eph. 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
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 God's image in which we were created, and forfeited life, communion, fellowship, and acceptance with him forever:
Rom. 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Yet, God's purpose was not overthrown when Adam sinned. It was executed exactly according to his sovereign will and infinite wisdom:
1 Cor. 15:21-22 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
God Almighty was determined from the beginning to glorify himself in his creation, by rescuing a multitude which no man can number from Adam's 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 God's dear Son, "holy and without blame" 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 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
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 God's Word. Like him, we must seek our Father's 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 CHRIST'S 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 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified... O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counseller? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Col. 1:16-18 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
Predestination gives Christ the pre-eminence, because Christ is the center of God's 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 Immanuel's praise and Immanuel's 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 Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.
It puts us at peace with God's 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 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.