“By a complete misunderstanding of the noble and true doctrine of the freedom of the human will, salvation is made to depend perilously upon the will of man instead of upon the will of God. However deep the mystery, however many the paradoxes involved, it is still true that men become saints not at their own whim but by sovereign calling.”
“The master choice is His, the secondary choice is ours. Salvation is from our side a choice, from the divine side it is a seizing upon, an apprehending, a conquest of the Most High God. Our “accepting” and “willing” are reactions rather than actions. The right of determination must always remain with God.”
Theologians have been arguing for centuries the order of salvation – which comes first, faith or grace. Does the act of faith, of “accepting” the gift of grace, complete our salvation or is it grace that gives us the faith to believe in our salvation? Is redemption “accepted” or simply “recognized”? I was raised to believe that we accepted the gift of salvation, that salvation was there for all and that we choose whether we want it or don’t want it. It was only recently that I was even aware that there were other viewpoints.
The words predestination, election, calling, destined are mentioned many times in the Bible, one of the major scriptures is Ephesians 1:4-5 “Even 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 for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.”
Now some would argue that this verse is referring to the fact that God knew beforehand who is going to choose Him (foreknowledge) so He first chooses them (predestined), I see it differently. I believe that our God is all-sovereign and in His sovereignty before time began (foreknowledge) He simply chose (predestined) some to become holy and blameless. It had nothing to do with us, whether or not we were good enough, or whether we would choose right or wrong – we ALL chose wrong (Romans 3:23) – we have all already chosen death – there is NOTHING we can do to save ourselves, and by this I mean even the act of “acceptance”. It is only through God’s grace and love that we can even see ourselves as sinful and in need of a savior. Without the revelation from the Holy Spirit our sinful flesh prevents us from that realization. Therefore, God does EVERY part of redemption, we simply realize and confess , at this point we may say an “acceptance prayer” (or we may not), but that prayer in no way “saves us” – it is simply an acknowledgement of what He has already done in completion.
The problem with this theory, for most is the contradiction of “free will”. Most of us do not have a problem with the idea that God is sovereign; that He is ultimately in control of all things – the problem comes in when we (even Christians) are faced with the idea that our “free will” may not be as “free” as we thought. When asked if I believe in free will – I would have to say that I do, but I don’t think that our free will is what we have been taught or to the extent that our flesh and pride would like to believe it is. I have written before about the Will of God, which I think helps to clarify what I am trying to say here. When it comes to God’s Sovereign Will, there is nothing that we say, pray or do, that will change His Will – it WILL occur. However, when it comes to God’s Will of Command – we have the choice to obey or disobey. There are certain callings on our life that we choose to follow or not. It’s our choice to do God’s will of command that determines our level of fulfillment and happiness here on earth, and even our rewards in heaven.
I realize that this post is already getting pretty long, so I would like to try to close – I want to leave you with the chapter of scripture that impacted me the most in my study of predestination and that is Romans 9 – other portions of scripture offered a taste here and a taste there, but when I got to Romans 9 I found the entire chapter dedicated to this topic so in closing I would like to leave you with the words from the apostle Paul himself (the key section – for me – was verses 18-23):
1 I am speaking the truth in Christ I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but Through Isaac shall your offspring be named. 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son. 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls 12 she was told, The older will serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 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 depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will? 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, Why have you made me like this? 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
25 As indeed he says in Hosea, Those who were not my people I will call my people, and her who was not beloved I will call beloved. 26 And in the very place where it was said to them, You are not my people, there they will be called sons of the living God. 27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay. 29 And as Isaiah predicted, If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.