Predestined By God
"In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will." Ephesians 1:11
Yesterday, July 20, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of man walking on the moon. It was a remarkable achievement of determination and ingenuity, to this day the most indomitable feat of human-kind. For the first time in human history, man set foot on another celestial body other than our own planet, a quarter of a million miles from earth. The space race of 50 years ago changed the very way that we saw ourselves in the cosmos. Looking down at our planet from the moon, we had a new perspective of Earth among the stars.
When you first became a Christian, you had a very elementary understanding of your sin against God and the work that He had done to redeem you—that Jesus Christ had died on the cross and risen from the grave, and that by faith in Him, you have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God. As far as you were concerned, you decided to follow Jesus. But as you grew to understand God's word, your perspective has likely changed.
From the word of God, you come to find that you had nothing to do with your salvation at all. You were a wretched sinner enslaved to sin, incapable of doing anything pleasing to God. You came to faith not because you did anything good but because God is good. You believe not according to the purpose of your will but according to the purpose of Him who wills it.
The word of God shows us the mind of God—the perspective of God. From your perspective, you made a choice. From God's perspective, He chose you, "before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:4-6).
Why I Believe in God's Sovereign Election
Because God is infinitely good and we are not, I believe that before the foundation of the world, God predetermined whom He would save and whom He would not. I believe the Bible clearly teaches it. Romans 9:22-23 says, "What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory?"
Every person stands before a holy God condemned for their rebellion against Him. But God elected from sinful man whom He would deliver from His wrath and effected their salvation at the cross of Christ. Those who hear the gospel and believe by faith have been called into His grace, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of glory. God will lose none of those whom He has redeemed. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ—the good news that He has saved us from our sins.
This is the doctrine of God's sovereign election. To address the elephant in the room, this view of predestination is commonly referred to as Calvinism—both by those who hold this view and by those who have objections with it. Though John Calvin taught the theology which now bears his name, he didn't come up with it. He, along with many other biblical theologians before and after him, merely affirmed what has already been written in the Bible.
I believe in and preach nothing less than the full counsel of God. Though others have called me many things, the only C-word you or anyone else has ever heard me call myself is a Christian.
Dr. Michael L. Brown once presented this question: "Do you agree with Calvin 'that nothing happens but what [God] has knowingly and willingly decreed'?" I responded to him this way: "I agree with the Bible that nothing happens but what God has knowingly and willingly decreed." I directed him to Lamentations 3:37-38 which says, "Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?"
Our faith is built—as the church always has been—on the word of God. The Bible is God's word. And what the Bible says is that God is sovereign; meaning, He is the Supreme Ruler. He has all power. Full authority. Preeminence (Colossians 1:18). No where in the Bible does it say He's given up any of His sovereignty. He's not "sovereign, but." He is absolutely sovereign.
Here are seven statements about His sovereignty according to Scripture.
1) God is Sovereign.
Psalm 103:19 says that the Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all. In Acts 4:24, the apostles praised God saying, "O Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them," and then proceeded to praise Him for what He had decreed and predestined to take place.
In 1 Timothy 6:15-16, Paul refers to God as "only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen."
2) Everything God decrees happens.
In Genesis 1:3, God decreed, "Let there be light," and it happened. Only He creates ex nihilo, or "out of nothing" (see also Hebrews 11:3). Psalm 33:9 says, "For He spoke and it came to be; He commanded and it stood firm." Ecclesiastes 3:14 says, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to end."
Isaiah 14:24 says, "The Lord of hosts has sworn: 'As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so it shall stand.'" Later in 55:11, He says, "So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Are the people of Christ not obeying that command in faithful submission to this day?
In John 11:43-44, Jesus stood at the grave of Lazarus, who had been dead for four days. And He said, "Lazarus, come out." As He commanded, so it happened—Lazarus rose from the dead.
3) Nothing happens that God hasn't decreed.
I've mentioned already Lamentations 3:37-38, where it says nothing happens that the Lord hasn't spoken. Job in his trouble said, "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10). In Job 14:5, he said that man's "days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass."
Proverbs 16:33 says, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." In Isaiah 45:7, God says, "I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things." Amos 3:6 says, "Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?"
In James 4:13-15, we read, "Come now, you who says, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'"
4) No one can change what God has decreed.
Job again says, "If He tears down, none can rebuild; if He shuts a man in, none can open" (c.12:14). Proverbs 21:30 says, "No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord." Ecclesiastes 7:13 says, "Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked?" Isaiah 14:27 says, "For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?"
In John 10:28-29, Jesus said of His followers, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." In Romans 8, we are reminded, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (v.31), and told there is nothing that "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (v.39).
5) God knows and sees all.
