Predestination is not the Real Offense
The teaching of predestination/election can be troubling, but it shouldn’t be. It merely teaches that humanity is downing, and therefore, God has to jump in to rescue them. However, God is even more gracious than that. He rescues those who are His enemies (Rom. 8:5-8; 5:8-10) - those who even refuse to be rescued (John 3:19-20; Rom. 3:10-16). What is so bad about that? Nothing! Instead, it’s called the “Good News!”
I think that what many Christians really object to is not predestination, but instead the doctrine that requires predestination – our depravity and rebellion, our universal rejection of the light (John 3:19-20; 1 Cor. 2:14). Consequently, since we will not choose God, He must choose us (John 6:40-45; 15:16), if any are to be saved. But we find this dismal assessment of humanity both unbelievable and offensive!
Is humanity really that bad? Not according to us! But we do not see the inner man. We – even the most spiritual - are duped by appearances. The prophet Samuel certainly was! God had to warn him against judging according to the “outward appearance” (1 Sam. 16:7).
Perhaps all of us judge superficially, and therefore cannot appreciate the depths of sin and God’s abhorrence of it. Jeremiah had a hard time accepting God’s dismal evaluation of Israel. God therefore challenged him:
- “Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.” (Jer. 5:1)
Jeremiah too had a high estimation of humanity, especially of his own kind, and thought that it would be easy to find one honest man:
- I thought, “These are only the poor; they are foolish, for they do not know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God. So I will go to the leaders and speak to them; surely they know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God.” (Jer. 5:4-5)
Because Jeremiah had had a high estimation of the educated Israelite, he found God’s assessments and judgments unbelievable and unduly harsh. However, Jeremiah found that all Israel was in rebellion against the Lord. Even his own family wanted to kill him for bringing the message of God. (It is interestingly to note that even though Israel’s rejection of their God had often included every Israelite, the Prophets never blamed God for their rebellion.)
However, once Jeremiah began to see the extent of human rebellion, he too began to reassess humanity and affirm God’s righteous judgments. In fact, he began to plead with God not to forgive.
If we could only see the extent of human rebellion and our hatred towards the Savior, perhaps we might really regard predestination as Good News, which it truly is, and appreciate the extreme generosity of God’s mercy.
It is imperative to understand these depths of our hatred of the light, our enmity against God, however offensive this might be. When we understand the extent of God’s forgiveness of our sins in light of this, we will be truly grateful. Failing to perceive this, we tend to disregard God’s grace.
Jesus was invited to a top-of-the-line pharisaic lunch. A woman He had forgiven entered uninvited and anointed His feet in expensive oil. The host was appalled both by this woman and that Jesus allowed this base creature to touch him. Jesus therefore explained that she was more blessed than the host: “He who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47)
The woman loved much because she knew that she had been forgiven much. Often, we do not know the extent to which we have sinned and have been forgiven and, therefore, love little and disdain God’s just ways. If we only understood the extent of Christ’s forgiveness, we would not be offended by God’s judgments, knowing that they are just. Instead, we’d fully accept the Bible’s judgment that sin deserves death (Romans 6:23; Deut. 27:26). We would also gladly embrace whatever mercy that God might offer – predestination.
There is also another danger when we fail to appreciate the extent of our rebellion against the light – boasting! For my first 15 years in Christ, I believed that I had chosen Christ and not the other way around. Why had I chosen Christ? I had convinced myself that it was because I was more spiritual than others. In doing this, I exalted myself and looked down on others (Luke 18:9-14). Consequently, I had to suffer for years before I could recognize that I had been boasting and that this had been offensive to the One who had given me the faith to believe.
The same had been true for King Nebuchadnezzar, the great Babylonia empire-builder. Understandably, he was convinced that he was great and that his greatness was all about him. However, he had a disturbing dream which changed everything. Daniel interpreted it for him:
- It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. (Daniel 4:24-25)
For seven years, Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind, thinking that he was a cow. Why had God punished him in this manner? Because of his warfare? Taking Israel into captivity? His treatment of the poor? No! It was simply to learn a theological lesson – that his success wasn’t about Him but about God, who chooses “whom He will!”
At the end of the seven years of grievous suffering, Nebuchadnezzar got the point and gave all of the thanks to God for choosing him. If this pagan, unenlightened by Scripture, was held to account for his boasting, we will, even more so, be held accountable.
Why? Because God actually deserves the credit! If someone gives you a magnificent painting from their studio, you hang it up in your house, and others ask if you had painted this masterpiece, should you take credit for painting it? If you do, would not the real artist be offended? Likewise, if faith is God’s gift to us (Eph. 2:8-9; Philip. 1:29; Acts 18:27; 16:14; 13:48) and if we take credit for it, as I had, would not God be offended?
Instead, it is only fitting to credit God for our salvation and even for the faith to receive it – God’s predestined salvation!