Biblical Predestination, Election, and Free Will – Jesse Morrell

An excerpt from the book, “The Natural Ability of ManA Study on Free Will & Human Nature by Jesse Morrell”

To Order: Click Here

 

Biblical Election & Predestination

            Some might be thinking, “If salvation requires man’s free and personal choice, what about election and predestination?” The answer is actually simple. Many have turned an issue of simplicity into an issue of complexity. The reason that many fall into serious error on this topic is because they fail to consider the circumstances and culture which Paul was writing in. Historical context is a necessary consideration in proper hermeneutics. Men read the writings of Paul through the eyes of the Reformers rather than through the eyes of the Early Church.

In the days of the Early Church the Jews were considered the “chosen people.”  The Gentiles, on the other hand, were not seen by many as being chosen by God. Many of the Jews were even outraged at the thought that God would seek after the Gentiles (Lk. 4:25-29), not remembering that Israel as a nation was intended to be a light and a blessing to all nations (Gen. 22:18; 26:4; Isa. 42:6; 49:6; Acts 13:47).

Predestination, you could say, is God’s predetermined plan and destiny for nations. The Lord predetermined to have a holy people from both the Jews and Gentiles. The question during the time of the Early Church was not, “Has God predestined individuals?” But the controversial question was, “has God also to the Gentiles given repentance unto life?” (Acts 11:18) It was not that God predestined individuals to be saved or damned but that God also offers salvation to the Gentiles so that they too are chosen by God. God’s heart for the entire world and all nations is seen in the atonement (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 2:2) and in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16:15).

Paul’s specific ministry was to the Gentiles (Acts 26:17-18; Gal. 2:7; Eph. 3:8). That is why we see Paul confirming to the Church of Ephesus that “He has chosen us” (Eph. 1:4). The Church in Ephesus was made up of Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:17). The Jews were not the only ones chosen by God, but the Gentiles also were. This was a revelation, or a mystery, not fully revealed until the time of the New Testament. “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery… Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister… that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph 3:1-9).

In Eph. 2:11-19, Paul told the Gentile believers that God brought them into the commonwealth of Israel, whereas before they were alienated and were far off, now they are brought in by the blood of Christ. Christ removed the wall of separation which was the ordinances of the Law of Moses, such as the one which required circumcision, so that God can make twain one new man of both Jew and Gentile. Now the Gentiles are fellow citizens with the saints and the household of God. The election of both the Jews and Gentiles is a major theme all throughout Ephesians.

Paul taught that salvation is “not to that only which is of the law,” which are the Jews, “but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham,” which are the Gentile believers. Therefore, Abraham “is the father of us all,” both Jew and Gentile (Rom. 4:16).

Since Paul’s ministry was to the Gentiles, we see Paul’s extensive defense of the election of the Gentiles all throughout Romans, especially in Romans chapter nine, ten, and eleven. “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Rom. 9:24). Salvation was now made available to the Gentiles. “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith” (Rom. 9:30). Clearly, Gentiles have also been chosen by God for salvation.

God’s election of the Gentiles was always a part of His plan, that is, it was predetermined. “As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people, and her beloved, which was not beloved” (Hosea 2:23; Rom. 9:25; 1 Pet. 2:10). God’s heart had always been for all people. God has always planned to bless all nations (Gen. 22:18). “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed” (Gal. 3:8).

In Ephesians, Paul continually uses the words “us” and “we” in relation to being chosen by God. He never uses the words “I” or “you.” That is because election is national, not individual. The Jews and Gentiles were both chosen people, but God did not decide which individual Jews or which individual Gentiles would choose to be saved and become part of His elect or precious people.  As Jed Smock said, “Election includes all Jews and Gentiles potentially, but no man unconditionally.”1

Many of the Jews thought that they were unconditionally elected to salvation because they were children of Abraham (Matt. 3:9; Lk. 3:8). We must understand that neither salvation nor damnation is hereditary but requires personal choice and is, therefore, conditional instead of unconditional. The cutting off of Israel and the grafting in of the Gentiles was not unconditional but conditional. The Gentiles were grafted in because they believed but Israel was cut off because they believed not (Rom. 11:20-23). Jesus told the unbelieving Jews, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matt. 21:43). God is completely justified in this, as God “hath… mercy on whom he will” (Rom. 9:18). God has chosen to have mercy on those who choose to repent and believe, while God has chosen to condemn those who refuse to repent and believe in Christ. “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). That is because God only chooses to save those who obey the call.