Psalm 139 gives praise to God for His omniscience and omnipresence: "O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?"
Proverbs 15:3 says, "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and on the good." Matthew 12:36 says, "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak." Hebrews 4:13 says, "No creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." We are told in 1 John 3:20, "He knows everything." And Revelation 2:23, Jesus says, "I am He who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works."
6) God does as He pleases.
Psalm 115:3 says plainly: "Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases." In Matthew 20:15, Jesus said through a parable to His disciples, "Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?" Philippians 2:13 says, "For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."
Hebrews 13:21 says that God will "equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."
7) God has purposed all things for His glory.
In Acts 2:23, Peter proclaimed with the gospel, "This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." God intended even the death of His own Son, the greatest evil act ever perpetrated by men, to bring about the salvation of His elect and glory to His name.
In Revelation 6:10, the martyrs for the gospel cry out to God, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" They know that He and He alone will bring about the completeness of His sovereign decree in the fullness of time.
In Revelation 17:17, God sovereignly uses even His enemies: "For God has put it into their hearts to carry out His purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled." He has ordained the ends and the means to that end. God has purposed all things for His glory.
According to the Purpose of Him Who Works
Whatever your views are regarding the subjects of election, adoption, redemption, or predestination, I pray you'll join me in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. Many brothers of mine, and even members of my own congregation, do not view this subject the same way that I do. Yet we love and encourage one another in the faith. Let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual up-building (Romans 14:19). Here are five reasons as to why this is important (relax, it's not the five points of Calvinism):
First, so your prayers would not be hindered. If you have a limited understanding of who God is, your prayers will also be limited.
Second, so you would be relieved of your burdens. If you believe that your salvation is dependent upon a choice you've had to make or it's dependent upon your continued choices to maintain it, then you are being weighed down by an unnecessary burden. I hope you see from the Scriptures that salvation—including faith and belief, even repentance itself—is not the work of man. Salvation is from beginning to end the gracious work of God.
Third, so you will be more considerate of others. Sovereignty means supreme governance. Autonomy means self-governance. When you fight for your own autonomy—or free will, as it's termed—you oppose the sovereignty of God. This is not only a conflict with God, you cause strife between yourself and others—your autonomy vs. their autonomy. Consider others' needs as Christ considered our need by being obedient to the will of His Father (see Philippians 2:1-11).
Fourth, so you would understand your sin rightly. If we do not have a right understanding of our sin, we are prone to think more of ourselves and less of God. You also cannot repent of your sin if you don't know your sin. That affects your worship. The more we make of God, the less we make of us. The more we see His holiness, the more we're aware of our own depravity and need for a Savior, praising Him for the goodness He has shown to us. As John the Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).
Fifth, so you may worship God appropriately. It is important that we worship God for who He has said He is, not who we want Him to be. May we understand His theology according to His own words in the Bible, and not try to fit Him in our box or impose our ideas onto His.
The late Dr. R.C. Sproul was brilliant in his articulation of the sovereignty of God over all of His creation. Consider these words:
If something happens in this world—by the power of men, by the power of nature, by the power of machines—God always has the power and authority to prevent it, at least, from happening. Does He not? And if He does not prevent it from happening, then that means at least this much—that He has chosen to let it happen.If I might take the liberty of filling out the rest of this statement for Dr. Sproul, God is indeed sovereign, and there is no maverick molecule, and in knowing that, you can be sure, my brothers and sisters in the Lord, that every promise God has given you in His Son will come to pass.
That doesn't mean He applauds it. That doesn't mean that He's in favor of it, insofar as He gives His divine sanction to it. But He does allow—not in the sense of, again, approving all the time—but He does allow it to happen, and in so allowing, He is making a decision. And He is making it sovereignly. And He knows in advance what's going to happen, and if He decrees that it shall happen, He is retaining His sovereignty over it.
Now if things happen in this world outside the sovereignty of God, then that would simply mean that God is not sovereign. And if God is not sovereign, then God is not God. It's that simple. And if the God you believe in is not a sovereign God, then you really don't believe in God. You may have a theory of God. You may have theoretical theism, but bottom line, for all practical purposes, it's no different from atheism, because you're believing in a god who is not sovereign.
Now what are the practical implications of a non-sovereign god? Think of it now from the perspective of those of you who are professing Christians. I like to explain it this way: if there's one maverick molecule in the universe running loose outside of the control of God's sovereignty, then the practical implications for us as Christians is that we have no guarantee whatsoever that any future promise that God has made to His people will come to pass.
This blog was taken from a sermon preached on Sunday, July 21, 2019 at First Southern Baptist Church in Junction City. You can listen to it by clicking here.