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Predestination revealing God's Sovereignty

6 Oct

Predestination is a topic within Christianity that has largely been argued over hundreds of years. Some would argue that it has even divided Churches. There are numerous arguments, theologies, doctrines and schools of thought that give this topic such fierce ammunition for discrepancy, however our aim here is not to argue a case but reflect upon Christ and his word that we may gain a clearer perspective of his glory.

There are so many scriptures surrounding the subject that provoke questions. Questions are a natural response to life’s conundrums. Responding to God’s word is commendable and something that we should regularly seek to do. With this in mind I will try to conclude some questions that may arise within our human thinking in regards to predestination.

Does God choose us or do we choose him?

Do we not have free will or the ability to choose God? Are we created to be robots?

If God chooses some and not others does this mean he has predestined some to hell?

Is God unjust?

Is Christ plan A or plan B?

Does God contradict himself?

God knew we would sin so why create man?

Will we ever get to the bottom of predestination? Is there any point thinking about it?

There are, I am sure many more questions, but for now we will not seek to answer these questions directly but find meaning of the scriptures through Gods sovereignty.

The essence of humanity is that we are utterly sinful. We by nature are children of Adam and therefore corrupt, in need of a redeemer.  Naturally we are opposed to God in our flesh and therefore we cannot receive God.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Only by the holy spirit can we discern what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom 12:2).

With this in our midst we know that God who is infinitely greater than us cannot be comprehended fully in our human mind. His thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). This is not a ploy to avoid knowledge or understanding; however we must accept that unless God reveals we will not understand, especially with our limited capacity to discern the things of God naturally.

As humans we like things to be black and white, we like definite because we have a need for a level of control. This is how we survive, how we make correct judgment and make decisions. Black and white is clear and this gives us security, it is absolute, understanding God is no different. We want to understand God in terms of absolute, and God after all I believe is absolute, he is complete and is definite in all he does; he is not half hearted and eternally does what is right. There arises a problem, as man we find it hard to see that God in all he does is clear; it often seems clouded and grey. How can God desire that only certain people be elect/chosen and simultaneously desire all to be saved? In our thinking this has no logic; it is not black and white but grey. The issue dwells with us; we are the fallible ones, not God because he is always just.

It seems then that there are two wills with God. Jesus death is a prime example; Gods word tells us Christ was righteous, his will is that the righteous live. God does not will that a righteous man be put to death, yet Christ was crushed to the point of death by God himself. Through one lens we see a God who does not wish that his servants suffer, that his people are comforted and at peace, through another lens however, we find that God perfects his children through suffering. Israel, the people of God were called to be a light to the nations, an example people to reveal the glory of God, however they failed to live up to Gods will. On one hand it was Gods will that they be a light, yet on the other hand it was Gods will that only Christ and those in Christ be a light. God wills that Israel be fully successful in their pursuit of revealing his glory to the gentiles whilst paradoxically having the foreknowledge of Israel’s failure and the revealing of God to the gentiles only in Christ. God desires that all men be saved and at the same time has predestined only some to obtain an inheritance in Christ according to the purpose of of Him who works all things to the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11).

Does God therefore contradict himself and thus stand unjust?

No, I can answer this question directly for two reasons. One, scripture tells us God is just (which I will expand on further) and two, as we described before, man has a fallible mind that cannot comprehend the things of God unless revealed to him for heaven.

Let’s turn to Romans 9 to give us a greater insight into the sovereignty of God.

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed [c]forever. Amen.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice wouldstand, not because of works but because of Him who calls12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

The context of this scripture is regarding Israel. The point Paul is aiming to get across is that we are chosen not because of our works but because of him who calls giving a fuller meaning to who’s Abrahams descendants are.

Firstly we can say that God does choose and that he does not choose us on the basis of ethnicity, for it’s the children of promise who are descendants, not those who are fleshly descendants i.e. ethnic Jews (non gentiles).

Secondly, those in Christ are not chosen because God in his foreknowledge knew that we would someday choose him. To declare that would be to place man at the centre of his own salvation, this I believe is unbiblical. God is central to salvation and we have no part to play in God giving us sight to see him or faith to believe in him. In the context of Jacob and Esau it could be argued that God knew Esau would sin by giving up his birth right and therefore God chose Jacob as a result of this foreknowledge. However Romans 9 clearly tells us that “for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice wouldstand, not because of works but because of Him who calls12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

We can conclude that God does not choose in light of a decision we make to salvation according to his foreknowledge.

So is God unjust to love one and hate the other? Scripture tells us “may it never be!” God has mercy and compassion on whom he wills. God hardened Pharaohs heart that His name “might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth”. The bigger picture that we must recognise is God’s glory. He does as he wills for his name to be magnified and exalted, his will at times seems unjust from our micro prospective, God however is in control of the macro perspective which ends ultimately in His own glorification. The natural question to ask then is, how can God find man guilty and at fault if he has no seeming choice in the matter of salvation? Paul answers this question eloquently and reverently by challenging us on our authority to question his justness and more significantly his sovereignty. In the end, God will always have the final word and his will stands eternally. This gives me comfort to know that despite many questions regarding his ways, God is always just and does what is right.

Genesis 18:25 Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Christ has always been plan A and not plan B. God did not find that man needed a redeemer due to man’s sin therefore sending a remedy. His purpose was that Christ always be eternally plan A, he has never been a reserve, he has and always will be at the forefront of all He does and is. Am I suggesting God is the author of sin? No, whether he is or he isn’t, one thing I am sure of is that Christ was not simply a remedy for our sickness but at the cross He was glorified and made magnificently central, Jesus was born as a man to die in Gods foreknowledge that he firstly may be glorified and that we as redeemed servants be glorified with him. He was and always will be the firstborn from of all creation (Col 1:15).

If there were no sin, there would be no need for a saviour, no need to receive grace and mercy; we would have no knowledge of Gods kind nature. How would we know these wonderful characteristics God displays and freely graces us with we hadn’t of sinned? God in his foreknowledge had Christ at the forefront of his mind to redeem us from sin and be hailed as Lord for all eternity.

Will we ever get to the bottom of predestination? I would suggest it is highly unlikely. Like all things in life we must seek to gain a good balance, in regards to predestination it would be unwise and harmful to get caught up in trying to find out the answers, to somehow work God out, this I believe is futile. To disregard thinking and searching scripture likewise would be unwise, as God reveals himself more and more to us we begin to grasp an understanding of Gods sovereignty which is key to walking in fellowship with him and accepting the things of God. I do firmly believe that a security can be found in Christ as he reveals his divine election and choosing of his saints. So balance is what we seek, not an extreme need to work God out and by no means an apathy towards understanding through revelation.

I have purposely sought not to answer questions that I mentioned above for the sole purpose of highlighting Gods sovereignty. Before answering any question in terms of salvation, predestination and like topics we must first know that God is. He is the “I am” and all things are in subjection to Him.

Hebrews 2: 5 – 8 For He did not subject to angels [g]the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying,

What is man, that You remember him?
Or the son of man, that You are concerned about him?
“You have made him [h]for a little while lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And have appointed him over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”

For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.

All things are in subjection to Christ. At times we don’t see all things subject to him but what we do see is Christ crowned with honour and glory who tasted death for everyone. He is the centre, he’s central to predestination, he is the centre of foreknowledge, he is the centre of his choosing who he wills and he is all and in all and through all.