In our visits together over these past few months, we have talked a lot about two very important concepts: becoming a child of God and the necessity for overcoming as part of that process. In one of my previous reflections, as we were looking at the passage of scripture in Ephesians 1: 3-14, we came across the term, predestined, but even though I had inserted my one-word interpretation of the term in my comments, I didn’t take the time then to address the more complete meaning of this often-troublesome term.
However, since predestination and its frequent companion, election, are so much a part of what it means to be a child of God, I would like to pause and do that now because down through the years these doctrines have been a source of so much confusion and conflict, not only for believers but for many unbelievers, as well—at times even providing them with the excuses they needed to avoid making decisions for Christ. However, these concepts are not all that difficult to grasp, once you have a proper understanding of God’s purpose for man and a clear definition of the terms involved.
The most important requirement for understanding predestination is the knowledge that God’s purpose in the creation of mankind was to bring into existence a people who could ultimately become His family. The significance of this purpose becomes clear when we look at three passages of Scripture that address the subject of predestination for in each passage, predestination is presented within the context of the believer’s membership in the family of God…
In Ephesians 1: 4-5: He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.
In Romans 8: 29: For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren [brothers].
In Ephesians 1:11: In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted Christ should be to the praise of His glory. (This verse should be coupled with Romans 8: 16-17: The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.)
From these passages, we can clearly see that we have been Predestined—
To be adopted as sons of God—that is, to be legally placed into the family of God as His children;
To be conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus—that is, to be remade spiritually until we think, look, and act like God’s children;
To obtain an inheritance—that is, as legally adopted sons, and as spiritually conformed sons, to inherit the estate of our Father. This inheritance was secured for us through the death of Jesus Christ and is an inheritance which we will receive upon our own deaths.
Once we understand that God’s purpose for predestination was to make us part of His family, then we can come to a better appreciation of the term’s definition. The word predestine is made up of two components: pre—meaning before + destine—meaning to set apart (or intend) for a certain purpose. When God says that we have been predestined, what He means is that pre-, or before the foundation of the world, He destined, or set man apart for a certain purpose—that is, He designed us in advance for a particular destiny. As we have just seen that destiny is…
To be adopted as sons of God;
To be conformed to the image of Christ; and,
To inherit the riches of the Father.
But how was this accomplished? First, God pre-designed us for our destiny by the way in which He created us; and second, through His plan for our re-creation, or salvation.
In Genesis 1: 26-28, we are told that when God created man, He created him in His own image and likeness. That is, He created man…
As a spiritual being who would live eternally, like God;
As a being with a personality made up of mind, will, and emotions, like God’s; and,
As a moral being with the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, like God.
As we have already learned, the first man, Adam, when seduced by Satan, failed the first test of sonship, which was obedience to the Father. As a result, man’s spirit, the means by which he communicated with God, died. Without the spirit to give godly direction to his personality, man became a slave not only to his fleshly desires, but a slave to Satan as well.
When God’s intended sons became slaves to sin and Satan, He put into effect the second part of His plan for our predestination—that is, His plan for our re-creation, or salvation. Through the substitutionary and sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, God provided the means by which we could be redeemed, justified, and regenerated from the curse, the penalty, and the power of sin. Then, through the work of the Holy Spirit, He provided the means by which we could be drawn to God, convicted of our need to be saved, converted from sinners into “sons” of God, and sanctified, or set apart for the holy purposes of God.
As you can see, every human being who has ever lived has been predestined—or designed beforehand—for the glorious destiny of becoming a child of God, just by virtue of the way He was created by God. However, because we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God’s intention for us, not everyone will realize that destiny, and this is where election comes into play.
By definition, election means a choosing or choice, implying that a vote of some sort has taken place. However, this does not mean that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have held an election in order to vote on which person will or will not be allowed into the family; for that would contradict the clear meaning of Scripture in passages like…
John 3:14-16: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Joel 2: 32 and Acts 2:21: And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Romans 10: 11: For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
So, if the members of the Godhead are not the Ones doing the voting, then that must mean that the ones who are making the choices are the humans involved. In other words, although God has predestined, or pre-designed, every human being to become a member of His family, the responsibility for electing, or choosing, to do so rests with the individual. The conclusion that we must come to is that God, in His foreknowledge, knows who will and who will not elect to become His children, but He does not do the electing for them. Man, having been created in the image of God, with the capacity to choose and a will to exercise, is not only given the opportunity but also the responsibility to choose where, and with whom, his spirit will spend eternity.
I hope that this brief explanation of predestination and election will help to alleviate any confusion that these doctrines may have caused you in the past and, just to clarify things a little more, here is a graphic that should help to simplify the subject even more.
The Gaither Vocal Band reminds of our destiny in “On the Authority.”