The “Election” is God’s greatest “Promise of Grace” bestowed on man in Christ Jesus. God, in His infinite wisdom and foreknowledge of man’s fall before the world was created, designed “Predestination” as a way of salvation through the Promises and the Conditions man can follow. Long before the incarnation of Christ, and His death on the Cross, God’s Son already had been chosen as the way through whom the world could be saved. As a human being, Jesus proved that man could and can live by God’s Conditions and attain God’s Promises. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, summed it up as follows:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. For he had made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:3-10).
“Predestination” is generally defined as a predetermined, preordained, and a preplanned act of God. It all has been decided before man was created. Everything that has happened was determined to take place. No matter what man may want to do, he will only do what he has been reprogrammed to do. If this is what “predestination” means; then, man has a reason to be scared out of his wits. He has to live in uncertainty; not knowing where he will spend eternity, whether it is in heaven or whether it is in hell. Then, man absolutely has no choice regarding his condemnation or his salvation. If man has no choice — then, why is he being held responsible for everything that he has done and for everything that he has said in this life? Why — then has Christ suffered? And why — then has Christ died if his redemptive role has no bearing on man’s future? At least these are some of the questions interpreters, who hold to the idea of predestination, must ponder. Our task is to search the Scriptures and try to understand what really is meant by “predetermination” or “predestination?”
First and foremost, before we dive into the Bible, let us remember that we all are human beings, and we may not always see things the way God wants us to see. After all, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and neither are God’s ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8). By God’s choice, man is a free agent! God expects man to choose wisely. Unlike God, man has not been given foresight. Hence, we have Adam and Eve bring sin and death into the world. We have an impatient Abraham fathering Ishmael. We have King Saul act as a priest, when he ought to have been the king. Saul lost his kingdom to David. David too made bad choices. Judas betrayed his Master, Jesus. Peter denied His Lord. Paul persecuted Jesus’ followers. Yet, these men were used to shape “Heilsgeschichte,” and “Salvation History.” God was not using perfect men, but men willing to yield to change. God knew what they would do, and that is why God chose them before they were born (Jeremiah 1:5). Jesus declared, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16, 19). One of the twelve was a devil, not by predestination, but by choice (John 6:70). Jesus told Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly” (John 13:27). The Lord God has foreknowledge, but the Lord God does not predestine free agents to do what they do not want to do. It is man’s choice, to choose either good or bad (Genesis 3:22).
The second thing we seem to forget is that God is dealing with human beings and not with perfect human beings. God, as the only Supreme Being, does not change! However, God had to make possible that which was impossible for man. This is what Jesus, Himself, announced (Luke 18:27). Being God, He knew that He had to have a contingency plan of redemption for man. God had to stop the first couple, Adam and Eve, from “forever living in sin and death.” This “forever living in sin and death” meant the destruction of the soul and the spirit. Therefore, God chose Noah to preserve the human race. God chose Abraham to represent the ways of the Lord in the world (Genesis 18:19). The Lord called Moses to deliver Israel and provide the people with Laws and regulations to live by. The Lord God wanted to be Israel’s king, but the people wanted a human monarch, and God yielded to their wishes (I Samuel 10:17-19; 12:6-19). When Saul failed, Israel still demanded a human king and again with hesitation, God chose David (I Samuel 16:1-13). What the people did not realize was that they had separated religion from their politics. Henceforth, two powers would compete for governing a nation. God allowed this to happen and still does in our time.
A third thing occurred, and it is the most significant change that God allowed. When the Lord was King, God had two arms to govern His people: Moses and Aaron. After Joshua, the priests governed the people. The priests were set apart for God (Deuteronomy 18:5). Unfortunately, under Eli, the priests became corrupt. Then Samuel was chosen to govern until Israel demanded a human king (I Samuel 2:27-36). Henceforth, God would accept only those who honored Him. In other words, it appeared as if God had to change what man thought was unchangeable. In reality, God merely followed up on His Covenant with the Patriarchs, Moses, Aaron, and the kings. The Covenant was a promise of the Almighty God for a people that would obey and for a people that would keep the “Almighty’s Conditions,” and also “God’s Laws.” Abraham was told, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1b). Moses was reminded that God remembered His Covenant (Exodus 2:24), and that not even mighty Pharaoh of Egypt could stand in the way (Exodus 3:14). These were the Words of the Lord that Moses had to pass on to the people:
You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:4-6).
