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Author: Ron Graham

Wonderful Words

“Election” and Free Will
—A lesson on “predestination”

This lesson is about the word "predestination". Whilst it is true that "predestined" (or "predestinated") is a Bible word, some have given it a meaning different from the Bible meaning. Consequently their doctrine of predestination skews the Bible doctrine of election.

1 Predestination in the Bible

The Bible teaches that God has chosen some people to be saved, and these "elect" cannot, in that state, possibly be lost. People who choose to be in that elect state and remain so, are certainly predestined to salvation and eternal life, because they obey God and yield to God’s will.

The rest of humankind, who are not predestined to eternal life, cannot, in that state, possibly be saved. If people choose to be in that reprobate state and remain so, certainly they are predestined to eternal damnation because they reject God and resist God’s will.

Predestination, correctly and scripturally understood, means that God decided before creating human beings what he wanted them to be like. He purposed salvation and eternal life for anyone who would accept his Son Jesus Christ. Whilst there will be damnation for anyone who rejects Christ, that is not what God wants. Rather, "God desires all men to be saved" (1Tim 2:4,6).

2 Predestination in the Creeds

Certain creeds say that God chose particular individuals to be saved without any consideration whatsoever of a person’s worthiness or disposition. Those whom God chose were no more deserving of, or disposed toward, God’s grace than those whom God passed by, and nobody (except God) had any choice in the matter.

By not choosing the rest of humankind, God effectively, if not deliberately, consigned them to eternal damnation —again with no quality or disposition in them moving God to decide their destiny. None of them, it is claimed, had any personal choice or say in it, and cannot change what God has effectively decreed for them.

3 A Human’s Choice

The heavenly inheritance which Christians obtain is secure, because we were predestined from the beginning and we are sealed until the end, according to the sovereign purpose of God who works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11-14).

It's also true that people can reject God’s purpose for them. God purposed that Adam and Eve should not eat of a certain tree, yet they went contrary to God’s will (Genesis 3:1-6).

Jesus wanted to gather the people of Jerusalem to himself, but they were unwilling, rejected their destiny, and their city was made desolate (Matthew 23:37-38). The Pharisees and lawyers refused to be baptized by John, "rejecting God’s counsel for themselves" (Luke 7:30).

According to his purpose, God has called those whom he foreknew and predestined, and the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 8:28-29, 11:29). But this does not mean that the gifts and calling of God are unconditional or irresistable.

The condition "if you continue in..." has always been a part of God’s calling and counsel; we choose whether or not to fulfill that condition (Romans 11:22, Colossians 1:22-23).

The Person And The Path

God, before the world began, pre-ordained that his Son Jesus Christ would die for the sins of the world (Acts 2:23, Acts 4:27-28, 1Corinthians 2:7-8). This was so that none should perish but all might have everlasting life (John 3:16, 2Peter 3:9).

Those who choose to follow the pre-determined path to that life, through the cross of Christ, are thereby predestined by God because they follow the path he predetermined for them.

Calvinists have God predestinating particular people, then ordaining that Christ should die for them. But God pre-ordained that Christ should die for all people in general, and that whoever follows Christ should not perish but have eternal life.

Since the path to eternal life was predetermined irrevocably, anyone who wishes may take that path and be certain of reaching its destination. That is the sense in which people are predestinated.

A Parable of Predestination

Imagine you are considering embarking on a train journey. Certain things are predetermined: the schedule, the price, the route, the conditions and rights of travel, and, most important of all, the destination. Those things have long been decided by the authority or company. You have no direct or immediate say in those things, although it is fair to say that they have been determined with your interests generally at heart.

The company also has advertised its desire for you to use the train service it provides, and given you every assistance and encouragement. The company has also made the system wholly safe and reliable so that you can use it with the utmost confidence.

To reach the destination, however, you must get on the train and stay on the train, and to do those things, you must make decisions and fulfill conditions. These decisions and conditions are well within your capacity to handle responsibly. Everything therefore has been set up so that, if you choose, you can get on the train, stay on the train, and reach your destination.

That's the way predestination works.


Synonyms: Foreordination, preappointment, predetermined path

Scripture: Luke 7:30, Acts 2:23, Acts 13:48, Romans 8:29-30, 1Corinthians 2:7, Ephesians 1:5,11.

Related ideas: foreknowledge, eternal purpose

Synopsis: There are two issues in predestination —first God’s sovereign will and counsel; second man’s freedom of choice. Did God elect particular individuals for eternal life, and doom others to eternal death by passing them by, unmoved by any quality or condition in those particular individuals, and without them having any will or choice in the matter?

Greek References: προοριζω (proorizo) 4309 (Strong)


Webservant Ron Graham

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