Passion Defined

My Story For His Glory

Where We Have Been

Before we jump into this next section of the series, let’s briefly review what we have covered thus far. In the first part of this series, we talked about having a high view of God. Having a high view of God means that we acknowledge that God is in total control of all things, that His will cannot be thwarted, and that His deeds, works, ways and plans are prepared for His own glory (1st Chronicles 29:11-12; Isaiah 14:24-27; Isaiah 48:11). Having a high view of God also means that we recognize that God does what He wills (Psalm 135:5-6; Daniel 4:35). Lastly, having a high view of God means that we realize that there may be times when we might not always fully or even partially understand the way God is or the reason He does what He does (Isaiah 55:8-9). In the second part of the series (the last post) we examined what it means to have an appropriate view of man and his spiritual condition and abilities. We saw how man before salvation is spiritually dead, how he does not and cannot seek God on his own, and how it is through God’s drawing and His gift of faith that man can respond to God. This is what we have studied thus far.

Where We Are Now

Simply put, we are at a fork in the road. It is here that beliefs seem to stop, shake hands and go their separate directions. The path that we have traversed in this series really began separating into its two divergent ways when we began the discussion on man’s spiritual condition and abilities. The primary point of differentiation comes concerning man’s ability. One path sees man as totally depraved and God as the only way anyone can come to Him or even have the ability to choose Him. The other sees man as sinful, but in a position to choose God, whoever may so desire. As you have already most likely begun to see, I am on the former of these two paths and it is that line of thought that I will follow through the remainder of this series.

Where We Are Going

As stated above, the road we will travel from this point on follows the idea that unregenerate man is corrupt and that it is by God’s overwhelming and all-encompassing work alone that man can come to saving faith in Him. We’ve already begun by seeing man’s spiritual deadness and depravity and how it is only by God’s drawing that man can come to Him, and from this point on we will examine God’s all-encompassing work in salvation.

Predestination and Election

This is assuredly one of the most largely debated and controversial topics in all of Christianity and there are a variety of beliefs concerning predestination. Some support this doctrine wholeheartedly while others adamantly oppose it. Still others believe that predestination and man’s free will are equal. The reason for raising the question of predestination and election is twofold: First, this doctrine will be the sole object of today’s discussion, and second (and more importantly), it lays a necessary foundation for the rest of the posts concerning God’s work in salvation.

Predestination and election are often used synonymously and there is certainly a great deal of interrelation between these two words. Each word carries a similar connotation, but one is more specific in its meaning. Election refers to the idea of a choice. For example, in a non-religious application we see this concept in democratic elections. When the people elect a particular person to office, it is by the peoples’ “election,” or choice, that the particular candidate won the office. In Scriptural context, election refers to the concept of what God chooses to do, for instance, the story of the Tower of Babel. God “elected” to confound the language of mankind at the tower of Babel. That is what God chose to do. As we can see from this example, election doesn’t always apply only to a salvation context. It refers to anything God chooses to do, and as God, He can do whatever He wills (Psalm 135:5-6; Daniel 4:35). Predestination, on the other hand, is more specific than election and it refers to what God has ordained, or planned, to occur. Predestination is also election because if God has ordained something to happen, that is what He chose to do. When we talk about predestination, we are talking about the idea that God has, at a particular point, chosen those who will be saved, and the importance of predestination is crucial to the topic of salvation and God’s sovereignty.

In the Old Testament

Today, Christians don’t typically think of predestination as an Old Testament concept, but it is. As a matter of fact, the line of reasoning for predestination that is drawn from the Old Testament is very strong and logically based. The argument comes from the fact that Israel was specifically chosen by God to be His people. In the Old Testament, God elected to make the nation of Israel a people for His own possession. Deuteronomy 7:6-8 tells us, “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Emphasis mine) Deut. 4:37, Deut. 10:15, 1st Chronicles 16:13 and Isaiah 45:4 also confirm that God specifically chose to make Israel His chosen people. God’s sovereign choice is part of His nature and we see this first shown in His choice to make the children of Israel the people of His own possession. In a moment, we will look at an additional passage (in the New Testament) that affirms that predestination and election occurred in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament

There is a great deal of Scripture in the New Testament devoted to the matter of predestination, but for the sake of time and the length of this post, I will only be discussing a couple major passages and then I will provide a list of additional supporting Scriptures for those who wish to study further.

