Let me make a parenthetical statement before we continue:
Why don’t we hear more about the doctrine of predestination these days? We don’t even hear much from those great preachers who believe it. Why? Because of “the terrible decree.”
Many people have suffered great agony-possibly gone mad-worrying about predestination. “Am I predestined to be saved or not?”
What is the use of my reading the Bible, praying, going to church, being faithful with the tithe, being a missionary-if I don’t even know whether I’m saved? It may be that God has decreed I am not among the elect.
Predestination is a horrible teaching, because, statistically speaking, the chances are you are not among the elect. Not-that’s the worst of it. Statistically, the chances are you are not elected to salvation. If I know that in crossing the road there is one chance in ten I’ll be hit by a car, I’ll be very careful. But if I know there are nine chances in ten, I’ll choose another route, thank you! Calvinistic predestination suggests that the chance of your being elected to salvation is small.
Predestination not in the Bible
Now note: There is a tremendous difference between the statement of predestination in the Calvinistic creed, with its gloom and doom, and the passages in the Bible that concern “predestination.” The latter are full of joy and hope, the very opposite of Calvin’s “horrible decree.” This contrast is very striking and in itself rebuts Calvinism.
Now, how many Bible passages are there using the word “predestination?” If you take a Strong’s Concordance, you won’t find any!
Obviously a doctrine that affects the destiny of everybody ought to be clearly spoken about in Scripture. And often. Correct? If a topic is a big deal, there ought to be big things written about it in the Bible. Yet, you don’t find the word “predestination” anywhere in Scripture.
Predestined is in the Bible
However, you do find the word “predestined.”
Now we will look at all the passages of Scripture where we find the word “predestined”:
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30).
Notice, please, that we have two uses of the verb, “predestined,” but no use of the noun “predestination.” You won’t find the noun anywhere in Scripture.
Let’s look at another passage:
“According as he hath 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, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4-6).
You ask, “Isn’t it a bit risky to hang a huge doctrine like predestination on these few verses?” The answer is yes. But there are other verses that are used, such as Acts 13:48:
“And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48).
This verse only means that all who accepted Christ, fulfilling God’s appointed way of salvation, found eternal life.
But the most important passage is in Romans 9. Let’s look at it:
“(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (Romans 9:11-21).
Main passage and predestination
Read on its own, the passage seems to offer support for predestination.
What, then, can we say about this passage? God says that he has loved Jacob, but hated Esau. It does not depend on a person’s desire of effort, but only upon God’s mercy. If God wants to harden Pharaoh’s heart, then God can harden it. Doesn’t the potter have power over the clay, to use it for a vessel of honour or a vessel of dishonour?
This is the main passage of Scripture supporting the idea of “the horrible decree”: that most of us were born lost, and despite anything we can do, we will burn forever and forever and forever and forever. A trillion years of agony for every second of existence here.
That’s a pretty horrible decree, all will admit, but a closer look at this passage will prove that the Bible teaches no such thing.