Salvation

 

 

God has not predetermined that some will be saved and others lost

 

 

 

Many Evangelical Churches affirm that God foreknew but did not foreordain the salvation of those who are saved. In other words, He foreknows those who will believe but has not foreordained their salvation, that is to say, they believe in Jesus Christ simply because they want and decide to believe, not because God, according to His own purpose, causes them to believe. God does not influence their decision at all. The same thing they say about those who reject God’s salvation and go to perdition, God foreknew but did not foreordain their damnation. According to these Churches, therefore, man is totally free to choose or reject the offer of salvation through Christ; God has not predetermined that some will be saved and others lost. To use the words of Simon Episcopius (1583-1643), Dutch theologian, the systematizer of Arminianism: ‘God never decreed to elect any man to eternal life, or to reprobate him from it, by his mere will and pleasure, without any regard to his foreseen obedience or disobedience, in order to demonstrate the glory of his mercy and justice, or of his power or absolute dominion.’ God has chosen some because He knew that they would obey, while He has rejected the others because He knew that they would not obey. So according to this position the election of God is based upon God foreseeing the faith of certain individuals rather than only being in accordance with His pleasure and will. As a consequence, the salvation of individuals is ultimately the result of their choice rather than divine appointment. Among the Churches who hold this position are also most Pentecostal Churches.

 

Confutation

 

Before I start refuting the above mentioned position on predestination which is held by many Churches today, I want to make it clear that I am not a Calvinist, that is to say, I do not believe nor teach that it is impossible for a person once saved to be lost (read the refutation of the doctrine called ‘once saved always saved’), nor do I believe or teach that Christ died only for some people for I firmly believe that Christ died for all men. Furthermore, I want to tell you very clearly that even though I believe in predestination I do not understand or know all things concerning this doctrine. My understanding and my knowledge are limited, however, this limitation of mine does not keep me from believing in predestination or speaking of predestination, for the Holy Scriptures contain many passages that support this doctrine. But predestination is not the only doctrine that I accept for it is in the Bible even though I do not understand it nor do I know it fully. The doctrine of the Trinity, for instance, is one of the other doctrines which I am not able to understand fully, yet I accept it for it is a sound doctrine. So the fact that we do not understand nor know fully a doctrine taught by the Scriptures, must never keep us from believing or teaching that doctrine. If a doctrine is in the Bible, it must be accepted, even if we do not comprehend it fully.

Now let me refute the above mentioned things which are taught by many Churches on predestination.

 

The elect, that is, the vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory

 

First of all let us talk about those who have repented of their sins and believed in the Gospel, and thus by their faith they have obtained remission of sins, that is to say, let us talk about God’s elect.

After they served sin for a certain period of time, the day came when they heard (for the first time or for the umpteenth time as in my case) about Jesus Christ and His sacrifice and they repented of their sins and believed in Him, and by faith they obtained the forgiveness of their sins and became members of God’s family, that is to say, they obtained the salvation foretold by the prophets and announced to us by Jesus Christ in the fullness of the time. Now let us ask ourselves this question, ‘Was their decision a decision in which God did not interfere at all? That is to say, was their decision only foreknown by God but not determined before the foundation of the world, as some affirm?’ Let me put this question in this way, ‘Did God know that they would believe, for He is omniscient, without determining that they would believe, or besides knowing that they would believe He had determined that they would believe, and thus He worked in a irresistible way so that at His appointed time those men were ‘forced’ to take that decision, without knowing what He had purposed in Himself for them?’ Here is how the Scripture answers this question: “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.” (Romans 8:28-30). Therefore all those who have been justified by God were foreknown by God. However, as you can clearly see, Paul does not interpret the foreknowledge of God as a passive foreknowledge according to which God knew that they would believe but He remained inactive both before and when they believed, for Paul says that whom God foreknew before the foundation of the world, He also predestined to be justified. Therefore the foreknowledge of God toward the elect involved a definite work of God. In other words, those who have obtained the righteousness which is through faith were appointed by God before the foundation of the world to obtain it. That’s why we speak of predestination; for believers were appointed before the foundation of the world to obtain this righteousness which is based on faith and not on the works of the law. That means that they have believed and have been justified solely because of a decree hidden in God, which He accomplished in an irresistible way at His appointed time. The apostle Paul confirms the predestination toward the saints also in his epistle to the Ephesians, when he says that God chose us in Christ “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 1:4-5 – NKJV), and also when he says that in Christ “also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11 – NKJV). The apostle Peter also confirms the predestination of the saints when he says to the elect: “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2 – NKJV). However, let us continue to talk about the predestination concerning the elect, and we will do it by quoting some other clear biblical passages.

