Every now and then I come across some scripture that leaves me stumped, and the question of predestination is one of those.
Here in Romans 8 is one such scripture. This verse is quoted by the proponents of predestination as proof positive that this is the way God chooses people to be saved.
For those who are not familiar with the concept of predestination, the doctrine basically suggests that everyone has already been predestined as to who will or will not be saved and that God will call those people and not the rest.
There are various camps between the proponents of this doctrine and slightly different shades or degrees to which they believe things are predetermined, but this is the essence in a nutshell.
My position is…
I don’t know. On the one hand there are too many scriptures that talk about individuals having a free will to choose to follow God or not, but there are also these scriptures that speak about God has predestined or determined from the very beginning who will or won’t be saved. And because these two seemingly opposing positions exist it makes me wonder what is really being said here.
Consider a few other scriptures for a moment looking at the other side of the equation. In 1 Timothy 2:1-4 we see how God himself feels about people.
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
So if people are predestined to salvation, why would it be necessary to pray for all people? And why would God “desire” all people to come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved, as verse 4 states, if He already had decided and predestined those who will or won’t be saved?
Indeed why would God go through what is essentially a farce of creation if everything is already preordained as to what will happen right down to who will be saved and who will not?
It is my opinion that the reason this creation exists now is for people to make just one decision and that is whether to follow God through Jesus Christ or to reject His ways. But if it has already been predetermined then so too have all of these decisions that people will make and personally I don’t believe that is what God was doing in this creation.
There is no doubt that the events and the pathway this creation is following has been predestined. There is an end coming and a judgement day and there are many events linked too these end times that have been described in the prophecies in the bible. But I do not believe the salvation decisions of each and every person who ever walked the face of the planet had already been decided.
Which is why it is difficult when we come across verses like these ones in Romans 8:29-30.
I went back into the Greek to see what it says and to see if there was some misinterpretation in the translation into English, which has occurred in some other sections of the bible. While there appears to be some sections of these scriptures that might be interpreted differently as to ‘whom’ it is that is being predestined, specifically in verse 29 it could be saying that the nature of Jesus might have been predestined so that He could be the first fruits, rather than some people being predestined. But my Greek is not good enough that I would swear to this being accurate.
The problem with the doctrine of predestination in my mind is that it destroys hope.
If everything has already been predestined, what is there to hope for? Why hope for those who we love but have not come to Christ yet if God has predestined that they won’t? If the hope of salvation has already been determined, then it is not a hope at all.
There is no doubt that some people have been chosen to do specific things or to carry out specific ministries. For example, God said to Pharaoh that he had been raised up that God might show His power. It was Pharaoh’s rejection of the plea from Moses for the release of the Israelites from Egypt that led to many great signs and wonders occurring showing the power that God could and would bring to bear.
Then there was Judas Iscariot who was specifically chosen from the beginning to be the betrayer and give Jesus up to the chief priests and Pharisees that led to Jesus’ death and subsequently our salvation.
Then there were the twelve apostles and Paul, all of whom were specifically chosen to do the initial task of spreading the gospel of salvation so that we would all have the chance of coming to Christ and being saved from our sins. They preached a message of hope for man in a world where there was no hope.
Each of these people were specifically predestined, chosen and elected to do very specific things. And this is aligned with the scripture at Matthew 22:14 which says,
Many are called, but few are chosen
These people were I believe specifically chosen to do certain things that would affect the larger course of events for either a nation or the world. But not every person on the earth is in such a place. For the rest of us we are in a place where we need to decide for ourself whether to follow the Lord or not.
In summary it is my belief that:
- At the highest level the course and events of the world as a whole are predestined
- Certain individuals have been predestined and chosen to do specific things, both good and bad and specifically to affect the events of the world or a nation at the higher level.
- The rest of the individuals who have not been chosen to affect wider events have been left to decide by their own will to follow or reject Christ.
But in this matter I will keep an open mind because this is a confusing issue and there are matters that I do not understand. It has always been my position that there is no contradiction in the bible. Every word, premise, teaching and doctrine is perfectly balanced and aligned because the bible was written by God for our benefit.
So when there are apparent contradictions, what this means is that I do not yet understand what that teaching is and how it fits into the bigger picture.
So I will pray about it and seek the Lord to open the scriptures to me so that I can understand fully what is being said. And I know from past experience where I have had similar apparent contradictions that when the time was right the Lord has revealed what was meant and shown me how the two opposing positions on the surface connect and work in the context of the covenant.
I expect He will do the same again, but in the meantime I ask that if you have any light you can shed on this matter please feel free to comment and/send me an email.
(Image sourced from freeimages.com provided by Diego Medrano)
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