In Ephesians chapter 1, Paul gives a very succinct summation of God’s work of predestination. Ephesians 1:3-6 says, “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. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” From this passage, we can see when God predestined, how God predestined and why He predestined. Verse four tells us the when of predestination. According to verse four, we (Christians) were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. Before the universe ever existed, God consciously and purposefully chose those who would be saved. God had a redemptive plan for those whom He would call His own before He even spoke this world into existence. Verse five tells us the how of predestination. “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ…” This is a similar description to that found in Deut. 7 that describes God’s choice of Israel as an act of love. This passage also tells us why God predestined those who would be His own and there are several reasons here. The first reason why God chose us in Him is because He desired a people that should be holy and blameless before him. The second reason is because it was in accordance with the purpose of His will. The last reason is for the praise of His glorious grace. From this Scripture we can see that in love God predestined His people before the world even existed according to His purpose and for the praise of His glorious grace.

We will now examine another passage in the New Testament that also attests to God’s work of predestination, both in the Old and New Testaments. In Romans 9, Paul again writes concerning the work and purpose of God in election to salvation. Recently, my pastor preached from Romans 9 and helped me to better understand this passage, so hopefully I will articulate clearly. There is much, much more in Romans 9 than we will have time for today, but I hope to effectively communicate the essence of these truths. The reason for the importance of this passage is because it not only expounds upon God’s work of predestination, but it also specifically addresses certain objections posed by those who don’t believe that God has chosen those who will be saved. The main verses that we will be discussing are verses 10-25.

Romans 9:10-25 reads, And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, "The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.'"

Paul first begins his argument by providing an Old Testament example of God’s work of predestination as seen in the lives of Rebekah’s twins, Jacob and Esau. Paul writes that before Jacob and Esau had even been born and before either had done anything, good or bad, the Lord chose Jacob instead of Esau “…in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls….” God’s freedom to choose was regardless of man’s merit or ability. It was solely in accordance with His purpose of election. Next, Paul answered an objection which is still commonly brought up today, namely, is there injustice on God’s part? In other words, is it unfair for God to choose some people instead of others? Paul’s response in verse 15 emphatically silences the possibility that God is unjust in predestination. He says, “By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’” Thus, God’s election is not unjust, but according to His sovereign right and rule over His creation. Salvation is not based upon human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy (vs. 16). Paul then confirms his statements by using the example of Pharaoh. Verse 17 tells us that God raised up Pharaoh for a specific purpose: “…that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” It was for His glory that He raised up Pharaoh, and it is for His glory that He does anything in the lives of men, for He gives mercy to whomever he wills and he hardens the hearts of whomever He wills (vs. 18, and also Romans 11:7). The last thing that we will look at in this passage is another common objection to predestination and the thought here is that if God has chosen those who will be saved, who can resist His will (vs. 19)? Today, it might sound more like this: If God has elected His own to salvation, then that means that we are merely puppets because God’s pulling all the strings of our lives and just causing us to do whatever He wants us to. Scripture doesn’t call us puppets, but we are called vessels, and vessels that are shaped and formed entirely by the hand of the Potter. In verses 20-24, Paul answers this objection. “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” Paul’s response is very similar to the response God gave to Job when he questioned God. Simply put, when God’s way was questioned, Paul answered with a question of his own: Who is man compared to God? Yes, man is more than a simple clay pot, but how much infinitely greater is God than man? Unfathomable and beyond the farthest reaches of our imaginations! God is God and has the divine right of the King of all kings to do exactly as how He decrees and this is reflected in God’s sovereign election of His people.

