Chosen by God: a look at the doctrine of predestination
The question of predestination vs. free will is a long standing one in the body of Christ. There are many that say that God has already chosen those who would be saved and it is those and nobody else that will be saved. Subsequently and according to this view whether somebody will be saved or not it is not so much a question of somebody else speaking the Word to him and him subsequently believing this Word. Though he definitely needs to do this, he can essentially do it only because God has “predestined” him for this, has “chosen” him. Had God not “predestined” him, had God not “chosen” him – in the meaning of chosen him over somebody else that was not chosen - then he would not be saved. It is thus ultimately up to God who is going to be saved and whom He, as per this view, has “predestined”, pre-choose to be saved. Those who God has chosen to save will be saved but those whom He has not chosen (which actually then means: those He has rejected for salvation) will not be saved. This is definitely a very convenient doctrine as it shifts the responsibility of salvation to God, meaning that He, as per this view”, has already chosen those who will be saved. So if you don’t feel like speaking the Word to others … not much of a problem. God knew it, and did not arrange for somebody that was to be saved to come your way. After all whoever is to be saved will be saved no matter what… it is all up to God. It is my personal opinion that as much as convenient this doctrine may be, it is also a very wrong and dangerous doctrine. I also believe that it is this doctrine that is responsible, at least partially, for the passivity of many people concerning speaking the Word: people do not really feel responsible for speaking the gospel as ultimately, and according to this view, whoever is to be saved will be saved. I strongly disagree with this position. I believe that according to the Bible, God gave His Son for ALL men, which then means His choice for salvation is: everybody. In turn this means that the view that God chose to save some, over some others cannot be correct.
Salvation: God’s choice for everybody.
To see what is the desire of God concerning salvation let’s start with I Timothy 2:4. There we read:
1 Timothy 2:4
“God our Savior .. who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
Whom does God want to be saved? What is His will about salvation? What is that that He wants, desires? As the passage tells us, He desires, wills all men to be saved! “All men” means ALL. He did not choose some people over some others and then gave His Son for them only. Instead He gave His Son for all people, for everybody on the face of this earth and He desires that everybody on the face of this earth is saved! This is His declared will, desire, want, choice. Here is what verses 5 and 6 of the same epistle tell us:
1 Timothy 2:5-6
“For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom FOR ALL, to be testified in due time.”
For how many did Jesus Christ gave himself as a ransom? Not for some but for ALL, brother and sister. Jesus Christ paid the price for everybody and He did it with the purpose that everybody can taste salvation. If He then did this, wouldn’t be entirely contradictory to say that God has actually chosen only some of these all for whom He gave His Son, which then essentially means that He did not choose (i.e. therefore rejected) the remaining? Imagine that you went to a prison and you loved all the prisoners so much that you paid the highest possible price - for God that price was His Son - to make them free. How many would you want to see free? I guess ALL. Now imagine that some chose to stay in the prison. What would you feel? Wouldn’t you be very sorrowful and sad about this? You paid the highest price for them! You want them out! I would be very sad if they choose to stay in and so I believe is God. He gave His Son, He paid the highest possible price for everybody and guess what: He wants everybody to take advantage of what He made available. He wants everybody to be free “from the power of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13).
Here is what the famous John 3:16 passage, which is so frequently being quoted, tells us:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that THE WORLD through him might be saved. He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
God loved the WORLD (using our example with the prisoners: He loved ALL the prisoners, not just some) and for the whole world, for EVERYBODY, He gave His Son. Why? “SO THAT THE WORLD THROUGH HIM MIGHT BE SAVED.” When God gave His Son He was not targeting at just a part of the world but at the whole world! He did not want to free some prisoners but ALL the prisoners. Salvation is God’s choice for everybody, because it was for everybody that He paid the respective price. There is no man on the face of the earth for whom God has made a choice that he is lost.
What does the Word mean when it speaks about chosen ones?
