Let me wrap this up with three conclusions about the doctrine of predestination.
1. This doctrine is true because it is biblical.
Romans 9:19-29 doesn’t use the word, but it does contain the doctrine. Some people are vessels of wrath; others are vessels of mercy. Some are chosen; others are not. God shows justice to all, saving mercy to some. The fact that we don’t fully understand this doesn’t change the truth. We would do better to simply say, “The Bible says it, I don’t understand it, but I still believe it.” In that sense predestination fits into the same category as the Trinity. We wouldn’t have thought of it ourselves, but the Bible teaches it, therefore it must be true.
2. This doctrine humbles us because it exalts God as the author of our salvation.
In the final analysis, this is why some people fight so strongly against predestination. They don’t like any doctrine that gives all the glory of God and none to us. But that’s precisely why predestination must be true. It teaches us that salvation is of the Lord. It is a work of God from first till last. It starts with him and ends with him. If predestination is true, it means that we can never claim any credit for our salvation. We don’t even get credit for seeking the Lord because he sought us before we sought him. Harry Ironside told of a prayer meeting where a man gave a stirring testimony of God’s grace in his life. Afterwards someone came up to him and said, “My brother, that was a fine testimony you gave. You talked a lot about God, but you didn’t mention your own part in salvation.” The man thought for a moment and then said, “You’re right. I did leave that out. My part was to run away from God as fast as I could, and God’s part was to run after me until he caught me.” So it is with all of us. We do the running away. God does the catching. We’re in charge of being lost. God is in charge of saving us.
3. This doctrine preserves human freedom because each person must still personally respond to Jesus Christ.
Someone may say, “Why should I bother responding? If I’m predestined, God will save me when he’s ready.” Not so fast, Bubba. The Bible says that God saves those who place their faith in Jesus Christ. No one is saved without faith in Christ. God has the first move, but the next move is up to you. Henry Ward Beecher used to say that the elect were the “Whosoever wills” and the non-elect were the “Whosoever won’ts.” If you are wondering whether God has predestined you to salvation, just answer this question: Have you ever placed your faith in Jesus Christ—and in him alone—for your salvation? If the answer is yes, then I’ve got good news, you’re predestined for heaven. But what if the answer is no. Or what if you’re not sure? One reason God has delayed his punishment is to give you more time to be saved. The Bible says that God is not willing that any should perish but wants all people to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Think about that. God wants you in heaven. He even paid the price of admission—the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. If you go to hell, it won’t be God’s fault. He’s done everything necessary to make sure you go to heaven. Don’t worry about predestination. Make sure you know Jesus. That’s the issue that determines your eternal destiny.
Every Decision Is a Free Choice
That leads me to give you my personal understanding of predestination and free will. I confess that I struggled with this whole question for many years, and did my share of arguing late into the night. Eventually I came to an understanding that has freed me from the necessity to argue anymore. It basically consists of two points. First, from our human standpoint, we are completely free. When you wake up in the morning, you have a choice to get out of bed or to stay in bed. You can put on a red dress or a blue one. When you get in your car, you are free to drive to work or you can drive to St. Louis if you like. Every decision you make is a free choice. By that I simply mean that you do not feel constrained by some divine power that forces you to eat at Burger King instead of McDonalds.
That leads to the second point: God sees and knows everything you do. He hears everything you say. He will someday judge you for all of it. Nothing escapes him. Everything is transparent before his eyes. Yes, you have free will but you are 100% responsible for every choice you make—that includes the choices you make in the words you say and the thoughts you think. He won’t just judge the “big” things; he’s going to judge the “little” ones too.
Salvation is of the Lord
Let’s apply this truth of freewill and predestination to your salvation. Several years ago I spent an hour with two friends who couldn’t believe in predestination. So I asked them if they freely chose to come to Christ. Yes, they said. Did you feel pressured or coerced by God? No, not at all. Was is it a free choice to accept Christ? Yes, absolutely. When I got them far enough out on a limb, I sawed it off behind them. I asked a very simple question: As you look back now, are you conscious that Someone was drawing you to Jesus? They paused for a moment and both answered yes. That Someone is the Holy Spirit who draws unbelievers to Christ (see John 16:8-11).
What does it mean? When you came to Christ, you made a decision of your will. You chose him. Predestination simply means, God chose you first and if he didn’t choose you first, you would never have chosen him. To say it another way, God so arranged the circumstances that when the moment was right, my two friends literally had no other choice but to freely choose Jesus. They weren’t aware of it at the time, but in looking back, they could see the invisible hand of God drawing them to Christ.
So it is for all of us. Salvation is of the Lord. It is a work of God from beginning to end. Our choice is a free choice, but it is made possible only by God’s Spirit enabling us to believe and be saved. Someone has illustrated the truth this way. Think of the gate of heaven, and above it is a large sign, “Whosoever will may come.” As you pass through the gate, you look back and from the inside the sign reads, “Chosen before the foundation of the world.”
Or to say it yet another way: “He doesn’t make you go against your will, he just makes you willing to go.” I have often said that God will not force anyone to believe. He is a perfect Gentleman. But that is only part of the story. When the moment comes, God so arranges the circumstances that you are irresistibly drawn to Jesus Christ. He gives you a new heart and a new desire, and from that new desire you freely choose the Lord.
Run to the Cross
Here is the good news for sinners. No one has to go to Hell. If you go there, it won’t be because you were predestined for Hell. It will be because you are sinner deserving of God’s judgment. Earlier I said that no one can be saved unless God calls him. That thought may trouble you, but it shouldn’t. How do you know if God is calling you? If you have the slightest desire, then God is calling you. If you want to be saved, then God is calling you. It truly is as simple as that.
If God is calling you, then come running to the cross of Christ. Fling yourself upon God’s mercy. Hold fast to the bloody Cross as your only hope. If you want to be saved, you can be saved and you will be saved. That is the promise of God to you. No one will ever be lost who turned to Christ for salvation. No one will be in hell who truly wanted to go to heaven by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ.
“Whosoever will may come” is still the gospel message. When we finally get to heaven, we will look back and discover that we were indeed “chosen before the foundation of the world.”
Come, Ye Sinners
Over 245 years ago Joseph Hart wrote one of the grandest gospel hymns ever composed: Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy. It’s set to a musical style that is sometimes called Sacred Harp music. Every verse contains wonderful truth, but none is greater than this one:
Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream
All the fitness he requireth,
Is to feel your need of him.
This is the gospel invitation:
Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.
And the chorus is the sinner’s answer:
I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.
If you are still without Christ, may he make you restless in your heart until you find your rest in him. If you are a believer, may you find comfort and joy in believing both now and in the days to come. Amen.
This article published on June 1, 2011. Content provided by Keep Believing Ministries.