The Bible explicitly says that men make themselves vessels of honor by choosing to purge themselves of their sins (2 Tim. 2:21). On the other hand, if men choose to persist in their sin, God makes them into vessels of wrath because they have fitted themselves for destruction (Jer. 18:4; Rom. 9:21-22). God does not do this eagerly but through “longsuffering” (Rom. 9:22), because He wanted them to repent (2 Pet. 3:9). But Israel had marred itself and fitted itself for destruction by persisting in sin and ultimately rejecting the Messiah. Therefore, God made them a vessel to receive His wrath. Israel cannot object to this since the potter has power over the clay (Rom. 9:21). God can use His own wise judgment and just discretion in appointing some to eternal life (believers) and others to damnation (unbelievers).

God, who is the potter, was not at fault for the marred clay since the Lord originally intended to make Israel a different type of vessel. His original plan was not for them to be a vessel of wrath. “And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O House of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? Saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them” (Jer. 18:4-10).

God had an original plan but had to change His plans when the clay was marred. Making Israel a vessel of wrath was not God’s plan from the beginning. God made Israel a vessel for wrath but it was only because of their sinful choices. John Wesley said, “The vessels of wrath – Those who had moved his wrath by still rejecting his mercy. Fitted for destruction – By their own willful and final impenitence.”2 Pelagius said, “By filling up the quota of their sins they became vessels worthy of wrath, and by their own doing they became vessels prepared for destruction.”3

Someone might ask, “If Romans chapter nine is talking about God’s predetermined plan for nations, and not necessarily individuals, why does it refer to Jacob and Esau who were individuals?” Actually, by choosing Israel over Esau, God was choosing one nation over the other. Jacob and Esau represented two nations. Jacob represented the Israelites and Esau represented the Edomites. “And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23).

Paul uses this scenario or example in his defense of the election of the Gentiles and the cutting off of the Jews to show or illustrate that God has the right and authority to do this. But Paul was not saying that Jacob was chosen unconditionally for salvation and Esau was chosen unconditionally for damnation. There is nothing in the Old or New Testament which states such a thing. In fact, the opposite is seen since Paul says that the chosen people were cut off and the Gentiles were grafted in.

Since Jacob was not chosen to unconditional salvation because Israel was cut off, we cannot assume that Esau was chosen to unconditional reprobation. It is a very strange and wild interpretation of Romans nine to say that God unconditionally and eternally choose Jacob to be saved and Esau to be damned. God choose the one and not the other to be the “chosen people” who would inhabit the promise land, be separated from the rest of the world, and from which the Messiah would come. But regarding their personal salvation it says absolutely nothing at all.

Regarding the words predestination and election, Jed Smock said, “Biblically these terms are primarily associated with the call of the Jews and Gentiles to join together, ‘to make in himself of twain one new man (the Church), so making peace,’ between these two estranged people (Eph 2:15). These terms should not be associated with some fictitious Calvinistic notion, that God unconditionally elected before Creation certain individuals to eternal salvation and reprobated the rest of humanity to eternal destruction.”4

When predestination is properly understood in Scriptural and historical context, this doctrine shows us that God wants everyone to be saved, both Jew and Gentile, and not that He has arbitrarily elected some individuals and capriciously reprobated other individuals for no other reason than the good pleasure of His will. To take the doctrine of predestination and twist it to mean that God doesn’t want everyone to be saved is to greatly distort the wonderful Biblical truth of predestination.