To be chosen means that somebody chose you i.e. you are his choice. As we read in the past pages it is the declared will of God that all men be saved and for this purpose God paid with the life of His Son. Now if God wants all men to be saved, this means that it is God’s choice for all men to be saved. In turn, if this is God’s choice, God’s will for everybody what then does this make everybody in regards to salvation? CHOSEN. In other words when the Word of God refers to us as elect and chosen, in no way it means chosen in relation to some others that allegedly are not chosen. ALL are chosen for salvation, as this is the choice, what God wills, for every man (though obviously not all will take up His offer). Instead what the Word means by calling us chosen is chosen for salvation. Salvation is God’s choice, His will, for every man and therefore, in regards to salvation, all men are chosen by Him. However not all will accept this offer and the result is that they will be lost. But they are not lost because God did not choose them for salvation but because they chose to reject what was God’s choice for them. In the same way, we too we were not saved because God chose us over some others that were allegedly not chosen. Instead we were saved because we chose to accept what was the choice of God for us and every man. Salvation is a question of believing. It is a question of people choosing God and not a question of God choosing them. As far as God is concerned, there is no question: He chose ALL men for salvation and to this end He gave His Son. See again these passages from the Scripture:
“whoever believes in him shall receive remission of sins.”
Romans 9:33, 10:11
“whoever believes on him shall not be ashamed.“
I John 5:1
“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”
“whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”
“whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
“whoever believes on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and does not believe, I do not judge him: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
See all these “whoever” in these passages. WHOEVER, regardless of who he is – that’s what “whoever” means – is going to be saved or not to be saved based on whether he believed or not. If he will believe he will get saved, as it is God’s choice, God’s will for him. But if he chooses not to believe then he will not be saved. This in no way is God’s choice, God’s will for him, but it will happen based on the choice this man made. It is as simple as that.
To summarize: there are two kind of choosing. One kind of choosing refers to choosing one person over another person. In other words: I chose you instead of another person. In that sense, and according to the doctrine of election, God chose us and rejected others. He predestined for salvation us, the Christians, but not the others. The others were not chosen, according to this view. Can this view be correct? No, because, as per the other passages of the Scripture that we read, God desires, it is His choice, that everybody gets saved and for exactly that purpose i.e. the salvation of everybody He gave His Son. Therefore the choosing and predestination that are mentioned in Ephesians 1:3-7 – “he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself..” – do not have the meaning of us being chosen over some others that are allegedly not chosen, but of us being chosen for salvation. The same choice – salvation – God made for everybody else too, when He gave His Son. Like the prisoners of our example: everybody was chosen to experience freedom. Am I justified therefore to speak to those ex-prisoners that took up my offer and say “you are chosen for freedom”, “I have predestined you for this” “You are my choice”? Yes I am absolutely justified to do this. However, given that this is also my choice for those who are still in the prison, when I say “chosen” I by no means mean that these are chosen over the others that rejected my offer. For them also it is my choice that they are free. God indeed has chosen us but He has not chosen us OVER some others. God does not pick and choose those who would be saved. If He would do this He would be a respecter of persons and He is NOT:
“God is not a respecter of persons.”
Instead God will be found by everybody that seeks Him. In fact, He is searching for people who seek Him so that He reveals Himself to them:
“The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.”
and Deuteronomy 4:29
“If .. you shall seek the LORD your God, you shall find him, if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
When somebody seeks God, when he invites Him to reveal Himself to him and he real means it, God will, 100%, show up. He is the one that will draw him to Him. But this is not what God will do only for that person. It is instead something that He does for all that call on Him. God looks for people who seek Him and those who seek Him with all their heart will find Him. This is not something that happens sometimes for some people. Instead it is a LAW, dictated by God’s Word. When somebody invites God from his heart, God will 100% show up and draw him to Himself. It is in this sense that we need to understand the record of the gospel of John that says:
“No one come to me unless the Father that send me draws him.”
Many people take this passage and say “you see, it is all up to God. If God wants, He will draw that person to Him. If He does not want him, He will not draw him”. To interpret this passage in such a way makes God a respecter of persons and ignores that Jesus died for ALL, so that ALL might be saved. God does not pick and choose who to draw to Himself. Instead He will show up for everybody that seeks Him. It is a spiritual law that He dictated it. On that we will also say more in the next section.
Salvation: God’s responsibilities and our responsibilities.