John tells us that Jesus said to the Father about His disciples the following words: “They were Yours, You gave them to Me …” (John 17:6 – NKJV). What does that mean? That means that God had set them apart before the foundation of the world and then in the fullness of the time He gave them to Christ Jesus. Therefore they had been predestined to believe in Jesus. They came to Jesus for they had been predestined to be given to Jesus. That’s why Jesus said to them: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you ….” (John 15:16 – NKJV).

Luke says that the believers of Antioch in Pisidia believed for they had been appointed by God to eternal life, for he says that “as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48 – NKJV). Therefore they also had been predestined by God to believe.

The apostle Paul says to the Galatians: “But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles ….” (Galatians 1:15-16 – NIV). Note that Paul had been set apart for the Gospel from his mother’s womb and that the day came when God was pleased to reveal His Son in him. Therefore he also was predestined by God to believe in His Son. That is confirmed also by the following words which Ananias said to Paul three days after God revealed His Son in Paul: “The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One and hear the voice of His mouth” (Acts 22:14 – NKJV – The NASB reads: “The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will …..”).

Paul says to the Thessalonians: “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13 – NIV). Therefore the saints of Thessalonica also believed in Christ because from the beginning they had been appointed by God to believe.

From all the above mentioned biblical passages we learn that salvation does depend on God’s will, and not on man’s will (even though God uses the will of man to accomplish what He purposed in Himself). The apostle Paul expressed this concept in this way: “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Romans 9:16 – NIV. The NKJV reads: “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy”). And Jesus proclaimed the same concept in another way, that is, by saying to the Jews: “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father … All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:65,37 – NKJV), and again: “… no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27 – NIV). Is God unrighteous because, acting in this way, He shows that He has decided to save some and not to save others? Certainly not, for God said to Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15 – NIV). Who dares to talk back to God? The apostle Paul cites the example of Jacob and Esau in order to explain the fact that God determined to have mercy on some before they were born, and not to have mercy on the others, saying that “before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls – Rebecca their mother was told: “ ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Romans 9:11-13 – NIV). Note that God had decided to have mercy on Jacob and to reject Esau even before they were born, and thus even before they had done anything good or bad. Therefore it was not because of their works which they did after they were born, nor because God saw that Jacob deserved one thing while Esau deserved another thing, nor because Jacob wanted to have the birthright of Esau and Esau sold it to Jacob, that Jacob was chosen while Esau was rejected, but because of God’s set purpose (that is, because of the sovereign good pleasure of His will) that He revealed to Rebecca before the twins were born, and that afterward He accomplished in the way we all know. I realize that it is hard to accept all this, yet it is the truth and we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:8). Therefore we are bound to thank God always for He from the beginning chose us for salvation through belief in the truth. This was His good pleasure: to Him be the glory in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

The reprobate, that is, the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction

 

Let us speak now of the reprobate. Can we affirm that God did not appoint anyone to destruction, and that anyone who goes to perdition goes there solely by his will? In other words, can we affirm that God knows who will go to perdition but He does not do anything so that they may go to perdition? In the light of what the Holy Scripture teaches, we must answer, ‘No.’ Let me explain to you why.

