9 Jan 2023
The subject of predestination brings out a great deal of controversy, chief of which is how God, being a just God, can be so unfair as to choose some for salvation and bypass the rest.
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…and those whom he predestined he also called.” (Romans 8:29-30).
I discovered the summary on this subject by the late J.I. Packer as very comprehensive:
“The doctrine of predestination resolves three vital questions: First, how is it that I am a Chrisian today? Second, what confidence can I have of getting to heaven? Third, what have I to thank God for?
What the truth of predestination teaches me is this: First, I am a Christian today because God chose from eternity to make me one. He went the first mile when he sent his Son from heaven to die on the cross for my sins. He went the second mile when he called me by grace, working in my heart so that I responded to the gospel message in a way I would not have done had he not so worked. It is thanks to God’s predestination that I am a Christian.
Second, I have every confidence of getting to heaven. The doctrine of predestination says that once you have believed, God promises to keep you believing. Once he has brought you to faith, according to his predestinating purpose, he will complete that purpose. In is all his doing, and it is guaranteed by his sovereignty. So I am safe in his hands, and my hope is secure.
Third, I owe God thanks for my entire Christian life – for the fact that I have been converted no less than for the fact that there was a Savior for me to turn to.
The doctrine of predestination teaches us humility, the humility which acknowledges every spiritual benefit as God’s gracious gift to me. Also, it reveals my security, telling me that God’s purpose guarantees final glory for me. Finally, it prompts doxology, praise to God for the greatness of his grace to me. Those who embrace predestination praise God far more than others do, for they recognise more as God’s gifts to them”.
In our study on Galatians, in our dg group, a question was raised as to how the people during Paul’s time could have confidence that Paul was preaching the true gospel as there was no complete Bible at that time. We noted that Paul, when he was Saul, was a Pharisee who studied under the renown Gamiliel, and he was very diligent in keeping the Torah and the law; he also had the Old Testament as the Scripture of the day. The Lord Jesus Himself, when He was on earth as God incarnate, testified that the Old Testament is the Word and Revelation of God. So Paul was also looking for the Messiah, prophesied in the Old Testament, but he rejected Jesus as the Messiah initially.
I raised Paul as a great example of Predestination: Saul, as a Pharisee, was bent on persecuting the church and believers before he met Christ; he was responsible for putting many believers in prisons and also possibly causing the death of some believers as well.
But Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). He acknowledged Christ as the Messiah and the Son of God and that caused a dramatic change in the direction and understanding in his life; he became a champion of the gospel and became the great Apostle Paul (he made so many missionary journeys; founded many churches; and he was responsible for writing more than half the New Testament).
The Lord Jesus said to Ananias whom He sent to restore Paul’s sight (for Paul was blinded by the very bright vision of Christ on the road to Damascus): “Go! This man (Paul) is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16).
Paul never forget he was chosen by God despite his persecution of the church and Christ – he called himself the ‘chief of all sinners’; he declared, ‘by the grace of God, I am what I am’; and Paul never flinched in all his sufferings for Christ, for he knew God had chosen him and would enable him to finish his mission.
In the later part of his ministry, he told the Ephesian elders: “..I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news (the gospel) of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).
As we consider how the great enemy of the early church, Saul, fully equipped with the teachings of the Old Testament, self-assured that he was pleasing to God as he kept the Torah diligently, suddenly, in his encounter with Christ, realised that he could not save himself. He then fully understood the meaning of God’s grace, mercy and love, and he appreciated fully the whole gospel. This is the Paul who wrote Galatians and ‘fought’ to defend the true Gospel and to be faithful to his Lord. This is the Paul who endured beatings, stoning, intense persecution by Gentiles and Jews alike, and finally was beheaded by the Emperor of Rome for testifying to the Gospel of Christ.
Paul was one who benefited from God’s choice from eternity; he was, like us, one who was saved for eternity because of Predestination!