Reflections on Predestination in the Bible

Predestination is everywhere through the Bible. If you don’t believe me, next time you plough through a major chunk of the Old Testament, keep this in mind, and you’ll see what I mean.

The God of the Bible time and time again acts to bring Israel to himself, often when the people of Israel are at their worst and in no way inclined towards him. He reaches in, and sends them a leader (eg. 1 & 2 Samuel) or brings judgement upon them so that they might repent and believe (eg. Hosea). This is God’s plan for the salvation of his people, and this is God acting for the salvation of his people. And this isn’t reactionary. Hosea 2:16 says: ‘ “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’ you will no longer call me ‘my master.’”’ Further on in 2:23 it says: ‘I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’’

It is God who decides who will be his loved ones, and who will not. This is predestination: God reaching into human history for the salvation of those whom he loves, and God acting for the punishment of sin that he rejects; God reconciling those people whom he has chosen in Christ, since before the creation of the world, to himself.

But, of course, from our end it’s not that simple sometimes. It gets personal. We have non-Christian friends and family. We see and hear of people dying without faith in Jesus, and we wrestle with the idea that God allowed them to die without faith. So what should we do as we struggle with the concept of predestination? We could argue and rationalise these ideas until they feel more acceptable. We could go to the theory books and the blogs. Of course, discourse is an important part of our faith, and good helpful resources written by (generally) older, wiser people than ourselves affirms us in good doctrine, but ironically, the best place to go when struggling with predestination is the Bible.

The irony is in the fact that on the most contentious of doctrine, the Bible is but a proof text for our arguments that often don’t seek the mind of God, not taking our thoughts and opinions captive to God’s truth.

There is a time and place to think about theology abstract from the Bible, but the most helpful way to grab predestination by the horns is to read what God has done in context. The idea of a God that chooses who will be saved and who won’t be, abstract from the Bible, is unpalatable. Who would want to believe in a God that sends people to Hell? To eternal torment? And actually chooses to do so.

But when we read about God’s salvation in the Scriptures, and make the observation that we are wicked evil people marred by sin, full of greed and malice, realising that none of us deserve a salvation at all, and read about the holiness of God, and his perfection, and needing to cast from himself all sin and evil, we realise that it is good that God would choose to send people to Hell. It is right that we would ultimately face the eternal consequences of our persistent sin.

The marvel of predestination isn’t that God would pick some and not others for salvation. It’s that he would reach in and choose any at all. And that he would call this good.

And why does God exercise his salvation? Ephesians 1:5-6 says that it’s “in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” God has saved some for the praise of his glory. Again this idea is repeated in verses 11 and 12 “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory”

Whether you call God’s sovereign choice in your salvation his predestined will or not, this we must read in the Bible and affirm: It is God who saves through Jesus Christ, and it is God who judges the world for its rebellion, and it is God who determines the eternal fate of every person, according to his purposes, so that he may be glorified.

The next time you’re struggling with predestination, read the Bible. Read about the God of mercy and of power who has acted throughout history so that those he loves will not perish, but have life in him.

By Alan Reader
Ministry Apprentice