Paul, when he talks about the fall of Israel, in order to show from the Scriptures that the fact that the Israelites have stumbled (that is, the fact that most of them have refused to believe in Jesus Christ) does not mean that the Word of God has failed for that is part of the purpose of God, begins to say that not all who are descended from Israel are Israel, nor all the descendants of Abraham are children of Abraham, for the child of the promise was Isaac and not Ishmael. Therefore it was Isaac and not Ishmael who was the heir according to the promise. In other words, even though Isaac and Ishmael were both descendants of Abraham the patriarch and were born by God’s will, God had predestined Isaac to be the heir according to the promise, thus He excluded Ishmael. Then the apostle Paul cites the example of Esau and Jacob, saying: “And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, ‘The older shall serve the younger.’ As it is written, Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” (Romans 9:10-13 – NKJV). From the words of Paul we learn that both Jacob and Esau were appointed to play a definite role even before they were born, and therefore even before they had done any good or evil. Therefore what God promised He would do to Esau did not depend on the foreseen works of Esau (or, to use an arminian expression, ‘on the foreseen disobedience of Esau’), but on His will: Esau would serve Jacob for so God had decreed (or for so it seemed good in His sight). Was God unfair to Esau? No, not at all, for Paul immediately after says: “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’ So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’ Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens” (Romans 9:14-18 – NKJV). Therefore God cannot be charged with unfairness to Esau, for He said that He will have mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and will harden whom He wants to harden, and nobody will be able to prevent Him from accomplishing His purpose. As Pharaoh was hardened by God for so God had decreed, so many Israelites have been hardened by God for so God had decreed so that His counsel might stand. Therefore as Esau was predestined to serve Jacob, and Pharaoh was predestined to be hardened to the glory of God, so most of the Israelites have been hardened by God according to a definite decree of God lest they should believe and obtain remission of sins. The apostle Paul confirms this a little further, when he says that “the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: ‘God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day” (Romans 11:7-8 – NKJV). The apostles John and Peter also confirm this. For John says: “Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them” (John 12:39-40 – NKJV), and he says also that Jesus said to the Jews who refused to believe that He was the Messiah: “…But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep” (John 10:26 – NKJV), which means that those Jews could not believe because they were not among those sheep God had foreordained to give to Jesus, but they were among those who had been hardened by God that they should not believe. As for Peter, he confirms that those who have stumbled, that is, the unbelievers, were appointed by God to this, when he says: “They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed” (1 Peter 2:8 – NKJV). Note this expression “to which they also were appointed,” which makes it clear that their stumbling had been foreseen and foreordained by God.

Paul, after he has explained why only a part of the Israelites have obtained mercy, says: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?’ But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:19-24 – NKJV). Now Paul says that God is like the potter who has power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor; which means that He has the power to predestine some to eternal salvation and the others to eternal perdition, for Paul says that there are the vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory, and the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. Therefore God, according to His purpose, has predestined a part of men to perdition. We know that they are around us in this world, but we do not know who they are, therefore we can’t judge sinners saying that Tom or Dick were predestined to perdition. For among those who still refuse to believe there are some vessels of mercy prepared for glory, whom God will save later on and perhaps without us knowing it. Therefore we need to be prudent, refraining from judging our neighbour. Only in that day shall we know who are all those God has appointed to perdition.

