Predestination – How does it fit into our beliefs?

20 09 2007

In the book Concise Theology – A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (1993 by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton Illinois) J. I. Packer explains to Christians who do not have formal theological training (such as myself) the essentials of the doctrine of Predestination (pages 37-39). Here is an exerpt with supporting scriptural references.

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“Predestination is a word often used to signify God’s foreordaining of all the events of world history, past, present, and future, and this usage is quite appropriate. In Scripture and mainstream theology, however, predestination means specifically God’s decision, made in eternity before the world and its inhabitants existed, regarding the final destiny of individual sinners. In fact, the New Testament uses the words predestination and election (the two are one), only of God’s choice of particular sinners for salvation and eternal life (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4-5, 11). Many have pointed out, however, that Scripture also ascribes to God an advance decision about those who finally are not saved (Romans 9:6-29; 1 Peter 2:8; Jude 4), and so it has become usual in Protestant theology to define God’s predestination as including both his decision to save some from sin (election) and his decision to condemn the rest for their sin (reprobation), side by side.”

“To the question, “On what basis did God choose individuals for salvation?” it is sometimes replied: on the basis of his foreknowledge that when faced with the gospel they would choose Christ as their Savior. In that reply, foreknowledge means passive foresight on God’s part of what individuals are going to do, without his predetermining their action.”

“But

a) Foreknow in Romans 8:29; 11:2 (cf. 1 Peter 1:2 and 1:2, where the New International Version (Bible) renders the Greek foreknown as “chosen”) means “fore-love” and “fore-appoint”: it does not express the idea of a spectator’s anticipation of what will spontaneously happen.

b) Since all are naturally dead in sin (i.e., cut off from the life of God and unresponsive to him), no one who hears the gospel will ever come to repentence and faith without the inner quickening that only God can impart (Ephesians 2:4-10). Jesus said: “No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him” (John 6:65, cf. 44; 10:25-28). Sinners choose Christ only because God chose them for this choice and moved them to it by renewing their hearts.”

“Though all human acts are free in the sense of being self-determined, none are free from God’s control according to his eternal purpose and foreordination.”

“Christians should therefore thank God for their conversion, look to him to keep them in the grace into which he has brought them, and confidently await his final triumph, according to his plan.” (end of quote)

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Take note of some of the key scriptures referred to above (emphasis added mine, all references from the New American Standard Bible i.e., “NASB”):

Romans 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;”

Ephesians 1: 4-5 “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,”

Ephesians 1:11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,”

1 Peter 2:8 “and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.”

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And so, what impact do these scriptures and a biblical understanding of the doctrine of predestination have for people in Colby in Western Kansas? Does it matter that people think of God as sovereign in all things in their lives and in the whole world, especially things relating to their salvation?

Resoundingly, the answer is YES!!!! In trials, sickness, and loss people need to rely on the sovereignty of God, to trust that He is in control of the universe and their lives. We people need to have faith that God has not just set the universe in motion and walked away to leave us to make a mess of it as we humans inevitably do (goes back to the fall of man, the curse of sin, etc.). Even in success, prosperity, and good health we need to give thanks to the sovereign God “from Whom all blessings flow” – maintaining humility and reverence before Him so that we can avoid the pitfalls and judgements that come from the onset of our pride and vanity in this moral universe that God created, planned, and will justly judge.

Aside from the “must do’s” and busy schedules of our lives in Colby or wherever people live, in the stillness of our hearts we need to trust in the Sovereignty of God to avoid the despair that will come if God Almighty and Jesus Christ His Son are not there to turn to for forgiveness of sin. Given how naturally sinful we people are, we all need to rely on a sovereign God to save us from the penalty of our sin. Personally, I have little and no confidence in my flesh or in my will or in my intellect to save my soul from the just penalty of my sin. My salvation is all the work of God – from eternity past to eternity future. Amen!

Churchlayman

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