Predestination and Election: It is Hard to Argue with the Scriptures

Predestinate: (Gk. proorizo [pro-or-id’-zo]), to limit in advance, i.e. (figuratively) predetermine

Elect: (Gk. eklektos [ek-lek-tos’]), select; by implicate, favorite

There is a word that inevitably arouses a negative passionate response among some when mentioned in the Church, or in a casual conversation. The word is, predestination.

Another biblical word which is often, and vigorously opposed in the Church, and in casual conversation, is the word, elect.

Despite being biblical terms, despite being an essential teaching in Scripture, the doctrine of predestination, and the doctrine of election, evokes opposition, hatred, and hostility towards anyone who affirms the Scriptural teaching on the subject.

Consider the following passages that support predestination, and election.

“I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. 13 I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 45:12-13).

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16).

“Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple” (Psalms 65:4).

“The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Prov. 16:4).

“And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:31).

“And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” (Luke 18:7).

“That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. 18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:17-18).

“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. 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. 30 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” (Rom. 8:28-30).

“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth” (Rom. 8:33).

“(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); (Rom. 9:11).

“For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:15-16).

“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory” (1 Cor. 2:7).

“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph. 1:5).

“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” (Eph. 1:11).

“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” (2 Thess. 2:13).

“Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness” (Titus 1:1).

“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” (1 Peter 1:2).

“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” (Rev. 13:8).

Despite these clear passages of Scripture, those Christians who are of an Arminian persuasion try to find a way to reconcile the sovereignty of God with the will of man.

Evangelist Jim Johnson writes, “God, in His sovereignty, has given man free will” (Eight Principles of a God Centered Church).

What is assumed, is that the will of man has not been damaged in the Fall, to the point that it is enslaved to the law of sin and death. That is a wrong assumption. The gospel truth, is that the free will of man has made him a slave to do evil, apart from the new birth.

Every person born of fleshly Adam is free to operate according to their nature, but the unconverted have a nature that does not seek after God. “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11).

Even if someone were to be found seeking after God, the nonbeliever is incapable of changing himself, nor does he want to change. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23).

If a person is to change, then God must work a divine work of grace in that person’s life. The ungodly must be born again, they must be born from above. This new birth is a sovereign act of God, on behalf of the sinner, that is to be the object of salvation.

Saul of Tarsus was converted to Christ, despite his intrinsic hated of the Lord Jesus and His followers. Why? Because Saul was a chosen vessel. He was chosen by God to be saved. “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).

Saul of Tarsus did not change his own heart. He did not change his mind. He did not change his nature. God changed his mind by coming to Saul in majestic power and grace. And the Spirit said to Saul, “Live”, and Saul of Tarsus became a new living soul, so that at the point of gospel hearing, on the Road to Damascus, he could say, “Lord!”

The apostle John explains what happened to Saul in the moment of his conversion, because, what happened to Saul, is what happens to every person who believes.

“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him” (1 John 5:1).

It is because a person has been born of God that they will believe. Many people have wondered why they rejected the gospel so many times, and then suddenly, one day, they believed. The divine answer is this: they had been born of God. As God gave life in the first birth, the physical birth, so it is God who gives life in the second birth. Because a person is born of God, they believe.

If this simple truth could be embraced then it would dispel the false teaching that man has a part in his own salvation, or worse, that man becomes his own savior, based on his free will. He has no free will. Because of the Fall, the will of the natural man has put him in bondage. Every soul that sins must be set free. Then, the new heart will believe.

Let the gospel truth go forth: Jesus came to set the captive free. Concerning this facet of His ministry, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18).

If the simple gospel truth was embraced, that salvation is of the Lord, by way of the new birth, if it is conceded that a person is born of God, and that is why they believe in Jesus, then the glorious doctrines of predestination, and election, will be precious. These are the doctrine of grace. They are designed to humble the arrogance of the natural man, who believes he can save himself, or that he is the captain of his own soul, and the master of his own fate.

No, it is God who determines all things according to the counsel of His own will.

All who are born of God believe in predestination, and election, to some degree. Even the well-known Arminian champion Charles Wesley could not suppress his heart felt spiritual understanding of God’s grace in the matter of salvation. Consider the words of his great hymn, “And Can it Be”.

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love Divine!

’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:

’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.
’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness Divine,

Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

In an effort to protect man’s free will in the matter of salvation, some modern-day Arminian interpreters of this song insist that Charles Wesley did not have in mind the doctrine of irresistible grace when he wrote the fourth verse, but prevenient grace.

As taught by his brother John Wesley, prevenient grace is in view. The doctrine of prevenient grace postulates that “God graciously and mercifully restores to all human beings the freedom of will lost in the fall of Adam. Prevenient grace provides people with the ability to choose or reject God. According to Wesley, ‘there is a measure of free-will supernaturally restored to every man’ (10:229-30). This grace, however, is not irresistible. Whereas all are recipients of prevenient grace, many resist it to their eternal demise. Those who utilize this grace to respond in faith to the gospel are saved. In summary, ‘Arminians maintain that ‘prevenient grace,’ a benefit that flows from Christ’s death on the cross, neutralizes human depravity and restores to pre-Christians everywhere the ability to heed God’s general call to salvation’ (Demarest, p. 208; quoted by Sam Storms, “Enjoying God”).

Despite the best efforts of individuals to give man back his free will so that he becomes either a partner with Christ in salvation (synergism), or the savior of himself (auto-soteriology), the conservative Christian affirms that salvation is of the Lord and is based on the theologically sound biblical doctrine that regeneration is exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit. This is known as monergism.

The Arminian position of prevenient grace is not advanced by appealing to God’s foreknowledge. A favorite text is 1 Peter 1:2. “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” (1 Peter 1:2).

 Someone once said to Charles Spurgeon, “God foresaw that you would have faith, and therefore He loved you.” To which Spurgeon replied:

 “What did He foresee about my faith? Did He foresee that I should get that faith myself, and that I should believe on Him of myself? No; Christ could not foresee that, because no Christian man will ever say that faith came of itself without the gift and without the working of the Holy Spirit. I have met with a great many believers, and talked with them about this matter; but I never knew one who could put his hand on his heart, and say, ‘I believed in Jesus without the assistance of the Holy Spirit’.”

Despite the emotional rejection of the doctrine of predestination, and the doctrine of election, it is hard to argue with Scripture.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

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