Mike RoyI RECENTLY ATTENDED MY aunt's funeral in Massachusetts. As we all struggled to accept her sudden and untimely death, some no doubt concluded that it was just "her time to go." Though this is an innocent-sounding statement made very frequently, it carries behind it the idea of predestination. That is, every event that transpires in a person's life, including death, has already been predetermined by the will of God.
Any student of the Bible knows that the concept of predestination is one of the most well-known biblical doctrines. However, it is also one of the most distorted and misunderstood. Yet, I want to affirm early in this article that predestination is a biblical term. It is clearly taught in the Scriptures. St. Augustine, Martin Luther and John Calvin did not invent it, though they certainly popularized their interpretation of it.
As we look at the subject of predestination, we need to understand what this concept means to most religious people. In the December, 1986 issue of Tabletalk, Presbyterian minister R.C. Sproul explained it this way: "What predestination means, in its most elementary form, is that our final destination, heaven or hell, is decided by God not only before we get there, but before we are even born. It teaches that our ultimate destiny is in the hands of God. Another way of saying it is this: From all eternity, before we ever live, God decided to save some members of the human race and to let the rest of the human race perish." While this presents God as an unfair, unresponsive and capricious being, it is a view that is very popular in many denominational churches.
Without question, there are some passages in the Bible that may lead one to agree with Mr Sproul's definition. The ninth chapter of Romans is the principle one. However, while there is strong emphasis in this chapter on God's sovereignty and His choices, there is equally strong emphasis on our choosing to believe or disbelieve Him (Romans 9:30-33). The Gentiles were accepted by God because of their faith. The Jews were rejected because of their lack of faith.
Romans 8:28-30 is another passage frequently cited to prove the popular concept of predestination. However, the people who are predestined according to these verses are simply men and women who have accepted God's call, through the gospel, to become conformed to the image of God's Son. The first chapter of the book of Ephesians is another passage that sets forth the biblical idea of predestination. A key to understanding biblical predestination is to see that Jesus Christ is the central person through whom God "chooses" to save people. In verse four, the apostle Paul states that God chose "us" in Him. The emphasis in this verse is on the phrase . . . in Him! Those who will put themselves into Christ have been "chosen" by God. Verses 9 through 13 say the same thing. The point: Any person who submits his will to Jesus Christ has been predestined, or chosen, by God for salvation.
John Calvin taught a predestination of individuals - the idea that God picks people by name to condemn or save. The New Testament, however, teaches a predestination of groups. That is, God chooses a certain class or type of individual. God's idea of predestina-tion focuses on a plan which he had in mind before the earth was ever formed, to save anyone who would accept His Son as Lord and Christ. Paul states in Ephesians 3:11 that god carried out His eternal plan or purpose through Christ Jesus. Peter echoes this thought in 1 Peter 1:20. "For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you."
So then, when the bible speaks of predestination, it is not speaking of some individuals whom god randomly decided to save or condemn. Rather, it is speaking fundamentally of Jesus Christ. It is referring to the central place that He occupies in god's plan of salvation. It focuses on people who hunger and thirst after righteousness. that's what the Bible means by predestination.
Most people who hold to John Calvin's view of predestination have probably never truly considered the consequences of such a view. If, in fact, god has already sealed our eternal fate before birth, then the gospel is meaningless. It has no power whatsoever to save anyone. Why even preach the gospel if God has already decided who'll go to heaven and who'll go to hell? Second, the gospel is not fore everyone. It is not universal in scope. God really doesn't desire all men to be saved. He only wants some people to be saved. Third, morality and faithfulness are not important. If we're saved before we are born, then it really doesn't matter how good or bad our lives are. Fourth, it makes God terribly unfair and unjust. The harsh reality of this view is that some people will go to heaven who are the most immoral and ungodly of all people, while others will go to hell who are the kindest, most godly and righteous people who have ever lived.
In closing, let me affirm once again that predestination is a biblical subject. It is taught very clearly in the bible. but God's idea of predestination and man's idea is very different. I like the way an old preacher explained it:" God's got one vote. Satan's got one vote. And you've got one vote. God votes for you. Satan votes against you. And you must cast the deciding ballot!