To make it easier for people to recognize what the Covenant was, God gave them the Ten Commandments and also pages of explanations on how to live and how to behave (Exodus 20; Leviticus 1:27). And what did the people say? “All that the LORD has spoken we will do and we will be obedient” (Exodus 24:7). Moses was told to seal the Covenant with the sprinkling of blood on the people (Exodus 24:8). This agreement between God and the people bears great similarity with Jesus’ Covenant with Jesus’ followers, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many (Mark 14:24a).
How did Israel respond to God’s Covenant and God’s Conditions?
Man has a short memory! At least, man takes things for granted. When things go well, man assumes that he is being blessed. In reality, man may be drifting too far off shore. Even leaders have a tendency to drift along. Moses relaxed the “Law on marriage” and so did David. People took liberties, which destroyed the Covenant. Moses was given a glimpse of the entire history of the people that were to be “…the apple of God’s eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10). In spite of the warnings, that there would be blessings for those who abide by the Covenant, and that there would be curses for those who disobey, Israel failed and they discontinued as a nation (Deuteronomy 28). God did let Israel have a king, on the conditions provided that they lived within the Covenant (Deuteronomy 17:15). God did give Israel prophets and spokesmen with a final leader like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:14-22). At the end, disobedience won the day. First, Israel ceased to exist; and then also Judah ceased to exist. Why did all this happen? Again, it was Moses, who was allowed to see the demise of the Covenant people; “It is because these people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 29:25). And when that last and final Prophet came; namely Jesus, He had this to say:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord’ (Matthew 23:37-39).
What the Prophet Moses spoke about was the Son of God in Person (John 5:45-47). Jesus did not come to abort the original Covenant, but Jesus came to finalize the original Covenant. Not even a tiny dot will be deleted (Matthew 5:17-18). This is not something that came out of the mind of God, after man got himself into an impossible dilemma, but this was already in place before the world was created. Jesus told those, who believed, that they were Covenant children of Abraham, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). Christ was chosen to be the Redeemer before the creation of the world (I Peter 1:20). Paul told the Ephesians, “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4). It was in this connection, that Paul saw himself; therefore, Paul also saw others as “predestined” to be adopted as children in and through Christ, “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:5). Christ is the New Covenant established by the shedding of Jesus’ blood as a ransom for many (Luke 22:20; Hebrew 9:22; Matthew 20:28). Paul believed that the ransom was for all (I Timothy 2:6). According to Jesus, no one can come to the Father, the kingdom or into heaven, but by Him (John 14:6). In Christ, we are predestined for heaven, but outside of Christ, we are not. It is entirely up to man, whether he wants to conform to the Covenant or whether he wants to live without the Covenant. God will not — nor did God ever change a single line of His promises! In order to inherit a small piece of heaven, man must change! Man, and not God, must confirm his calling and his election (II Peter 1:10). Man must choose life or death (Deuteronomy 30:11-20). In the Old Covenant, God is life! In the New Covenant, Christ is Life! There is nothing in between the “Two”; for, God and Christ are “One and the same” (John 14:6-11).
The Road to Heaven is not paved with Grace
Grace, to me, is God’s commodity available to all humans so that they all can pave their own way into eternity. That commodity has been made available through Jesus Christ, Son of God (John 1:17). And Jesus Christ passed it on to his disciples (John 20:21-23). Every believer and every follower is a vessel of grace and truth in the world. And it is by our deeds that we glorify our heavenly origin (Matthew 5:16).
