The Predestination Controversy
Vol: 162 Issue: 26 Thursday, March 26, 2015
One of the most controversial points of doctrine (after the Rapture) among believers is the doctrine of ‘predestination’.
‘Predestination’ is generally misunderstood as the belief that God chose you to be saved before the world began. And that there are others who He does NOT choose.
As the Bible presents it, ‘predestination’ is simply Divine foreknowledge.
“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. 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.” (Romans 8:29)
Predestination is a central point in Calvinism, which helps to explain why it is so controversial. Most Christians shun the label ‘Calvinist’ altogether, not sure if they are ‘hyper-Calvinists’, ‘modified Calvinists’, or indeed, if they are Calvinist at all.
The main argument against predestination is that it mitigates free will. If one is predestined to be saved, then God made the choice for you so where is the free will? Foreknowledge is not predestination anymore that Bible prophecy is.
In both instances, God knows the future, but the choices that bring about that future are made by man. Their free will is unaffected. God knows the future — they don’t.
Within Christianity, there are two basic schools of thought on issues of salvation, grace and faith — Calvinism and Arminianism. There really isn’t a third — any other position is a modification of one of these two.
For the most part, mainstream Protestants and Pentecostals embrace Arminianism, which conforms to the Catholic positions adopted at the Council of Trent.
The Arminian school of thought rejects Dispensationalism, pretribulationalism, and the doctrine of eternal security and embraces Replacement Theology.
The term ‘Arminianism’ comes from Jacobus Arminius who was a Divinity Professor at Leiden University in Holland early in the seventeenth century.
The Five Points of Arminianism:
1. God has decreed to save through Jesus Christ those of the fallen and sinful race who through the grace of the Holy Spirit believe in Him, but leaves in sin the incorrigible and unbelieving.
2. Christ died for all men (not just for the elect), but no one except the believer has remission of sin.
3. Man can neither of himself nor of his free will do anything truly good until he is born again of God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.
4. All good deeds or movements in the regenerate must be ascribed to the grace of God but His grace is not irresistible.
5. Those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith have power given them through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit to persevere in the faith. But it IS possible for a believer to fall from grace and lose his salvation.
According to Arminianism, then, salvation is accomplished through the combined efforts of God and man. One is saved by grace through works, and one’s salvation is maintained by not sinning — at least not habitually.
Sort of like maintaining a balance between good works and bad works.
The Five Points of Calvinism:
1. Total depravity of man: Man is unable to believe the Gospel apart from the Holy Spirit and cannot respond on his own. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ – it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature.
2. Unconditional election: God’s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will.
3. Limited atonement: Jesus didn’t die for ALL men, just for those who were predestinated to receive Him. (Points #2 and #3 are the ones that give rise to the most objections. Even from those who believe that the Jews were similarly chosen exclusively through the sovereign election of God)
4. Irresistible Grace: The internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion.
5. Perseverance of the saints: (Eternal Security) All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end.
Calvinism teaches that salvation is entirely the work of God; God chose His elect, the Son died to pay their sin debt, and the Holy Spirit makes Christ’s death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the Gospel.
The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone. In this view, it is God, and not man, that determines who will be saved and who will be lost.
Both suffer from the same fundamental flaw in thinking — that foreknowledge is the same as predestination. Simple logic tells you that because you don’t know your own future, your free will decisions are unaffected by the fact that God does.
“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.” (Romans 8:28)
The goodness of God in converting and saving sinners encourages others to hope in His grace and mercy. Our faith, our conversion, and our eternal salvation, are not of works, lest any man should boast. These things are not brought to pass by any thing done by us, therefore all boasting is shut out.
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:5)
It is the free gift of God, and the effect of being quickened by His power. It was His purpose, to which He prepared us, by blessing us with the knowledge of His will, and His Holy Spirit producing such a change in us, that we should glorify God by our perseverance to holiness.
‘Holiness’ (Gk hagiasmos) means ‘purification’ which is a PROCESS, also accomplished by God through Jesus.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath BEGUN a good work in you will PERFORM it UNTIL the day of Jesus Christ:” (Phillipians 1:6)
There are no Christians more deserving than others. Because you have not yet achieved the state of holiness others have does not mean you are less favored. We all come to the Cross equally lost, and we all came away equally saved.
Salvation is an eternal state for which each of us were chosen before the world began.
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” Paul writes to Timothy, (2 Timothy 1:9)
“In hope of eternal life, which God, that CANNOT LIE, PROMISED before the world began. . .” (Titus 1:2)
We are eternally secure, because we are eternally saved, which was accomplished in the Mind of God when each of us was called — BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN!
Let’s bring it together. Nobody can come to Christ unless they are drawn by the Father, who provides us with both the extension of the offer of salvation and the faith necessary to receive it, a calling that was sealed in heaven before the world began, according to His purpose and grace.
Our salvation is immediate and eternal, but our purification is a process, which, having been begun in us at the moment of salvation, will be performed in us — BY CHRIST — until the day we stand before Him. Lest anyone should boast.
That’s not my opinion of what the Bible says — look up the verses in context and see if you can make them mean something else.
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (Romans 3:23-24)
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)
Legalism runs counter to the clear teaching of Scripture. This is a very difficult doctrine to both teach and understand. It sounds like a license to sin. It is not.
It is an understanding that our relationship to Christ is unique — that God knows our hearts, and has already judged us accordingly. So that sin cannot reign supreme in our mortal body and thereby render us useless to our calling.
If the enemy can convince us of our own personal unrighteousness (of which each of us is acutely aware) or cause us to doubt the truth of Scripture or of our faith (which is a gift from God, lest anyone should boast) or cause us to doubt our own salvation, then we will not be able to effectively wield the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
God has a plan for each of us, and His plan is to send us to seek out and introduce others to their Savior. That is our assignment on this earth. THAT is our ‘calling.’ To spread the Gospel.
As Christians, we have an awesome responsibility before God. We have been assigned to seek out the lost and offer them the Gospel. To accomplish our mission, we need to be fully equipped for the task.
That is what eternal security is all about. Not a license to sin, but rather a certain knowledge that our sin is forgiven.
The most effective weapon we have in our war with the enemy is the knowledge that he cannot take away our salvation. There is never a time when we are unworthy to tell others of Jesus Christ.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1st Peter 3:15)
Originally Published: October 3, 2009
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