However we already know who some of the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction are. Among them are that rich man who died and went to hell (cf. Luke 16:19:31), and Judas Iscariot. As for Judas, the Scripture says that he was one of the apostles of the Lord, he received power to heal and to cast out demons, he healed the sick and cast out demons; however after he conferred with the chief priests and captains how he might betray Jesus to them, Jesus said to the Father: “None of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12 – NKJV). Note that Jesus spoke those words before Judas came with a great multitude with swords and clubs, and thus before Judas hanged himself, which indicates that Judas had to go to perdition for to this he had been appointed. In other words, Judas had to go to perdition that the Scripture might be fulfilled. How many times do we find in the Bible the following expression ‘that the Scripture might be fulfilled’ or some other expressions like that? Many times. For instance I remember you that the virgin birth of the Messiah, the fact that Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and the young child Jesus, the killing of the male children (from two years old and under) who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, the miracles of Jesus, His sufferings, His resurrection and His ascension, took place so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled; what does that mean? It means that those specific events had been foretold by God beforehand and they took place for God caused them to happen. Therefore Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus because God had predetermined that Judas would betray Jesus, and he went to perdition (he is called the son of perdition like the antichrist who is coming) for God had predetermined that he would go to perdition. Besides the above mentioned vessels of wrath, who lived on earth in the past, there are some other vessels of wrath who are still to be born: among them are the beast, the false prophet and those who will worship the beast. For the Scripture says about the beast and the false prophet: “These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20 – NKJV) – therefore both of them are to come and go to perdition. As for the beast that will ascend out of the bottomless pit, the Scripture says that he “will … go to perdition” (Revelation 17:8 – NKJV). Therefore we can affirm that they also are among the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. Who can deny what I have just said? Who can affirm that these two men will be cast into the lake of fire because they chose to be cast into it, and not because God, before their birth, determined that they would go to perdition? Let us speak now of those who will worship the beast: who are they? John says: “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (Revelation 13:8 – NASB), and since it is written also that “if anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:9-11 – NKJV), that means that all these people are among the vessels of wrath which were prepared for eternal destruction before the foundation of the world. For their names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world. In other words, they are not among those whose names have been written in that book of life since the foundation of the world, they are not among those who were appointed to be delivered from the wrath of God.

 

The heart of man is in the hand of God

 

Someone may conclude that I do not believe that man has a will, however I have not said that man has not a will. Man has a will, there is no doubt about that. However, the point is another, that is, the will of man, without him knowing it, is moulded by God and turned wherever He wishes, and God fulfils His purpose toward him when and how He wishes. We can’t fully understand how God does these things, yet we know that He does them. Brothers, let me ask you this, have you never read, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1 – NKJV)? Have you never read, “The deceived and the deceiver depend on Him” (Job 12:16 – Italian Bible, Riveduta Version)? Have you never read, “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24 – NIV)? Have you never read, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 – NKJV)? Have you never read, “The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23 – NKJV)? Have you never read that God opened the heart of Lydia to heed the things spoken by Paul (cf. Acts 16:14)? Have you never read that God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he might make a proclamation in favour of the Israelites who dwelt in his empire in order to let them return to their land to build the temple of God, so that it might be fulfilled what the prophet Jeremiah had said (cf. Ezra 1:1-4)? Have you never read that God, in order to send Joseph son of Jacob to Egypt and to appoint him over Egypt, turned the heart of his brothers to hate him and to sell him as a slave to a company of Ishmaelites who were on the way to Egypt (cf. Genesis 37:1-28; 45:4-8)? Have you never read that God, in order to fulfil His purpose, turned the heart of the Egyptians to hate the Israelites, to deal craftily with His servants (cf. Psalm 105:25)? Have you never read how God caused Saul to go to the prophet Samuel, without Saul knowing that the day before God had said to Samuel that He would send him to Samuel, that is to say, how God caused the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, to be lost, and how He prevented Saul and his servant from finding the donkeys of Kish, so that Saul and his servant might go to Samuel to ask him to show them the way they should go (cf. 1 Samuel 9:1-27)? Have you never read how king Rohoboam followed the bad advice of the young men rather than the good advice which the elders had given him, so that the words of the prophet Ahijah might be fulfilled (cf. 1 Kings 12:1-24)? Have you never read that God, through Ahaziah’s visit to Joram, brought about Ahaziah’s downfall, for when he arrived, he went out with Jehoram against Jehu, whom the Lord had anointed to destroy the house of Ahab (cf. 2 Chronicles 22:3-8)? And finally, have you never read that God will put it into the heart of the beast and of the ten kings to fulfil His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled (cf. Revelation 17:17-18)?

If then God is able to make a man do what He wishes, to make a man go wherever He wishes, and to make a man accept what He wishes, why should we be surprised or offended if God has decided, without them knowing it, to open the heart of some men so that they may believe and obtain mercy, and to harden the heart of some others lest they should believe and obtain mercy? Why should we be surprised or offended at this way of acting on the part of God, when Jesus praised God for He has hidden the mysteries of the kingdom of God from the wise and learned and has revealed them to little children, for that was His good pleasure (cf. Matthew 11:25-26)? And He said to His disciples that it had been given to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to the others it had not been given, so He spoke to the people in parables, so that hearing they might hear and not understand, lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them (cf. Matthew 13:10-15)?

