“So here’s a question for you, is predestination something that you are trying to convince yourself is good, in order to allow God to be able to do it, or do you come to scripture with the understanding that whatever God does is good by definition because He does it?”
Someone asked me this question approximately 7 years ago and it completely turned the way I read the Bible upside down. It exposed in me an arrogance that I was previously ignorant to. Up until that point, I spent the previous 7 years as a believer reading the Bible in a way that sought to make God fit into a box I created in my mind that shaped who God ‘had’ to be. He had to extend salvation freely and equally to all, otherwise He could not be loving and good. He had to treat everyone the same, otherwise He wouldn’t be just. He had to fit the mold I made for Him in my mind, otherwise He couldn’t be God. Do you see the flaw in my reasoning? Do you recognize the manifestation of my sinfulness? Do you understand that such a line of thought only serves to further prove the depth of my pride and the severity of my delusion?
For anyone still reading who may feel rage rising within at my broaching this topic and delving into its difficulty, let me plead with you to compare anything I have said or will say in the remainder of this post with the whole of Scripture. Let me ask you, to the best of your ability, to lay aside the emotions and presuppositions that you have regarding this subject and to read on with an open, yet critical mind. Let me lay before you the conviction that God has given me through the reading of His Word and, again, let scripture interpret scripture.
I’m aware that I have already offended some by even mentioning predestination and that more may be offended in light of other things I will say, but my hope and purpose in posting this has nothing to do with men and everything to do with God. Coming to a greater understanding of His sovereignty has led to a deeper faith and a greater joy than I ever could have imagined having in this life, so I share this while praying that all who may read it “may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in all the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe…”
So I pose a second question, one that I heard from someone else but have continued to cling to for the past three years since I first heard it: “What is your capacity for mystery?” Mine is small, as it is reflective of my finite ability to comprehend the infinite nature of the Being who made me. When I first came to believe in a God who is sovereign over salvation as well as the rest of His creation 7 years ago, I wept as the paradigm I had held to/been taught for 19 years shattered in a moment. Since then, I have realized all the more that the Bible is not an easy book to read. It is the only source of absolute truth in a postmodern world, and thereby must provide an answer to every question, but because it is the divine revelation of a transcendent and eternally holy God, does it not stand to reason that our human minds will not possess the capacity to ever fully understand it in this transient state?
With that, let me list some of the major passages that the Lord has frequently used to teach me of His election and salvation of a chosen people (this is list is far from exhaustive): Genesis 12:1-3, 15:5-21, 17:18-21, all of chapter 27 (and really the rest of Genesis…), Ex. 3:5-8, 6:6-8, 8:23, 11:7, 12:12-13, 14:13-14, 15:11-13, 23:32-33, 29:45-46, 34:10-16, Deut. 7:1-11, (read the Pentateuch as a whole and you may see it as an ongoing theme), all of these references, Malachi 1:1-5, John 6:35-40, Eph. 1:4-5, 2:1-10, throughout Pauline epistles, and frankly throughout all of scripture if one is willing to set aside their preconceived ideas of how God must interact with man.
At this point, I assume some may have stopped reading or may be infuriated at my assertion of this doctrine with such confidence. Again, let me ask that you consider whether or not what I’m writing seems to align with scripture. Do we not read throughout the Old and New Testament that God chooses a people to redeem to Himself? Are we not told of multiple stories when God destroyed nations who were ungodly and pagan without offering them opportunity to repent (all the while continuing to extend grace to Israel or nations like Nineveh if He so willed)? Does Scripture not directly state that He chooses those He will love and those He will hate? Regardless of how much disdain you may hold for the thought of God electing who He will save, no one can say that this doctrine does not find a firm foundation in scripture.
This is a very somber and weighty matter and there is much more to consider and that could be said in regard to its discussion, but let me try to arrive at a final and ultimate point. I once heard that someone asked R.C. Sproul why God chose to hate Esau; Sproul replied, “The real question is, why did God choose to love Jacob?”
His reply should resonate in every regenerated heart… why does God love me?
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…” Deut. 7:6-9
God loves His chosen people because He, in His infinite, omniscient, omnipotent nature deemed it good to make an everlasting covenant with them by which He would preserve them from the destruction they rightly deserved and save them to Himself for the glory of His Holy Name.
This is a beautiful and glorious reality in which we will rejoice for all of eternity.
God saves sinners even though He doesn’t have to.
I end by offering my personal conviction and consolation in placing my faith in this doctrine.
Today, as I read and reflected on Scripture, I prayed and asked God to show me the way of wisdom. Immediately after praying this, I turned to Proverbs to read the chapter that corresponds with the current date. The title of the chapter? “The Way of Wisdom;” I smiled. “There is no such thing as a coincidence,” I thought. It felt like a kiss from my dad. Reassurance that He desires to answer our prayers so long as they submit to His supreme will. I read on and journaled verses 10-11: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you.”
I continued reading and journaling and meditating upon scripture for the remainder of the morning. I listened to a song that dwelt upon the perfection and glory of God in His electing of His chosen ones. As I was walking back to my friend’s apartment after spending some time outside, I found a die in the middle of the road. Proverbs 16:33 immediately came to mind and, once again, I knew God was reassuring me of His unwavering hold over every moment of history. Understanding that every moment is sacred, controlled, and ordained by God gives me endless comfort. How is this possible? Because the worst moment in history, the worst sin ever committed, did not occur outside of God’s plan (Is. 53:4&11, John 19:10-11, Acts 2:22-23, 4:27-28).
There are a few moments in my life that have brought my to my knees more times than I can count. When I recall them, I cannot help but think of how often they have left me feeling devastated, helpless, and hopeless. These memories have wrought countless tears and sleepless nights. They have bred bitterness, resentment, and distrust. They have all but destroyed me at times. As I reflect on these memories now, I must ask myself, “Was God in control of those moments?”If the answer is no and the consolation is that He didn’t intend for these things to happen and to use them for His purposes, then I must accept that God is not omnipotent or omniscient and therefore is not God.
But if the answer is yes, that in the moments of my deepest suffering, my Savior remained seated on His throne with His sovereign hand outstretched, weaving into His tapestry a mystery of redemption and glory in ways I could never fathom, fully capable of stopping these tragedies at any moment but willing that they occur for the furtherance of my good and of His glory, then I am able to accept that I serve a God whose hand moves and molds as He chooses; a God incapable of being thwarted by the will of men and infinitely stronger than the hand of any foe. This means each moment is sacred, infused with supernatural design beyond what the human eye can see.
And so I can submit my life to the Potter who makes vessels for glory and vessels for wrath, praying that He will give me faith not to question His goodness in doing so (Is. 64:8, Rom. 9:19-21). I trust that He is a faithful Creator (1 Pet. 4:19, 1 Thess. 5:24, Heb. 10:23). In light of this, I proclaim with hope that He is the Master of mystery and so I don’t have to be. Neither do you.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”