The very idea that God’s plan for the majority of the world is for them to sin and be damned is contrary to the entire truth of the Bible. While it may burst our theological bubble and preconceived ideas of God, when the Lord repented of creating mankind when He saw how they were continually choosing to sin, this implies that had God known that they were going to sin He would not have created them in the first place (Gen. 6:5-6). This explains why God did not create hell with mankind in mind (Matt. 25:41). God did not create men to sin and neither did God create hell for men.

Contrary to what John Calvin taught, that many men were “made and formed”5 for damnation, the Bible says mankind was created for the pleasure of God (Rev. 4:11) and that God takes no pleasure in sin or in the damnation of the wicked (Gen. 6:5-6; Ps. 5:4; Eze. 33:11). Therefore, mankind was created to live holy and not to be sinful. Men were made to have a relationship with God, not to be damned. Clearly, God did not create mankind to be sinful and damned but God created all of us for His pleasure, to glorify Him by walking in the beauty of holiness.

God’s plan from the beginning was for Jews and Gentiles to live holy. God “hath chosen us [Jew & Gentile] in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love…” (Eph. 1:4) Holiness is the moral quality of a person’s state of will and love is a personal choice. Therefore, what we have been chosen to is in no way contrary to our will or independent of our will, but our will must be involved. God did not choose for us to be holy or loving despite our choice, since this is impossible or an intrinsic contradiction, but He chose for us to be holy and loving by our free choice.

Biblical predestination, when it is properly understood, is not at all contrary to the free will or natural ability of man, nor is it contrary to the Biblical truth that salvation requires man’s free choice. Election does not coerce anyone to obey the gospel; neither does election hinder anyone from obeying the gospel. The gospel is free to be obeyed by both Jew and Gentile. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25; 1 Pet. 1:17).

God’s call to men to convert from death to life, from sin to holiness, from damnation to salvation, is a call which is made to all. God did not arbitrarily choose from all of eternity a few for Heaven and most for hell. God’s decree regarding man’s salvation is, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). He has left it up to our own choice.

Calvinists will ask, “But didn’t Jesus say that you have not chosen me but I have chosen you?” Yes, in Jn. 15:16 Jesus said that. But who did He choose and what did He choose them for? Such qualifications make a world of difference.

The answer is that He chose twelve men for apostleship. When Jesus said that He choose them and that they did not choose Him, Jesus was talking about apostleship and not salvation. The Bible says, “…the apostles whom he had chosen” (Acts 1:2). Jesus already said, “If any man will come after me…” (Matt. 16:24; Lk. 9:23). To “will” in the Greek means to “have in mind, intend,” “to be resolved or determined, to purpose.”6 Those whom Jesus chose to be Apostles were among those who already chose to come after him. “And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples, and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles…” (Lk. 6:13) Jesus chose, out of those who were already choosing to be his disciples, who would be his apostles. They choose to be his disciples but Jesus chose them to be his apostles.

Albert Barnes rightly understood this and said, “It refers here, doubtless, to his choosing or electing them to be apostles…”7 It was common for Christ to talk to his apostles in this manner. He said, “I know whom I have chosen” (Jn. 13:18). “Have I not chosen you twelve” (Jn. 6:70). And he said, “I have chosen you” (Jn. 15:19). Jesus did not talk to all of his disciples this way, but only to his twelve apostles. To take what Jesus said about His apostles and apply it to all believers is to terribly misunderstand or grossly distort the Word of God.

In order to teach an arbitrary and individual predestination and election from the Bible, Calvinists have to twist verses and give their own definitions to words. Calvinists have made much use of the word “elect” in their theology. They use the word to teach that Christians do not have a free will but are irresistibly chosen by God to salvation. But the word “elect” itself does not necessarily imply an arbitrary choice on God’s part to coerce certain individuals to be saved. The Greek word for “elect” means “choice, select, i.e. the best of its kind or class, excellence preeminent: applied to certain individual Christians.”8 “Elect” in the Greek can even be translated as “precious.”9

So when the Bible talks about the holy Church being the “elect” (Mk. 13:27), and even the holy angels as “elect” (1 Tim. 5:21), it means that they are the most precious, preeminent, excellent, or the best of their kind. This is what the Scriptures means when it says that Jesus Christ was elect. “Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious, and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded” (1 Pet. 2:6). The “elect” are those holy beings who are very precious and choice in the eyes of the Lord, as one may talk of “choice fruits” or “choice flowers” being the best and most precious of their kind. The Bible never describes sinful or unsaved men as “elect.”  It is holy men, holy angels, and holy Jesus who are called elect or precious to God.

