Saturday, November 17, 2007

TOWARD A PROPER UNDERSTANDING OF PREDESTINATION

What is the correct understanding of "predestination" or "election" in the New Testament? When asked to explain the New Testament understanding on the subject, a Dr. J. Rodman Williams,1 explains his view as he understand it from the following text:
  • Eph 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love Eph 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
  • Eph 1:11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, Eph 1:12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.
  • Rom 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Rom 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Rom 8:30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
The three passages are very good for understanding what the Bible teaches on predestination. There are some important things to learn, but there is something that it does not teach. From the passages above, here are some things to be learned:
  • Man was destined to be saved as Christian prior to the foundation of the world.
  • This predestination was to be through Christ, i.e. not through some other Savior or method.
  • Salvation occurred through this means because God is sovereign and can choose to save however and whomever He chooses to. He could have chosen to save all whether or not they repented. He could have chosen to save through some other means than Christ. But He chose to save through Christ.
  • God foreknew those He predestined. God had a crystal clear view of Christians being the saved.
  • Those He predestined He also called. Without God calling, there would be no responding.
When reading these passages, we clearly see that salvation in Jesus Christ is predestined plan of God. From these passages we clearly see that God planned for people to be saved in Jesus Christ. We also see that those He predestined were called. Now here is the clincher. God calls everyone. And God is not a respector of persons (Rom. 2:11). With Him, there is no partiality. So God calls everyone. But it does not follow that everyone who is called becomes the elect. There are many who are called who do not accept the invitation (Mt. 22:1-5, 14). So we see that there is free will in those who are called to accept or reject the invitation. Those who are chosen are also those who have accepted the invitation, and those who accept the invitation become the chosen of God.

Dr. Williams takes a different view. He seems to think that the Sovereignty of God implies that man has no free will. This being the case, God would have to be even more proactive than He is by sending His Son to die for all men, but He must also individually handpick who will be saved. A distasteful consequence of His undertanding is that the rest of men are lost by default because God determined not to elect them. Here is how Williams gets around it:
It is important (in the light of many misinterpretations) to observe that the word "predestinate" is never used in the New Testament to refer to anything other than the arena of salvation-as we have noted, adoption as sons, living to the praise of God, glorification. Accordingly, a view of "double predestination"-a predestination referring to death and damnation as well as to eternal life-has utterly no basis in Scripture. This does not mean that there is no death or damnation, but such does not belong to God's predestining action, which refers only to the general arena of salvation.1
However Dr. Williams tries to get around his teaching, the message is clear that the rest of men are predestined to go to hell for the following three reasons:
  • Man is born with sin and lost from conception, according to people like Williams.
  • Man has no free will to understand, or accept, or in any way to respond to the Gospel without divine intervention -- but only if you are among the elect.
  • Most men are lost, if Williams view on predestination were true, because the Sovereign God did not predestine them. He passed right over them, by His Sovereign will, because to do so is His right.
In contrast to such teaching, we in the church of Christ believe that while it is true that God is the only Sovereign. It is also true that the fall of man did not mean that man lost free will. Each man, just like Adam, falls on the basis of his own sins. And each man may hear the Gospel and respond to it. Like John said, "Whosoever will may come". The Gospel is for all. It is the Word of God that is powerful and creates faith (Rom. 10:17). ALL who hear the Gospel and obey it will be saved. And because they are saved, they become part of God's eternal plan. He redeems repentent man according to His predestined plan in Jesus Christ. Can you say, "Amen!"
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1. Dr. Williams, Predestination
2. Try this too.

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4 comments:

  1. Hello Discipler! I'm going to play devil's advocate because I think I have an idea what someone like Dr. Williams might say. It would be something like, 'Oh yes, man has a freewill but God could see before the founding of the world who would obey him and it was those people whom he predestined and chose thus giving them the ability to be saved, which-of course-must be a work of God since we canot be saved by works."

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  2. Hi 1000 Yds,
    That explanation isn't really necessary because it allows that the plan is what is predestined which is what we believe. If God looked ahead and saw that those with free will chose Christ, and he elected to save them, then that is perfectly in keeping with what we believe. But classic predestination teaching so exaggerates the idea of God's sovereignty that no one has free will to choose anything spiritual. Do you find it interesting that Williams thinks he can pick up the "predestination stick" that relates to salvation, but declares there is not direct consequence for those He did not predestine?
    God bless,
    Dan

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  3. Yes, that is it. The natural man could not chose it, but God knows which ones would if they could so he gives them the help they need to see the light.

    Indeed that is interesting. Can it really be intellectually honest to believe on side of it without accepting the other side? After all, if God is sovereign and you chose to take this view of predestination, why not believe this sovereign God can condemn whomever he will? He's sovereign. He can can save who he wants and condemn who he wants. Wow, This gets really twisted. I guess you can't really believe that and also believe that God is patient not wishing that any should perish.

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  4. Yes, good point 1000 yds. Dr. Williams view would be more acceptable if the Bible did not speak of God's love for all men. But since the Bible says Jesus died that He might taste death for all men, Williams and others will always be, so to speak, spitting in the wind.

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