 

Replies to some of the objections raised against predestination

 

1) This doctrine makes the preaching of the Gospel useless. For the elect do not need to hear the Gospel since they will be saved whether they hear the Gospel or not, while the reprobates will be condemned whether they hear the Gospel or not.

That’s not true, because the ministers of the Gospel are called to keep the commandment of the Lord: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature ….” (Mark 16:15 – NKJV), without wondering who they are who were appointed to obtain salvation or who they are who will go to perdition. In other words, they must preach the Gospel to all people, even though they know that only a small part of those who hear the Gospel will be saved. The apostle Paul, for instance, even though he knew that not all would accept the Gospel he preached, for many of them – both Jews and Gentiles – would be hardened by God, preached the Gospel every time he had an opportunity to preach it, and it was so devoted to the preaching of the Gospel that he said: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16 – NIV). And not only did he preach the Gospel, but he also prayed for the Jews (as well as for the Gentiles) so that God might save them, as it is written: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1 – NKJV). Even so we should proclaim the Gospel to as many people as possible, and desire to see them reconciled to God, and we should pray to Him that He may save them, even though we know that many of those to whom we speak of the Lord were predestined to go to perdition. What will be the use of our preaching and of our prayer then? They will be useful to the elect for they will work together for their salvation God will give them in His own time. As for the reprobate, our preaching will be useful for in that day they will be judged by the word we have preached to them. Remember that we are called to work with God. The example given by Jesus is even better, for even though He “knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe” (John 6:64 – NKJV), He did not shun to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to all, for He travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the Word of God; He preached in the market places, in the streets, by the sea, in the synagogues and in the temple. He knew that most of the Jews could not believe in Him because Isaiah had said: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them” (John 12:40 – NKJV), yet He preached the Gospel of the Kingdom to them too. In addition to this, when He was near Jerusalem He wept over it, for they were not willing to believe on Him.

2) This doctrine does not encourage believers to pursue holiness, for they know that they were appointed to be saved.

That’s not true for the following reasons.

First, because Paul says that we were chosen before the foundation of the world “that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4 – NKJV). Therefore we were chosen in Christ so that we might pursue holiness for we were called by God to live a holy life. So those who know that God has chosen them will make every effort to please God in all their conduct in order to honor Him through their life, who from the beginning chose them for salvation. They know that they have been saved by God’s decree, and therefore by His grace without any merit, but they know also that they must work out their own salvation with fear and trembling so that God might work in them both to will and to do, and thus they might be able to do good works, which God prepared beforehand that the saints should walk in them, and for which on that day they will receive a reward. In other words, the elect know that there is a reward which is awaiting them, and that the more they pursue holiness the greater their reward will be. We really do not understand, therefore, why a believer who accepts the doctrine of predestination should be discouraged from living a holy life.

Second, because the Scripture does not exclude the possibility for a believer to lose salvation. With regard to this, the Scripture is clear: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned …. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 6:4-8; 10:26-31).

The apostle Paul believed in predestination, yet he said to us: “If you live according to the flesh you will die” (Romans 8:13 – NKJV), and again: “If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:12 – NKJV). Why did he say that? Because he taught the perseverance of the saints, that is to say, he taught that a believer must endure to the end in order to be saved. Therefore, if on the one hand we know that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world and now we are one with Him in spirit, and this fills us with a great joy and consolation, on the other hand we know that “we have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (Hebrews 3:14 – NIV), and that without holiness no one will see the Lord (cf. Hebrews 12:14). That’s why we perfect holiness in the fear of God and we exhort the others to do the same.

3) This doctrine leads people to believe that God is unjust, for He lets those whom He appointed to eternal condemnation go to perdition.

