Five Questions About Predestination – #1 – When?

The Calvinist’s Challenge:

Predestination is undeniable! The Bible clearly teaches it, and anyone who denies it has to deny the teaching of the Bible. God predestined who he would choose to save and bring to faith in Jesus Christ. Before the world was created, and before anyone had done anything good or bad, God decided which individuals he would save. He didn’t save them because of the faith they would have in him, or for any goodness that would be in them, but only because he was pleased to save them. This truth is taught so thoroughly throughout scripture that it needs no defense. It only needs humble hearts that will throw away the worldly pride of humanism which tries to deny God’s right to decide who will be saved.

The Biblical Response:

I believe Calvinists misunderstand the teaching of the Bible concerning predestination. The above challenge is a perfect example of a half-truth. The first two sentences are completely true. Predestination is a biblical teaching that all Bible-believing Christians must accept. Calvinists are right to say that predestination is biblical. But what I cannot accept as biblical is their understanding of that doctrine.

The following illustration is not an underhanded attempt to suggest Mormons who are not Christian and our Calvinist brethren are in the same category. I hope my readers will forgive the comparison. Mormons believe that Jesus is the Son of God, which is clearly taught in the Bible. But they also believe that Jesus is the spirit-brother of Lucifer. In their minds he did not always exist and only became a full-fledged “god” after he finished his work on earth. They use biblical words to describe an unbiblical belief. Though the doctrine of predestination is not as crucial as the deity of Jesus Christ, I am convinced Calvinists have done the same thing with predestination that Mormons have done with the teaching about Christ. They have taken a biblical doctrine and given it an unbiblical meaning.

In order to clarify the biblical teaching about predestination we will break the topic down by asking five questions.

Question #1  “When?”

Question: When does God predestine?

Answer: Some time before he accomplishes his plan

This is clearly the easiest of the five questions we will answer. The answer for the question, “When does God predestine?” is found in the word itself. The prefix “pre” means “before.” “Destine” means to determine something. So the word simply means that God determined to accomplish something before the time arrived for him to do it.

In Acts 2:23 Peter tells his listeners that Jesus was handed over to the religious and political leaders of his day to be killed “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” God had a specific plan to give his Son as a sacrifice for the world. He had this plan long before the world was formed. For this reason Revelation 13:8 could declare about Jesus that he was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (KJV). In his infinite wisdom he foresaw that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day would have rebellious and jealous hearts. In accordance with this foreknowledge he decided to put Jesus in their hands, so that they would do what he determined beforehand should take place. And they did exactly what he knew they would do, and what he determined to allow them to do for His own purpose; they had Jesus crucified by the Roman government. So God determined what he would do, namely, to give Christ as a sacrifice for the world. And by his wisdom he planned exactly how he would bring it to pass, namely by allowing wicked men to crucify Christ.

In Acts chapter 4 while the believers were praying about the persecution they were facing, they once again brought up the predetermined plan of God to sacrifice Jesus by the hands of the rebellious men living in Jerusalem. But this time they use the word we are trying to understand. “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:38). Reading these parallel passages side by side we get a better understanding of the meaning of the word, predestined. These passages teach that God had a definite plan about how he was going to bring Christ to the cross. But the aspect we want to focus on here is that this plan was not just made sometime during the last week of Jesus life, during his 3 years of ministry or even at the time of his birth. This plan had been determined from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God. The word, predestine, simply means to plan something ahead of time or to determine something beforehand.

3 thoughts on “Five Questions About Predestination – #1 – When?

  1. Christie,
    I appreciate ur comment and ur struggle. This topic is a difficult one emotionally as well as intellectually. I will post a chapter from the book im writing about God’s sovereignty. After i finish the chapter on Romans 9 i will post it as well. U can press the “follow this blog” icon on the right side of the page to receive an email when i post new content, or u can just check in once in a while and go to the “calvinism (reformed theology” section of this site. I will try to remember to facebook u when i post the romans 9 chapter.
    Feel free to suggest any other issues about this topic that u struggle with and i will do my best to post something on them.

  2. Thank you for your perspective. I’ve been wrestling with this topic for the last six months or so. You’ve made a better case than some of the others I have read. I honestly just want to follow truth and not error. Having said that, I’m cautious to label myself as anything, i.e. Calvinist. As your are aware I’m sure, those of the reformed tradition hang their hat on Romans 9. I’m curious as to your perspective. My whole searching of this matter was a result of my husbands death. I had to face the sovereignty of God head on and this brought me to depths that I was unaware. If God is sovereign in all things, why not also salvation? It’s difficult to accept it, which is why I wrestle. At the end of day, I think what makes me any better than my neighbor or co-worker who has no evidence of God in their life? I say, only by his Grace. And then what about those who die without ever having the opportunity to hear the gospel? That hardly seems fair. Reformed teachers say, God’s purposes will be accomplished and he will find his sheep. I don’t know Chris, you certainly have a better grasp on things than I do, so please don’t think I’m challenging you. I just want to hear your perspective. I certainly don’t think it matters at the end of day what we believe on these matters. Calvinists and Armenians or however we want to label them, will be in heaven, all praising God for his glorious Grace. Blessings to you and your precious family.

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