A Common Objection

Before ending this topic, I want to take a few moments to address a common objection posed by those who do not believe that God predestines. Often, those that do not believe in election commonly will say that the belief that God predestines to salvation thus eradicates God’s command for evangelism. After all, if God has chosen those who will be saved, then why do we have to go out and witness if God is going to bring them to Himself anyway? I believe there are several verses that can help us understand this question, starting with Romans 10:14 which says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” The context of this verse is dealing with Christ’s message of salvation and how God uses His people to preach the message of the Gospel to men. We also know that Christ commanded believers to go and preach to all the world to make disciples of every nation (Matt. 28:19). The last verse that I’d like to point out is 2nd Timothy 2:10. The context of this passage concerns all that Paul has endured as a soldier of Jesus Christ. In this verse, Paul gives the reason for his perseverance and sufferings for the gospel. “Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Predestination does not pose any problem to evangelism; according to the 2nd Timothy passage, Paul’s belief that God predestined was actually what motivated Paul to endure much hardship for the sake of those who had not yet been saved (as described in the rest of the Timothy passage). The same applies to Christians today. Ultimately, we do not and cannot know who will be saved because we are not omniscient. 2nd Corinthians 5:20 says that we are ambassadors for Christ, and that He makes His appeal to men through us. Our responsibility in evangelism is to preach the Gospel, make disciples, and leave the results up to God. It is the Holy Spirit that works in the hearts of men and as it says in John 6:44, no man can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him. Our job as ambassadors is to present the message and let the Holy Spirit work in the hearts of men. This was also the driving thought behind many of the great missionaries and preachers of church history. Many of the great heroes of the faith believed that God predestined His people to salvation. These people include George Whitefield, Jonathon Edwards, Corrie Ten Boom, Jim and Elizabeth Elliot, David Livingstone, Eric Liddell, Charles Spurgeon, John Bunyan, William Carey, David Brainerd and Adoniram Judson to name a few, and even modern theologians such as R.C. Sproul, John Piper, John MacArthur and Paul Washer believe in the sovereignty of God in salvation.


This is what the Lord has led me to believe concerning the doctrine of predestination and election. The two passages in Ephesians and Romans have tremendously shaped my convictions in the power of God’s sovereignty in salvation. If I were to tell you that I had everything completely figured out and understood all this clearly, I’d be lying, because truth be told, there is still so much that I do not know. I’m finite and God and His ways are infinite. My goal is to continue studying and pursuing God and the knowledge of the Holy One to better understand His ways. To finish this post, I’ve provided a list of references of additional Scripture passages that have helped to shape my convictions. I pray that you will find them helpful if you want to further examine God’s Word as it concerns this topic. At the end of the Scripture list, I’ve included some internet resources that you may find helpful as well. Also, as I promised in my last post, I will be specifically using the next post in this series to address some of the major passages that seem to contradict this viewpoint. But for now, here are the passages that support the belief that God has chosen those who will be saved.

Matthew 11:27
Matthew 22:14
Matthew 24:31
Mark 13:20
Luke 10:21-22
Luke 18:7
John 6:44
John 15:16
John 17:1-2
Acts 13:48
Romans 8:28-30, 33
Romans 9
Romans 10:20
Romans 11:5-8
1st Corinthians 1:2, 27-29
Galatians 1:11-17
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Ephesians 2:10
Philippians 1:29
Colossians 3:12
1st Thessalonians 1:4-5
1st Thessalonians 5:9
2nd Thessalonians 2:13-14
2nd Timothy 2:10
Titus 1:1
James 2:5
1st Peter 1:1-2
1st Peter 2:8-9
2nd John 1:1
Jude 1:1
Revelation 17:14

For those of you who may desire to study this further, I have included a couple links here to John Piper’s website that has wonderful expositions on Romans 9 and Ephesians 1. John Piper is much wiser than I’m sure I’ll ever be and I believe his writings on the subject to be in accordance with the truths of Scripture. He very coherently expresses the truths of Romans 9 and I would highly recommend it for those seeking further explanation on God’s work of predestination.


Dee said...

excellent post - good work!

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