Hello Pastor Brain, Can you tell me your thoughts on predestination. My church believes it is God choosing the eternal destiny of human beings – our salvation is a choice God made before creation of the world. We still have free will to accept His calling but if we are not choose then we are unable to be saved Romans 9:19-24. This message confused me a bit and I just wanted your thoughts.
Great question! (I always love being called Brain…) :-) Okay, here’s my take!
A lot of people believe exactly what you said. In fact, it is a major doctrine of certain churches, and it is usually referred to as Calvinism. It confuses me, too. I don’t believe God works that way at all, and to believe so means you have to stretch and twist too many things in my opinion, to say nothing about contradicting common sense. (At least my sense, which isn’t all that common come to think of it…)
Anyway what I mean by that is: It just seems wrong! :-) God doesn’t give some people a choice in the matter? He basically sends them to hell? Wait a minute!
Plus, there ARE different ways to look at Romans 9:19-24 which I think are more in context with the passage itself. And getting into the actual Greek words and definitions of those words seems to help. The Greek, or even the American Standard Version or King James Version, (which have more accurate English translations than the NIV, the most common Bible translation these days) can sometimes shed a different light on things.
Keeping such cautions in mind, what is the context? Stacking the rest of the Bible against it, where does that lead us?
If God makes the decision and we are already condemned or called before we are even born, then why not simply say so point blank in the Bible? Why must we infer it? Obviously it’s not too clear because a great number of people oppose the idea. Like me for instance. I don’t see it. I mean, why would Jesus say “For God so loved the world that WHOEVER believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life?” John 3:16
Why would John write that “To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”
Such a statement, so simple and straightforward, tells us that receiving Jesus is based on belief and since it used the word “all,” we are left with the idea that “all who received Him” = “all who believed in His name.” If that isn’t really the case, why did John write it in such a way as to confuse us?
Why didn’t John say, “To everyone who received Him, according of course to the will of God, to those who God had already called and later believed in His name…”
Why did Jesus say “Whoever believes” will have eternal life?
Admittedly the Bible says God is the one who calls people, and it says that a person cannot even come to God unless the Lord Himself draws Him, but even in those places, it doesn’t put a limit anywhere say that some people are not called or that God only decided to save some of them.
That’s the thing. I believe God calls everyone. Romans 1:20 and Psalms 19:1-4 make the point that God even calls people using the creation and the universe itself!
Paul says this salvation, by the grace of God, has appeared to “all men” Titus 2:11 All includes everyone. Why make it appear to all men if some of them have already been rejected?
He tells Timothy that “God desires all men to be saved.” I Timothy 2:4 Then why didn’t God decide they were all saved? Why condemn them if that’s not what you wanted to do? Is God opposed to Himself?
Romans 5:8 says the free gift came to all men. Not some. Not just those the Lord has chosen, but everyone.
I believe if God wanted the Bible to say He is the one who decides who will be saved and who will not, then He could have said so very clearly. Instead He talks about reaching out to everyone, calling everyone to repent, and preaching the gospel to the entire world! (Matthew 24, the Great Commission, II Corinthians 5:19-20, etc… etc… etc…)
Jesus made the point over and over again that people should believe in Him. In John 6 Jesus said the work that God requires is this: To believe on the One He has sent. Again no limiting of the call to believe to only a few.
God controls the universe, He controls circumstances around each one of us, but I think God gives everyone the choice of whether or not to believe -from the indians in South America to a stock broker on Wall Street. In one way or another, using one form or another, God calls everyone.
Interestingly, Jesus also said “many are called but few are chosen.” -Matthew 22:14
Ahh… in my opinion, that makes a bit more sense. God calls everyone, but only a few are going to believe and when they do believe… they are chosen or as John wrote, they are given the right to become children of God. On the basis of THEIR belief. It’s the one work. The work that God requires. Belief.