Someone might ask “Why is one person saved while another person is not?” Some have blamed God in answering this question. Calvinists say God doesn’t want everyone to be saved. But if God doesn’t want everyone to be saved, why should we want everyone to be saved? If God doesn’t want that, neither should we. If we want everyone to be saved, but God does not, are we more benevolent than God is? Or if we want everyone to be saved, but God does not want everyone to be saved, wouldn’t that make us ungodly for wanting everyone to be saved? Imagine that! Being ungodly for having universal benevolence!

The law of God demands that we love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). But if we obey that command by wanting everyone to be saved, when God does not want everyone to be saved, then we are ungodly for obeying that command! We would be ungodly for obeying the law of God!

Yet at the same time, we are under moral obligation to imitate God. We are told to be holy and perfect as He is (Matt. 5:48; 1 Pet. 1:16). If God doesn’t want everyone to be saved, neither should we, or else we are violating our moral obligation to imitate His character. But at the same time, if we do not want everyone to be saved, we do not love our neighbor as ourselves. And therefore we are violating our moral obligation! This would put us in the dilemma or predicament of violating our moral obligation if we fulfill our moral obligation! In order to fulfill one of God’s commandments, to be holy as He is holy, we would have to violate another one of God’s commandments, to love our neighbor as ourselves.

If God does not have benevolence or good-will for all mankind, or if He doesn’t want everyone to be saved, these are some very serious problems which would exist! Despite these dilemmas, Reformed Theology says that God does not want everyone to repent of their sin, believe the gospel, and be saved.

Martin Luther said, “As to why some are touched by the law and others not, so that some receive and others scorn the offer of grace…[this is the] hidden will of God, Who, according to His own counsel, ordains such persons as He wills to receive and partake of the mercy preached and offered.”10 In other words, though they are invited, it is ultimately not their choice but God’s. The reason some are saved and some are not, according to Luther, is not because some freely choose to receive the gospel and others freely choose to reject it. The reason is because God is not sincere in His offer and invitation, but has secretly willed some men to embrace the gospel and some men to reject it.

If such an ugly doctrine were true, it would make God responsible, not only for all the repentance and faith in the world, but also responsible for all the impenitence and unbelief in the world! But why would God even invite them if their acceptance of the invitation is not their choice? Why would you invite someone to accept that which you don’t even want them to accept?  Why would you invite someone to partake of that which you never intended to give them?

This is why John Wesley charged Calvinism’s doctrine of predestination with “making vain all preaching, and tending to destroy holiness, the comfort of religion and zeal for good works, yea, the whole Christian revelation by involving it in fatal contradictions… a doctrine full of blasphemy… it represents our blessed Lord as a hypocrite, a deceiver of the people, a man void of common sincerity, as mocking his helpless creatures by offering what he never intends to give, by saying one thing and meaning another.”11

The Bible teaches that God calls all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31) and He blames them if they do not repent (Matt. 11:20; 23:37; Mk. 6:6; Lk. 7:30; 13:34; 14:17-18; 19:14; 19:27; Jn. 5:40; Rev. 2:21). This implies that God wants all men everywhere to repent, that it is their choice to do so, and that if they do not repent it is their own fault. Therefore, it cannot be true that God does not want everyone to repent, or that He only gives repentance to the few He has arbitrarily chosen, or that it is God’s fault that men do not repent.