Our God is a God who does whatever He pleases. He Himself said to Moses: “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Romans 9:15; Exodus 33:19). And Paul says that “He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens” (Romans 9:18 – NKJV). God does not have to give an accounting of any of His actions to anyone. The apostle Paul, after citing the example of Esau and Jacob according to which Jacob was chosen while Esau was rejected before they were born, asked this question: “Is there unrighteousness with God?” (Romans 9:14 – NKJV) Why did Paul ask that question? For he realized that in saying those things the reader might have come to the conclusion that God is unjust. But how did Paul answer that question? In this way: “Certainly not!” (Romans 9:14 – NKJV). However, it seems to me that some believers do not pay attention to his words.

So, let me tell you once again, God is free to do what He wishes with His own things, that is to say, He is free to give something to whom He wills and to refuse to give something to whom He wills, and we are called to submit ourselves to the will of God and not to reply against our Maker. ‘What if God has decided to make out of the same lump of clay some vessels for dishonor? Does not the Potter have this power over the clay? What kind of unrighteousness does God commit in letting some people go to perdition, who are under condemnation for the sin of which they are slaves? Does God have to give anything back to man, thus He is bound to have mercy on all and He can’t have mercy on some people only?’ The Scripture says: “Who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” (Romans 11:35 – NKJV). Let the disputer know this, that God is just and He overcomes when He is judged.

4) This doctrine excuses sinners, for they go to perdition because of God’s will and not because of their choice. And thus implicitly God is to be blamed for on that day He will judge and condemn them unjustly.

That’s untrue, because sinners, even though they are hardened by God, are still responsible for their actions and their decisions. For instance, Pharaoh was hardened by God, yet he was guilty before God. That’s why God put him and his army to death by drowning them in the Red Sea. Another example is that of Judas Iscariot, who is called the son of perdition; he betrayed the Lord for so God had decreed, that is to say, so that the words which had been spoken by the Holy Spirit about him might be fulfilled, yet in the sight of God he was guilty of betraying the Lord. Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him by the determined purpose of God, yet He did not justify Judas at all for He said: “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24 – NKJV). The same thing must be said about the beast and the kings who will make war against the Lamb on that day; the Scripture says that God “has put it into their hearts to fulfil His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled” (Revelation 17:17 – NKJV), but it says also that the beast will be cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone and God will give the dead bodies of the kings and of their armies as food for the birds of the heavens (cf. Revelation 19:20-21). Therefore, sinners, even though they are hardened by God for they were prepared for destruction, still deserve to be punished; nothing can excuse them. How great is the power and the wisdom of God: He manages to harden sinners and to send them to perdition without committing any injustice toward them and without giving them any chance of excusing themselves for their behaviour. “All iniquity stops its mouth” (Psalm 107:42 – NKJV), says the Scripture.

5) The doctrine of predestination is biblical, but it must be interpreted in this way: God by His foreknowledge foresaw both the fate of the elect who would believe on Him and the fate of the wicked who would refuse to believe in Him, but He did not predetermine their fate.

Such interpretation is untrue. For we have showed that God’s foreknowledge entails foreordination and thus a work of God so that what He foresaw and foreordained might take place. Let me ask you this: ‘What would be the point of affirming that God foresaw beforehand that the elect would believe but He did not work in them in order to cause them to believe? What would be the point of affirming that God foresaw that many people would not believe but He did not work in them in order to prevent them from believing? Don’t you think that to affirm this would be tantamount affirming that God has foreseen that tomorrow the sky will be clear over our nation but He will not do anything to prevent the clouds from coming over our nation? Or that God has foreseen that tomorrow it will rain over our nation but He will not send the clouds which will water the earth? Is it not God who has in His hand the clouds? Is it not at His direction that the clouds swirl around over the face of the earth to do whatever He commands them? Therefore if God foresees that tomorrow over our nation the sky will be clear, He will certainly prevent the clouds from coming over our nation; and if he foresees that tomorrow it will rain He will certainly send the clouds so that they may water our nation. Brothers, how can you say that God foresaw but He did not predetermine the fate of men, when Jesus stated that not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from our Father’s will, and that even the very hairs of our head are all numbered (cf. Matthew 10:29-30)? In other words, if it is by God’s will that even a little sparrow falls to the ground, how can you affirm that one has believed or refused to believe apart from the will of God (or God’s set purpose)? Don’t you think that what you say cannot be true? I could cite many more examples to show that the foreknowledge of God involves a work of God, for our God is not a lazy and inactive God who is seated on His throne watching the events He has foreseen and foretold without doing anything so that they may take place. Let me cite only two more examples. Would it not be like saying that God foresaw that the Jews would kill Jesus but He did not cause them (obviously, God was blameless) to commit that murder? That is to say, would it not be like saying that God foresaw that the Jews would kill Jesus, but that criminal plot did not take place by God’s set purpose? However, as you know (I suppose you know), things are not so for in the book of the Acts of the apostles it is written that Peter said to the Jews: “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23 – NIV), and on one occasion the disciples said to God during a prayer: “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (Acts 4:27-28 – NIV. The NKJV reads: “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done”). In the first epistle of Peter it is written that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God without spot and without blemish “was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20 – NKJV) to suffer for our sins.