Okay, on to Romans 9…
In this passage Paul made the statement in verse six that not everyone who is born an Israelite is part of God’s chosen people. You aren’t “saved” because you belong to a certain nationality. Paul showed that Jacob’s brother Esau was a child of Abraham, but God didn’t choose him, He chose Jacob. The passage itself is talking about Israel and where they stand with God. It wasn’t a passage on predestination.
In Paul’s day, Israel had rejected Jesus for the most part, and seemed to be getting left behind by God. Naturally that brought up some questions because wasn’t Israel supposed to be the children of God? God’s chosen people?? In Romans 9-11, Paul made the point that God’s plan for them hadn’t been messed up. It didn’t matter that their nationality was Israel or that they tried to follow the law and be religious. They had rejected Christ, and God has always chosen people based on their willingness to believe and surrender to Him, not because they’ve earned it, scored enough points, or just so happen to be Jewish. God’s always saved people based on His mercy because of their faith. See Hebrews 11. He makes the point by saying things like this:
For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOMEVER I WILL HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOMEVER I WILL HAVE COMPASSION.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
The questions is: WHY didn’t God show them mercy? What was the reason some people received mercy and others did not? Some arbitrary decision made eons ago by God? Or something else?
Well, Paul goes on to say in Romans 11 that if Israel does not “persist in their unbelief” God will bring them back in. Now if God decides who is saved and who isn’t saved, does that mean God can’t make up His mind? That would be goofy. They missed God’s mercy because of their unbelief. They can be brought back in if they don’t persist in their unbelief. Says so right there.
Romans 9:22 says some people are “objects of God’s wrath” and they are “prepared for destruction.” The word translated prepared is more accurately “fitted” or “place in order.” It carries with it the idea here that objects of Gods wrath (certain people) are appropriately fitted for destruction. Why? Because God knows their heart. They have not believed nor will they.
Nor did they
-even though God had called them in various ways throughout their life. Romans 1:20 and Psalms 19:1-4 say so. You see, just to be fair, I believe God gives everyone a chance, even those who He knows will reject Him. Why? Because it’s the right/just/fair thing to do. God at least calls everyone to Him through the creation itself…”so that men are without excuse.” -Romans 1:20
God sometimes is patient with us, for the sole purpose of taking away any excuse. Even those He knows will never accept Him.
It’s not that God picks out our eternity. He can look into our heart and know what we’ve picked out for ourselves. (Even then He’ll give us every chance) That’s why He “raised up Pharaoh” -Romans 9- so He could display His wrath through Pharaoh. He raised up the guy to the position because God decided to show His stuff by using this unbelieving, unrepentant, rebellious Pharaoh. He knew what Pharaoh was like, so God made sure Pharaoh became…
Of course, if you went back and read the story of Pharaoh and Moses, you’d see God “hardened” Pharaoh’s heart several times. That would seem to shoot down what I’m saying, but it ignores the context. Was Pharaoh a child of God to begin with? Nope. Did Pharaoh ever repent and turn to the God of the Israelites? Nope. Would God have accepted Pharaoh if he had repented? I’m convinced the answer is yes. When the Bible speaks of God “hardening” Pharaoh’s heart, it was always concerning his willingness to allow the Israelites to leave. If Pharaoh had turned to God, that would have been different, and God wasn’t keeping Pharaoh from doing THAT. In the story, God made Pharaoh stubborn only when it came to allowing Israel freedom.
God made an example out of Pharaoh, but no where in the Bible does it say or imply that God would not have given Pharaoh a chance to be saved and forgiven if only Pharaoh had wanted it. In other words, again, God did not take away Pharaoh’s choice to believe in, and put his faith in the Lord. God gives people that choice, even if they don’t have much say in anything else.
At any rate, God knew what kind of guy he was and that’s why God had him become Pharaoh. So God says, “I raised you up for this purpose…”
2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
God was even patient with Pharaoh, as Romans 9:22 mentions.
So everyone is given the choice to believe or not. Eternal destiny is based on that. God’s mercy is given to those who believe, and God gives everyone the opportunity to believe at one time or another.
That’s my take.