The road to heaven is not automatic! The road to heaven is not mechanical! Nor is the road to heaven robotic! The road to heaven is a cooperation between the One, who has set the “Redemptive System” in order; and those who are willing to accept the “Redemption” and then pass it on to those who are yet to be chosen. “Predestination” means that the system is in operation. The puzzle begins when those who were called, chosen, elected, and invited did not choose to accept “predestination.” Jesus explained this in the parable of the ‘Wedding Banquet” (Matthew 22:1-14). Those who were initially called did not regard the invitation as a priority. The second invitation went out to the people who were not expected at the wedding. Yet, they came dressed for the occasion. However, one guest, who did not bother to dress for the wedding; and therefore, he was ejected. Then Jesus concluded, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” If the parable teaches us anything; then, it is that we must not presume that we are already elected and “predestined” for eternal life. The Lord does single out people from the world (John 15:19) because the Lord has the foreknowledge that they will do God’s will (John 7:17), and that they will produce eternal fruit (John 15:16). The up-lifted Son of man does draw all men; however, not all men will respond (John 3:14) or abide in Him (John 6:14). And while one lives in Christ, one must submit to the pruning and the trimming of the Gardner, who happens to be the Father in heaven, and the Father in heaven does the drawing (John 6:44).
The other puzzling reference has been credited to Luke in Acts 13:48. Most English versions reproduce the verse as follows, “And all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” The Living Bible has, “As many as wanted eternal life believed.” What does the Greek text say? The Greek text has no problem because it is a language, which does not reverse words to say what they mean. The Greek renders it in this order: “And all who believed were ordained for life eternal.” There is absolutely no doubt, in the Greek text, that belief must precede the election. The Lord will be convincing at times, as He was with Moses or Paul, but the Lord never crams Salvation down men’s throats. God wants man to respond in love and out of gratitude for what God has prepared before time began.
Paul has presented Christians with the biggest puzzle. Paul used the word “proorizen” (Romans 8:29-30). Proorizen means “to mark out beforehand or to establish a system or to decide ahead.” Proorizen can be very confusing if the meaning of the word is taken out of context. In the context, proorizen is not at all a puzzle. Of course, it was heartbreaking for Paul to see that his own race, except for a remnant, had placed itself outside the election (Romans 11:5). All Paul could do is to wish that all of Israel would turn when the Deliverer comes to restore the Covenant (Romans 11:26-27). But, what will happen when the Deliverer has already come and Israel has refused to accept her own Messiah? According to Jesus, the Deliverer has already come. Yes! Jesus, the Deliverer has come! However, his own people have rejected the Deliverer.
What then shall we make of Romans 8:29-30?
Paul has been misunderstood with an overemphasis on “grace” and an under-emphasis on “works.” In like manner, Paul has been misunderstood on “predestination.” Paul knew rather well that his people had not chosen what was expected of them, and that God did not accept people, who broke His Covenant. In the text in question, God extended His prearranged plan of “Salvation” to those who love Him, and to those who are willing to carry out “God’s Purpose” (Romans 8:28). God foreknew and foresaw that the Gentiles were willing to conform to the “Image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). Once they are in Christ, they too are “predestined,” called, justified, and glorified (Romans 8:30). Of all people, Paul insisted that Christ was the only “One” through whom man could be adopted into the “Family of God” (Ephesians 1:5). In Paul’s context, Romans 8:29-30, is not concerned with “predestination,” but with the fact, that when the believer is in Christ; then, nothing in heaven or on earth can separate him or her from the Love of God that has been revealed in Christ Jesus, our Lord (Romans 8:31-39). No one can tear us out of the Hands of God and His Son (John 10:28-29), except we, ourselves, can! And, that is why we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). This advice comes from the man, Paul, who supposedly believed that he was “predestined by grace alone.” He forced himself to serve Christ in fear of not being able to reach his goal (I Corinthians 9:26-27), so that he would be rewarded with a crown in heaven (II Timothy 4:6-8).