It wasn’t long ago that I was sitting in a hospital waiting room and as I was reading, I overheard two young ladies talking about the subject of predestination. It was very clear that they were looking at the doctrine from a negative perspective rather than from a positive perspective. Why is it that so many professing Christians and church leaders approach predestination from a negative perspective rather than a positive perspective—if they approach it at all? It seems that God has other intentions by the way he delivers it to us in the pages of Scripture.
Predestination & Eternal Security
One of the grand truths of Scripture is the eternal security of God’s people. In John 10:28-29, we find some very comforting words from Jesus who makes it abundantly clear that all of God’s people are secured by the Father and the Son and that nobody can snatch them away!
In another text, in Romans 8:29-30, we find Paul expounding on the depths and riches of our salvation. In that text, he not only uses the term “predestination” as a means of describing God’s work of saving sinners, but he then describes every one of God’s children as having been predestined…and glorified. We all know that we have not been glorified yet, but the point is clear—since we have been predestined, we will certainly be glorified in the future, so much so that Paul uses an aorist indicative verb tense in order to describe something that hasn’t yet occurred as if it has already occurred—that’s how secure and certain it is.
Predestination & the Success of Jesus’ Death
If Jesus came and died on the cross without any degree of certainty that fallen sinners would be saved, what does that do to the doctrine of God? If salvation is determined by the free-will acts of man and if predestination is not a determining factor in the equation—Jesus would have died on the cross and not one single person would have been saved through his death. It’s obvious in John 6:44 that not one person could come to God unless God engages. To connect the inability of man with the predetermined plan of God found in texts like Ephesians 1 and Romans 8, points to the fact that Jesus’ death was successful from eternity past to eternity future and that every last one of his people would be saved. That’s why the angel said to Joseph in Matthew 1:21 that Jesus was coming to save his people. He didn’t say that Jesus was coming in hopeful aspirations of saving his people. That’s also why Jesus cried out on the cross, “It is finished”—the payment for every last one of his people was complete (John 19:30).
Predestination & the Gospel Mission
If the salvation of fallen rebels was up to the persuasion of missionaries and church planters and all of us as we share the gospel—none of us would have any confidence that people in our communities would be saved. However, remember what was communicated to Paul as he slept regarding the mission of the gospel that God had sent him to accomplish.
Acts 18:10 – for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.
This was a statement about people who had not yet been converted. But, God was sending Paul comfort that he had his people in the city, but they had yet to be converted, so as Paul went he had confidence that God would save his people.
Predestination & the Revelation of the Omniscience of God
Some people who reject the doctrine of predestination turn it into a mere response of God to what man does. In their way of thinking, God looks through a long tunnel of time to see if fallen sinners will accept or reject the gospel of Jesus. Based on their rejection of Jesus or their acceptance of Jesus—God then acts to either predestine that person to salvation or reject that person to hell, but the ultimate determining factor was based on what the person did in their own free-will.
The problem with such a view is that it forces an improper view of God. In the view stated, God would not only be stripped of his absolute sovereignty, but he would be stripped of his absolute omniscience. God would not have all information at some point, which would require him to look through a tunnel of time to gather information that he did not have access to nor did he control. This is not the view of God from the pages of Scripture. The only way you can arrive at such a view is to redefine and misinterpret the word “foreknew” in Romans 8. The meaning of the word is to “forelove” rather than to “foresee.” The idea put on display is that God decided to love people before the foundation of the world rather than to foresee events taking place. The context makes this clear.
Predestination & Worship
Doctrine matters. Either we will worship a God who is dependent upon us or we will worship a sovereign God—One we are completely dependent upon. As we come to see the doctrine of divine sovereignty in all things—including our own salvation—it crushes pride, increases our dependence upon God, and leads us to a humble approach to worship rather than some prideful approach of man-centeredness that is so prevalent in so many evangelical circles today.
When Peter and John were praying in Acts 4, notice that in their prayers to God, they simply talked about predestination. God is in control. At the end of Romans 11, after climbing to the top of the mountain peak of predestination in Romans 8-11, Paul concludes with these words:
Romans 11:36 – For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Rather than a doctrine for the seminary classroom or for moderated debates among apologists, the doctrine of predestination was given to God’s people through prophets and apostles to God’s Church. We must never forget this truth. Predestination is written down in the pages of holy Scripture for God’s people to know God and worship God.
To hear more on this subject, listen to the latest G3 Podcast as Josh Buice and Jeremy Vuolo discuss the doctrine of predestination together.
Predestination is one of the most hated and debated doctrines in the Bible. Yet, Charles Spurgeon said, “I am persuaded that the doctrine of predestination is one of the ‘softest pillows’ upon which the Christian can lay his head and one of the ‘strongest staffs’ upon which he may lean in his pilgrimage along this rough road.” If that’s true, why is the doctrine of predestination avoided, demonized, and reserved for esoteric studies or theological debate? Consider these five reasons why predestination should be preached on Sunday morning to the gathered church.
The Church Needs Depth
The calling of a pastor is to feed God’s sheep. As the church is gathered together, God expects that the whole counsel of God will be preached—not just clever sermon series and topical studies.