The Bible says, “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” (Heb. 12:24-25). The Greek word “refuse” in this passage means, “…one excusing himself for not accepting a wedding invitation to a feast.”12 As the Bible says that God “sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come” (Matt. 22:3).

An invitation requires a response of the will. Those who are not saved are not saved because they “would not come,” not because they were not called or because God didn’t want them to come. God was sincere in His invitation. He wanted them to come and they were capable of doing so, otherwise they would not have been invited, but they were free not to come if they so choose. God has done His part in their salvation, but they have not done their part. As Jesus said, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (Jn. 5:40). They did not receive life because they “will not,” which means in the Greek that they did not “choose” or “determine,”13 or because they did not “resolve” or “purpose.”14

Man is a free moral being and therefore God cannot save anyone against their will. This is evident from the example of when Jesus said, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”(Lk. 13:34).

The Bible describes salvation as a gift that God offers to all to accept and receive (Jn. 1:11-12; Lk. 14:16-24; Rom 5:18). A gift, by definition, is that which can be freely accepted or refused. Salvation, as a gift, can therefore be freely accepted or refused. If men who hear the gospel do not accept God’s offer of salvation, it is not because they couldn’t but because they wouldn’t (Matt. 11:20-21; 23:37, Mk. 6:6; 7:30; 13:34; 14:17-18; 19:14; 19:27; Lk. 14:16-24; Jn. 5:40; Acts 7:51; 17:27; Rev. 2:21). Though God offers salvation to all men, many men choose to reject God’s gracious offer (Isa. 65:2; Lk. 7:30; 14:16-24; Jn. 1:10-11; Rom. 10:21; 2 Thes. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17). To their own damnation many men choose to resist His grace which He has offered to them (Gen. 6:3; Matt. 23:37; Lk. 7:30, 13:34; Acts 7:51). It is not true then that God has loved the elect by making their salvation unconditional, while he has hated the reprobate by making their damnation unavoidable. But God, in His benevolence has made salvation available to all but not all men choose to receive it.

While it is true that God hates sinners in the sense that He has a holy abhorrence or disgust of them because of their moral character (Ps. 5:5; Prov. 6:17-19), at the same time He loves sinners in the sense that He has a benevolent care and concern for them and wants their salvation (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 2 Pet. 3:9). God hates and loves sinners at the same time. The former is a state of His affections or sensibilities, but the latter is a state or committal of His will.

God not only hates the sin, but He hates the sinner who is the cause of the sin. This is in the sense that He is emotionally disgusted and abhorred by them for their wickedness. But at the same time, God loves them and wants them to repent and be saved because He regards the intrinsic value of their well-being.

Love is a committal of the will to promote the well-being of another person for their own sake or because their well-being is intrinsically valuable. God is a benevolent being (1 Jn. 4:8). That is why Christ died for us (Jn. 3:16; 15:13; Rom. 5:8). And that is why He calls all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31). That fact that God calls all men everywhere to repent shows us that, out of His love, He wants all men everywhere to be saved. He wouldn’t call them to repentance if He didn’t want them to repent.

The reason some are saved by the gospel and some are not saved by it is not because of predestination but because of free will. It is not that God unconditionally elected the one to be saved and unconditionally reprobated the other to be damned. It is not that God regenerated one so that they will have the ability to repent while he did not regenerate the other and therefore they didn’t have the ability to do so. It is that God has created all men free and some choose to repent and believe while others simple do not.

At one point Augustine even admitted, “They that would not come [to Christ], ought not to impute it to another, but only to themselves, because, when they are called, it was in the power of their free will to come.”15

An excerpt from the book, “The Natural Ability of ManA Study on Free Will & Human Nature.”

To Order: Click Here

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This is an excerpt from, “The Natural Ability of Man: A Study on Free Will & Human Nature by Jesse Morrell”

 

Biblical Election & Predestination

 

            Some might be thinking, “If salvation requires man’s free and personal choice, what about election and predestination?” The answer is actually simple. Many have turned an issue of simplicity into an issue of complexity. The reason that many fall into serious error on this topic is because they fail to consider the circumstances and culture which Paul was writing in. Historical context is a necessary consideration in proper hermeneutics. Men read the writings of Paul through the eyes of the Reformers rather than through the eyes of the Early Church.