God indeed has a role to play in salvation, the most important role. But we have our own responsibilities and God given roles too. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 is very clear about our role in the reconciliation of men to God. As we read there:
“And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given TO US the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then WE are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray in Christ's stead, be you reconciled to God. For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
By giving His Son, God reconciled the world to himself. In other words the door to God is now open. Using again the example with the prisoners, the doors of the prison are all open! But the prisoners are blind. They cannot see it. They are blinded by the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4), the devil, so that they do not see the salvation that is available for them. Thus somebody needs to tell the people: “The door to God is now open! Please be reconciled to God. Because he has made sin for us the one who knew no sin so that we will be made the righteousness of God in Him!” This, the telling, the introduction of the people to the Lord, is the ministry of reconciliation. And who has this ministry? The answer is very simple: WE. It is our responsibility to tell the people. It is us that are ambassadors for Christ. If you want something from a foreign country you have to call the embassy of that country, the representatives, the “ambassadors” of that country. For God the ambassadors are US. God opened the doors of the prison, He opened the door to Him. He reconciled the world to Himself by giving His Son. Now we, the once prisoners, the once blinded, we need to say to those who are still prisoners and still blinded “come to God, the door is open!”
More clarity on responsibilities is given in 1 Corinthians 3:5-6. As we read there:
“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.”
See the turn. God has a role, the most important role to play. The role of giving the increase. But somebody has to throw the seed and somebody has to water. And this somebody is not God. It is us! It is the ministers, and this does not mean the clergy, but us, who have the ministry of reconciliation. The text does not say: “God planted, God watered, God gave the increase” There were people involved that had to do what God had called them to do. People who said “here is God, reconcile to Him” and as that person approached God, God met Him, drew him to Himself. There were also people, like Apollos, that watered the seed sown in the hearts of the people, opening the Word of God and sharing its truths with them. See also this “through whom” that I have marked in bold letters (“through whom you believed”). The means through whom these people believed were Paul and Apollos. They played their God given role - the role of the intermediate, the minister of reconciliation, the ambassador for Christ, the role of planting and watering. But imagine we say “here is God” and God does not show up. Then would that person meet Him? As much as he might want it, he would not meet Him. But God does do the drawing, does show up, does do His role. When therefore John says that nobody will come to the Father if the Father does not draw him to Himself it is absolutely true: if God does not show up, if God does not give the increase, you and I can plant and water as much as we want but nothing will happen. But God does show up, does do the drawing, does give the increase. The question is will we do our role, the ministry of reconciliation that is committed unto us, the planting and the watering, the “go into ALL the world and preach the gospel to EVERY creature” (Mark 16:15)? These are not acts of God but roles committed to us.
To sum it up dear brother: the doctrine that God has chosen some people to save over some others that He allegedly has not chosen is a very convenient but also very false doctrine. God’s choice, will, is that everybody gets saved and comes to the knowledge of the truth. If this is God’s choice for everybody what is then everybody? Chosen! Now whether he will really get saved or not depends on whether he will believe. If he will believe he will be saved. However, if he will not believe, he will not be saved. Does God have a role to play in this? Yes, the most important one: After a person invites God in his heart to reveal Himself to him, God will show up and draw him to Himself. This is the drawing of the Father Jesus is speaking about. Whoever had God revealed to him knows what I’m speaking about. This revelation of God is not something that He decides precariously to do, but something that He is obliged to do and will do based on His Word. Whoever seeks Him from His heart will find Him says the Word. God will show up, 100%, when somebody really seeks Him.
Now turning to us, God has given to US the ministry of reconciliation, the ministry of sowing the Word and watering. He does the increase (the drawing to Him) but the sowing and watering, the introduction of the people to the Lord, the ministry of reconciliation is given to us. The doctrine according to which God has chosen only certain human beings for salvation, which then implies that He has chosen some others for sending them to hell is a very false doctrine and has put people into sleep as they believe God will save whoever He wants. This is not true. We have responsibilities brothers and sisters and speaking the Word, looking for opportunities to spread the Gospel, is something that is on us to do. Speak the Word, tell the prisoners “get out of the prison”. Whether they will get out or not it is their responsibility. But it is our responsibility to tell them. It is our responsibility to show them the Father. As far as the Father is concerned, He wants them with all His heart! He paid for them the same price He paid for us and He waits for them with the same open arms He waited for us.