The Bible plainly teaches that every person who has ever been saved, or ever will be saved was predestined to be saved from before the foundation of the world. Although some godly
Christians object to this reality, many Bible verses reveal the truth that God is sovereign of people’s salvation.
Ephesians 1:3-5 may be the most straightforward passage in the New Testament. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will. . ..”
Paul understood that a Christian’s salvation was determined by God before the foundation of the world. There are several reasons some Christians use to either deny that God is sovereign over a person’s salvation, or to change God’s sovereignty in a way to try to make room for people’s choices. While space does not permit an exhaustive survey of objections and answers, I will offer a few to encourage you to search out the matter in the Bible.
One objection to God sovereignty over a person’s salvation is that from our perspective we chose God. The preacher said I must repent and believe, I did it, and I became a Christian. Other times I had heard the gospel I chose to reject it, but that time I freely chose to obey. God may have convicted me and drew me, but I clearly remember doing it myself.
Several points about this objection are valid. If you are a Christian, the gospel was offered to you and you did respond. The vital question is, “Why did you respond?” After Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden man lost his spiritual objectivity. We are born with a bent towards sinfulness.
We are so sinful that the Bible describes a person before salvation as, “dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). In Romans 3:10-12, the picture is not pretty. “As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.’”
The account of Paul preaching the gospel to the ladies by the riverside in Philippi shows how both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility work themselves out in the conversion of a sinner. “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshipper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14).
From Lydia’s perspective, she repented and believed and became a new Christian. But behind the scenes, the Lord sovereignly opened her heart so that she would believe. Because we were spiritually dead, God has to bring us to life before we can and will believe (Ephesians 2:1-9).
Another way people adjust the Bible’s teaching on predestination is by claiming that God, in eternity past, only chooses those that He foreknows will chose him. This seems to overcome their concerns that God chooses some for salvation while passing over others.
When the Bible, however, uses the term foreknowledge in a context about a person’s salvation, it does not use it about God knowing facts about a person ahead of time. The world “know” in the Old and New Testaments refers to an intimate knowledge. It is even used of the intimate relationship between a man and his wife (Genesis 4:1). The Bible uses the term foreknowledge of people that God had an intimate knowledge of before the foundation of the world.
Romans 8:29 says “those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son….” The point is not foreknowing information about a person, but foreknowing the person (“those whom”). The reason God knew Christians before the foundation of the world is because He chose to set his special saving love upon them.
Some claim that predestination makes God unfair. The truth is if God wanted to be completely fair, he would send every person to hell the moment he or she sinned. Because we are born dead in sins and we will never seek God on our own, not one person would ever respond to the gospel if it were not for God’s sovereign grace. According to his own pleasure, God decided to save some people to show off his glorious grace (Ephesians 1:3-14).
The truth of predestination should not scare you or make you mad. Actually, it should encourage you tremendously. You should be overwhelmed with God’s kindness in saving you in spite of yourself. It is humbling and leads us to worship such a gracious God. You should also be filled with hope in your personal evangelism, knowing that God is a saving God. He will save people know no matter how hardened to the gospel they now appear.
Your prayers and your proclamation of the good news should be bolder than ever, with a fuller understanding of God’s sovereignty in salvation. And if you do not know Jesus, you are still 100% responsible to repent and believe in him. Ask God for his mercy and grace. Ask him to give you a new heart so that you can do what you must do!
By John Crotts