Many churches have a shallow view of the way church discipleship should be approached resulting in evangelistic sermons on Sunday morning, more serious doctrinal sermons on Sunday evening (if the church gathers on Sunday evenings), and real serious doctrinal teaching on Wednesday evening when the majority of the church is not present.
This is the most popular structure for preaching and teaching in evangelical circles today and it has caused many local churches to be a mile wide and an inch deep theologically speaking. In other words, you can find many large local churches that know John 3:16 by memory and can walk you down the Romans Road, but they don’t possess a good handle on biblical theology. The idea that you have to grow your church by evangelism on Sunday mornings will have a negative impact upon the church in the long run.
While the church needs to grow bigger, it must grow deeper first! If the members of the church lack proper knowledge of key biblical truths (like predestination), how will they be able to make disciples in the first place? Remember, in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), Jesus anticipated that the process of making disciples would involve teaching grand truths like the Trinity because he issued the Trinitarian formula of baptism (in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit) which implies that people would be teaching the Trinity early on—rather than several years after their baptism during a Wednesday evening Bible study.
Predestination is in the Bible
The word “predestinated” in Romans 8:29 comes from the Greek term “προορίζω” meaning “to decide upon beforehand, to predetermine.” It’s a compound Greek term made up of two words:
Pro – Before
Horizo – Determine
This word literally means to determine before hand. No matter what theological gymnastics are performed to get around it, predestination has a meaning that cannot be overlooked or sidestepped. It’s in the Bible for a reason and it’s not reserved for a seminary class.
A number of years ago I was serving as a pastor in Kentucky when a woman visited our church on a Sunday morning. She introduced herself to me after the service and stated her reason for visiting. She said, “I have come to understand that my pastor believes in predestination.” I kindly informed her that not only was predestination in the Bible, but I actually believe it as well. I never saw that woman again after our short conversation. I can hope that she returned to her church and sought to listen to her pastor as he preached the Bible. Far too many people are looking for pastors who will teach them what they want to believe rather than what the Bible actually says (remember Paul warned Timothy about that in 2 Timothy 4:3-5).
It may come as a shock to many believers who have been shielded from the doctrine of predestination as if it’s a dangerous doctrine, but it’s actually a biblical truth that must be preached to the church. It should be preached even on a Sunday morning. Likewise, it must be understood that Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus (and the surrounding cities) by encouraging them in the opening chapter regarding their salvation in Christ and he pointed to the core truth of predestination (Eph. 1:5). He didn’t save it until the last chapter nor did he avoid the subject altogether. It must be pointed out that Paul didn’t reserve the doctrine of predestination as a subject for a theological debate. Instead, he wrote about it and used it as a means of encouraging the church. That’s what biblical doctrine is designed to do by God—encourage the church.
Predestination Points to a High View of God
Have you ever visited a city where a large statue was standing tall in the town square or maybe you’ve visited the Statue of Liberty at some point? The statue appears large as you are a good distance away, but as you draw closer to the point of standing below the massive structure, the statues seems to get bigger and bigger. The more you study the doctrine of predestination, the bigger God seems to be. This is the way Bible truth works. We will never learn so much about God and his saving grace that he becomes small and casual to us.
The doctrine of predestination points to a high view of God. The truth of God’s ability to predetermine the salvation of wretched and guilty sinners who deserve hell is a glorious truth that reveals the bigness of God—a grand subject for a Sunday morning sermon.
We would not want to board an airplane where the pilot advertised to everyone that he only understood about 85% of the instruments on the control panel in the cockpit. We want a confident pilot who possesses a robust knowledge of the entire airplane. In a more serious way, we don’t want to paint a low view of God who doesn’t know everything nor does he have the ability to control everything. This is the view often taught within local churches through a faulty definition of foreknowledge in Romans 8:29.
The word foreknowledge has far more in mind than God looking through the tunnel of time to see what people will do. In fact, the focus isn’t on God learning anything (remember, God doesn’t learn anything) and it’s not focused upon the actions of man. Rather, it’s focused upon the fact that God foreknew people (see Gen. 4:1 and Amos 3:2 as examples of the use of know as more than intellectual comprehension)—not their actions. In other words, God chose beforehand to shower his love on specific people for his glory. This choice of God’s love is connected to God’s work of predetermining that they would be saved.
A high view of God’s sovereignty and his sovereign grace leads to joyful worship and faithful obedience and service to him. In other words, a proper understanding of predestination will increase the depth of our worship of God.
Predestination Crushes Pride
Sometimes people have specific privileges in life that cause them to boast about it. It’s common in the world to see people with great wealth boasting about it, bragging about it, or parading it openly through exotic vehicles, fancy homes, and exquisite boats. The doctrine of predestination should do the exact opposite.
A number of years ago after the salvation of a young man in our church, he was baptized and then presented as a member before the congregation. After the service, I heard a man in the church approach the new convert and say, “Congratulations on your decision to follow Christ.” While it is true that the young man decided to follow Jesus, what’s even more important is that God first decided to love him and worked out a million or more details to bring him to the point of a public profession of his faith in Christ. Before we choose to love God, we must remember that God first chose to love us (1 John 4:19).
