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In our congregation, reconciling the doctrine of predestination with free will is a vexed issue. I have been asked to address this in a blog.
First, let’s look briefly at predestination. The Bible clearly teaches predestination. Ephesians 1:4 says that God: “chose us in him before the foundation of the world”; verse five of that chapter says that “he predestined us”.
Romans 9 is a great chapter on predestination. It makes clear God’s sovereign free choice to choose whomsoever he will to be saved. He chose Jacob, not Esau, and that before they were born. It would be wrong therefore to say that God foresaw the good that Jacob would do, or his decision to believe, or anything else in Jacob. Such things cannot be the basis for God’s choice. Romans 9:10-13 clearly states:
And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.“
Note verse 11: God chose one and not the other before their birth and before they had done anything good or bad. Note the explanation in that verse: this was so that it would be up to God’s choice, not our works (including that of believing or making a decision).
Paul’s conclusion comes in verses 14-16:
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
Salvation is entirely up to God. How could it be otherwise? If I choose God then I can indeed take some credit for my salvation. I know that I am not saved by works. But if I am saved by my decision to believe, then I have substituted one good work that saves me (faith, or my decision) for many good works. No, salvation is 100% all of God. I am not saved by works – not even one. God chooses me. He saves me. He gave Jesus to die for my sins. Then he raised him from the dead, and poured out the Holy Spirit, which turned me to God, granting me repentance and faith. Every part of salvation is entirely up to God.