The Expository Files

Were You Predestined To Read This Article? 


The Bible teaches predestination. But it does not teach the kind of predestination that some say it does. John Calvin taught that God had already predestined each individual to either eternity in heaven or in hell. He had also predestined every action that everyone would ever take and every thought of the mind. Every plan and idea, every effort... everything was predestined and is controlled by God.

This has the effect of denying that we have free will at all. Calvin said, "Who does not tremble at these judgments which God works in the hearts of even the wicked whatever He will, rewarding them nonetheless according to their desert... God works in the hearts of men to incline their wills just as He will, whether to good for His mercy's sake or to evil according to their merits... Whatever things are done wrongly and unjustly by man, these very things are the right and just works of God."

So, every action of man was predestined by God. All of your actions and mine were not the result of our will, but His will. The Calvinists call this the sovereignty of God. He makes every decision in His universe and we make none.

While the Bible definitely does teach "predestination" it does not teach what Calvin taught. The Bible shows we do have free will. God's sovereignty permits it.

The Bible's Teaching of Predestination
The Bible uses words such as "predestine" and "foreordain." But it does not use them in the sense that Calvinism does. The Bible does not deny human free will in the matter, but rather affirms it.

"He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will," (Ephesians 1:5). What does this passage and others mean when referring to predestination?

The Key to the Puzzle
A key to understanding the New Testament is to understand the Old Testament. Consider one such particularly clear case of predestination in the Old Testament. Since it was written "for our instruction" (Roman 15:4) we will try to learn about predestination from it and this will help us to clearly understand what the New testament says about it.

God made a promise to Abraham. "Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. '" (Genesis 12:1-3).

This is actually a three-fold promise. God promised to make Abraham into a great nation, to give him the land to which he was being sent and to bless the whole world through His descendant. This last part of the promise had reference to blessing the whole world through a Savior or Redeemer. The Savior of all nations would be of the descendants of Abraham. This was "predestined" by God. Nothing could change it.

Future generations would make this promise seem less and less likely to occur. Abraham's descendants would rebel. They would become idolaters, forsaking God. They would partake in the darkest of pagan rituals, even offering their own children as sacrifices to heathen Gods. They would persecute and kill prophets that God sent to them to call upon them to return. They would be destroyed as a nation and taken into captivity. But none of this would cause what God had predestined to fail. The Messiah would still come through the Hebrews.

After the fulfillment of the promise in Jesus some 1900 years later, the Scriptures state concerning such promises "...when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as referring to many, but rather to one, 'And to your seed,' that is, Christ." (Galatians 3:15,16).

Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the promise. Nothing had been altered or set aside. God did exactly what He had predestined. Note that predestination did not refer to God predestining people to heaven or hell in eternity. It had nothing to do with predestining individual behavior, good or bad. Any Hebrew could choose to obey God or not. Predestination did not make choices for individual Hebrews, it only foreordained that the Messiah would come through that group.

Application to Understanding Predestination in the New Testament
Reading through Ephesians 1:3-6 with this understanding of predestination helps us to see what is being said. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just 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 to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved."

A careful reading shows that it is not the behavior of any particular individual that is predestined by God, but a group has been predestined by God to be saved. It is up to you and me as to whether we will choose to be in that number or not. God has not predestined our individual choices.

The group God has predestined to become His sons are those who are "in Christ" (Vs 3) "In Him" (Vs 4) and "in the Beloved" (Vs 6). If I am in Christ, then I have been predestined to be blessed with spiritual blessings, to be adopted as God's child, to be holy and blameless before Him. There is nothing anyone can do to change this; if I am in the Son then these things are mine by predestination. But it is I who determines whether I will be in the Son or not. God made it possible, and calls upon me to make the choice (John 5:39-40; Romans 2:4-11; Galatians 3:26-29). And no, in answer to the question posed in the title, you were not predestined to read this article. You chose to do so freely.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 12.4; April 2005