A proper understanding of predestination crushes pride. The truth of predestination crushes the idea that we do our part and God does his part in salvation. God will not share in the glory of saving sinners. Salvation, as Jonah said, is of the LORD (Jonah 2:9). He alone will be praised for the saving of dead and helpless sinners.
Predestination is at the Core of the Doctrine of Salvation
The Christian life is a journey of faith whereby we study and learn about the God who has saved us. In fact, that’s what theology is—the study of God. As we study and learn about the saving grace of God, we must learn about the doctrine of predestination.
Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and for the glory of God alone. The study of predestination places the cause and effect of salvation squarely on the sovereignty of God. How can dead sinners cooperate with God to work out our salvation? The fact is, salvation is not a partnership between man and God. From eternity past to eternity future, salvation is a work of God.
God the Father chooses us.
God the Son dies for us.
God the Spirit causes us to be born again.
God the Spirit convicts us and convinces us of sin.
God the Spirit draws us to Christ.
God has predestined that we will be glorified in eternity future.
Salvation is not man made. We have no right to glory in the work of salvation. It’s totally a work of God and we are the recipients of grace and we respond to God’s work of salvation. Any true study of salvation will have a proper focus on God’s work of predestination.
In many evangelical circles, if you bring up the subject of predestination you can guarantee one of two things — confused looks or passionate fights. Are we predestined to fight over the doctrine of predestination? Throughout history, we have witnessed heated disagreements over predestination and election. In the mid 1700s, George Whitefield and John Wesley had an open disagreement in published works. Although many Reformed Baptists were involved in the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention, today’s SBC is largely divided over the subject of predestination. Exactly what does the Bible teach about this subject? Should we use the biblical doctrine of predestination as an expletive? Should we divide over our differences?
Is Predestination in the Bible?
I remember a lady entered the church sanctuary of the church where I served in Kentucky years ago prior to a church service on Sunday, and she said these words, “Preacher, I’m visiting your church because the pastor where I’m a member has been preaching on predestination!” She looked even more shocked when I responded, “Did you know that the word predestination is actually in the Bible in several different places?” I never saw her again. I hope she went back to her church and sought to learn and grow in grace.
The word (προορίζω) often translated “predestined” appears in the Bible in at least five different places. The word is a compound word composed of two parts:
Preposition (πρό) Pro – Before
Verb (ὁρίζω) horizō – To mark out, appoint, decree.
Acts 4:28 – to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
Romans 8:29 – For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Romans 8:30 – And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
1 Corinthians 2:7 – But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.
Ephesians 1:5 – he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.
Ephesians 1:11 – In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.
How is Predestination Used in the Bible?
Anytime we come to study a biblical doctrine, it’s essential to examine the word(s) within a proper contextual framework. Defining terms is essential and necessary when studying the Bible. Yes, there are various different definitions for the word predestination. Even a brief study of this doctrine will reveal that all throughout history, when the spark of predestination hits the gasoline of human opinion — it results in a dangerous explosion. From historic fights to modern divisions, people seem poised to split, fight, and divide over this biblical doctrine.
It should be pointed out that in the teachings of Paul in the New Testament, he writes to the believers in various cities like Ephesus and seeks to encourage them regarding their position in Jesus Christ. In order to encourage them in the faith, Paul bursts out in a doxology to God in the early words of his letter to the Ephesian church and he uses the term predestination two different times. Consider Paul’s one extraordinary sentence in the Greek (Eph. 1:3-14) that he uses to praise God for saving sinners and he references the doctrine of predestination as a springboard to dive into the deep waters of God’s sovereign grace.
In our modern church era, we organize debates on the subject of predestination. We gather ourselves in holy huddles and divide over the biblical doctrine of predestination. We write entire books on the subject and wax eloquent in commentaries on the doctrine of predestination. However, Paul used it as a way to praise God for His work of salvation. What would happen if we spent more time praising God and less time throwing rocks at other believers over predestination?
Humility is Necessary When Studying the Bible
When I moved away to attend seminary, I remember suffering from a prideful attitude regarding the doctrine of predestination. If this biblical doctrine was the tiger, in my mind, I had it by the tail. Being brought to a place of admitting that I was wrong about the subject of predestination was not a pleasant experience. For me, I was extremely stubborn and it took many years of fighting and wrestling through the subject before I finally admitted my errors.
When considering the subject of predestination or any other doctrine in the Bible, we must approach it with a humble heart. We must be willing to submit to the teachings of Scripture – no matter what any personality, preacher, or commentary says. If the Bible teaches something, we should never be embarrassed about it. That goes for the folly of the blood splattered cross and the difficult doctrine of predestination. James Montgomery Boice writes:
When people have trouble with election—and many do—their real problem is not with the doctrine of election, although they think it is, but with the doctrine of depravity that makes election necessary. 
Before arguing over the topic of predestination, consider praising God for His work of predestination and the saving of your soul. Charles Spurgeon once said:
That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. 
James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library, 1988), 16.