The Key to being able to teach both Predestination and Free Will
By Sandy Simpson, 5/14/16
When I was in college one of the favorite all night jam sessions was the Predestination vs. Free Will debate. We would stay up all night and never resolve the problem. Though I was a Christian I was somewhat immature at the time and had not learned the principle of not imposing manmade constructs on the Scriptures (eisegesis) but rather letting the Bible interpret itself (exegesis) since it consists of the Word of God as breathed by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16) through the prophets, Apostles and of course, the Word incarnate, Jesus Christ. There is a famous saying that states: "A text, out of context, in isolation from co-text is always a pre-text." It certainly was a “pretext” for our lengthy useless arguments on this subject.
I heard a biblical teacher and scholar, who I respect, state while teaching Romans 8, that he did not really understand how to explain Predestination. I remembered that I used to say that and I have heard many less than five point Calvinists say the same thing. The reason I say that is because full five point Calvinists have no problem saying that God predestined some people to heaven and some to hell without explanation. I discovered many years ago that if your doctrinal position prohibits you from explaining Scripture or causes you to skip certain troublesome verses altogether, then you need to readjust your doctrine, not the other way around. When you find that you cannot teach certain passages of Scripture that is a good indication you have a lot left to learn. I am not saying a person can fully explain the Trinity, for instance, but we can at least illuminate what the Bible teaches while stating that the full mystery of the Trinity will be revealed when we see Jesus in the Resurrection (1 Cor. 13:12). We need to stick with what the Bible teaches instead of theologians who may have had some good ideas but may also have has wrong interpretations that have lead many into error. I talk about the many problems of Calvinism vs. Arminianism in an article I wrote some years ago here. I resolved many years ago to stop being a 3.5 point Calvinist and start teaching what the Bible teaches. On the subject of Predestination vs. Free Will I found myself finally able to teach verses like Rom. 8:29-30 (Predestination) and 2 Pet. 3:17 (falling away). I could teach them without interjecting some lame interpretations to make them fit in with a system of doctrine but rather for their own merit as they were intended.
The Key I am talking about in this article to teaching Predestination is not to start with that as a basis but to start with what the Bible lays as a foundation for Predestination.
Romans 8:29-30 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
1 Peter 1:2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
So the issue of Predestination is based on the omniscience of God, His foreknowledge. It does not start with Predestination out of the blue but is based on God knowing who, having heard the Gospel and been convicted by the Holy Spirit who opens their blind eyes to their sinful nature and the reason why Jesus Christ had to come an die a substitutionary death in their place to pay for their sins, known from eternity past, who would truly believe on the Lord Jesus Christ unto salvation. I have heard so many preachers who have been led down the path to full on Calvinism start with Predestination and end up with ideas like (1) God predestined some to hell and some to heaven (2) that since God predestined He also gives “Christians” their faith, thus they don’t have to believe to be saved and (3) since they don’t have to believe to be saved, they also do not have to hold on to their faith and they cannot walk away from God. Look up the following verses concerning the above points.
(1) 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
(2) Acts 16:31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
(3) Hebrews 3:14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,
You can see how easy it is to refute complex arguments by Calvinists with a few verses if you are inclined to argue from Scripture, not some manmade construct. The same goes for the Pelegian/Arminian teaching that (1) since Adam and Eve ate from the tree of Good and Evil humans do not have a sin nature and (2) they have enough good in them to accept Jesus Christ as Savior with their own will. Again, the Bible begs to differ.
(1) Romans 7:18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Romans 7:25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
(2) Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
The problem of sin in Rom. 3:23 is not talking merely about a choice to sin sometimes; it is talking about the sin nature that comes down from sin entering the world through the original sin of Satan (Is. 14:13-14), then Adam and Eve (Rom. 5:14). So if you teach according to the Scriptures you will know that man cannot be born again by simply exercising their fallen will. They have to hear the Gospel (Eph. 1:13), be convicted by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8) who opens their blind eyes (2 Cor. 4:4), recognize they have a sin nature (Rom. 7:18) and also choose to sin (Rom. 6:1-3) which makes it impossible for them to have a relationship with God (John 9:31, Rom. 5:8), understand that they have to believe in and commit to the salvation gift of Jesus Christ (John 6:35), and then hold on to that till the end (Heb. 3:14, Phil. 2:16, 2 Thes. 2:15, Rev. 2:25, 3:11).
So the key to correctly teaching about Predestination is to teach it in the sequence Paul set down which is foreknown, predestined, called, justified, glorified. If you start somewhere other than at the beginning, you will not be able to teach the Scriptures properly. Predestination, and so forth, is all based on the foreknowledge of God. Remember that we need to define Scripture not only by immediate context but in the light of the whole counsel of God’s Word.
Just to illustrate how far out some Calvinists can go, I have heard the argument many times that there is only one place in the Bible where it uses the word freewill, implying man was not give the freedom of will. My answer is that the whole Bible is an account of how the will of man either causes him judgment if not submitted to God and glorification if he does the will of God.
On the other side the Arminian position causes them to say things like “People are basically good” or conversely “When a person sins they need to be born again each time they sin”. You would think that both of those positions would be opposite but they both come from the premise that they believe men are a mixture of good and bad. They do not realize that we cannot be good enough to have a relationship with God and the only way possible is for the Lord Jesus Christ to create in a person a new spirit and the Holy Spirit come and dwell there. Also if a person believes they cannot be justified once for all they depend on themselves for salvation through a choice of their will.
Here is a verse I always remember in this debate:
2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”
The wonderful thing is that God is the One who knows who belong to Him. We can only see who is walking with Him now, but we do not know the final outcome, thus we can pray for people to be saved and witness to them, but we cannot know the final outcome of salvation for them. But we also know that if we are truly born again there will be fruit, namely “abstinence from wickedness”. We are tasked by God with checking to make sure we are truly in the Faith since we are not omniscient.
2 Corinthians 13:5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?
Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. We cannot save ourselves. But we must exercise faith in order to appropriate the grace of Christ to ourselves upon hearing the Gospel and having our eyes opened by the Lord. There is also only one name under heaven by which men may be saved (Acts 4:12).
I hope the key of foreknowledge will help you in presenting the Truth set down in the highest revelation, the written Word of God.