And what will you say about Jeremiah? Will you say that God foresaw that he would be a prophet but He did not predetermine him to be a prophet to the nations? Have you not read that one day God said to Jeremiah when he was still a child: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations ….” (Jeremiah 1:5 – NIV), and on that very day He appointed him as a prophet to the nations saying: “See, today, I appoint you over nations ….” (Jeremiah 1:10 – NIV)? Therefore, the foreknowledge of God was followed by an act of God through which He accomplished what He had purposed for Jeremiah, before he knew that he had been predestined by God to be a prophet. Is it not enough clear that the foreknowledge of God concerning an event involves a decision He took before the beginning of time according to which decision that event must take place at God’s appointed time? Why don’t you realize, then, that as all the harm that the Jews and the Gentiles did to Jesus had been foreseen and predetermined by God, and as Jeremiah became a prophet for so God had foreseen and predetermined, so also those who have believed were appointed by God to believe, while those who have refused to believe were appointed by God to reject the Gospel?

 

Why the doctrine of predestination must be taught

 

I conclude by saying some of the reasons why the doctrine of predestination must be taught.

First reason, because in the Scripture there are many passages and many stories which one way or another support the doctrine of predestination

Second reason, because it exalts the sovereignty of God and His omnipotence, for it leads people to realize that God does whatever He pleases and He does not have to give an accounting of any of His actions to anyone.

Third reason, because it clearly confirms the doctrine of salvation by grace, that is, it makes believers realize that they have been saved solely by the grace of God. For it pleased God to give them His grace before the beginning of time, and therefore they have to say together with Paul that He “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began ….” (2 Timothy 1:9 – NKJV). So, as things are, any personal merit or man’s cooperation is excluded. And at this point I want to say this: some believers speak of their act of faith as if it were a meritorious act they did because of which they deserved to be saved, but they forget that they were able to believe only because God gave them the faith through which they received the grace God had appointed for them: faith is not of ourselves but is the gift of God, thus we have nothing to boast about in the presence of God. I want to ask these believers the same questions Paul asked the Corinthians: “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7 – NKJV) Not only faith but also repentance is something which is received from God, for it is written that “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life” (Acts 11:18 – NKJV), as well as the understanding of the Word of God, for it is written: “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true” (1 John 5:20 – NIV). What shall we say then? Well, we shall say: ‘O Lord, we thank You for having mercy on us; keep working in us so that Your Holy Name may be glorified in us. Your name is worthy of praise, yes, it is worthy of praise forever. Amen.’

Fourth reason, the doctrine of predestination comforts every believer during his pilgrimage in the midst of this valley of tears, that is, the world in which we live, and it establishes him powerfully in the faith in the midst of his various trials he must endure for the Lord’s sake. A believer even during the worst moments of his life, knowing that God chose him before the foundation of the world, will feel relieved and comforted greatly, because he will know that He who did not forsake him when he was still lost, will not forsake him now either, because he belongs to the Lord forever. So, after saying together with Paul: “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.” (Romans 8:28-30), we can say: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39)

 

 

 

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