 

In the days of the Early Church the Jews were considered the “chosen people.”  The Gentiles, on the other hand, were not seen by many as being chosen by God. Many of the Jews were even outraged at the thought that God would seek after the Gentiles (Lk. 4:25-29), not remembering that Israel as a nation was intended to be a light and a blessing to all nations (Gen. 22:18; 26:4; Isa. 42:6; 49:6; Acts 13:47).

 

Predestination, you could say, is God’s predetermined plan and destiny for nations. The Lord predetermined to have a holy people from both the Jews and Gentiles. The question during the time of the Early Church was not, “Has God predestined individuals?” But the controversial question was, “has God also to the Gentiles given repentance unto life?” (Acts 11:18) It was not that God predestined individuals to be saved or damned but that God also offers salvation to the Gentiles so that they too are chosen by God. God’s heart for the entire world and all nations is seen in the atonement (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 2:2) and in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16:15).

 

Paul’s specific ministry was to the Gentiles (Acts 26:17-18; Gal. 2:7; Eph. 3:8). That is why we see Paul confirming to the Church of Ephesus that “He has chosen us” (Eph. 1:4). The Church in Ephesus was made up of Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:17). The Jews were not the only ones chosen by God, but the Gentiles also were. This was a revelation, or a mystery, not fully revealed until the time of the New Testament. “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery… Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister… that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph 3:1-9).

 

In Eph. 2:11-19, Paul told the Gentile believers that God brought them into the commonwealth of Israel, whereas before they were alienated and were far off, now they are brought in by the blood of Christ. Christ removed the wall of separation which was the ordinances of the Law of Moses, such as the one which required circumcision, so that God can make twain one new man of both Jew and Gentile. Now the Gentiles are fellow citizens with the saints and the household of God. The election of both the Jews and Gentiles is a major theme all throughout Ephesians.

 

Paul taught that salvation is “not to that only which is of the law,” which are the Jews, “but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham,” which are the Gentile believers. Therefore, Abraham “is the father of us all,” both Jew and Gentile (Rom. 4:16).

 

Since Paul’s ministry was to the Gentiles, we see Paul’s extensive defense of the election of the Gentiles all throughout Romans, especially in Romans chapter nine, ten, and eleven. “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Rom. 9:24). Salvation was now made available to the Gentiles. “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith” (Rom. 9:30). Clearly, Gentiles have also been chosen by God for salvation.

 

God’s election of the Gentiles was always a part of His plan, that is, it was predetermined. “As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people, and her beloved, which was not beloved” (Hosea 2:23; Rom. 9:25; 1 Pet. 2:10). God’s heart had always been for all people. God has always planned to bless all nations (Gen. 22:18). “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed” (Gal. 3:8).

 

In Ephesians, Paul continually uses the words “us” and “we” in relation to being chosen by God. He never uses the words “I” or “you.” That is because election is national, not individual. The Jews and Gentiles were both chosen people, but God did not decide which individual Jews or which individual Gentiles would choose to be saved and become part of His elect or precious people.  As Jed Smock said, “Election includes all Jews and Gentiles potentially, but no man unconditionally.”1

 

Many of the Jews thought that they were unconditionally elected to salvation because they were children of Abraham (Matt. 3:9; Lk. 3:8). We must understand that neither salvation nor damnation is hereditary but requires personal choice and is, therefore, conditional instead of unconditional. The cutting off of Israel and the grafting in of the Gentiles was not unconditional but conditional. The Gentiles were grafted in because they believed but Israel was cut off because they believed not (Rom. 11:20-23). Jesus told the unbelieving Jews, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matt. 21:43). God is completely justified in this, as God “hath… mercy on whom he will” (Rom. 9:18). God has chosen to have mercy on those who choose to repent and believe, while God has chosen to condemn those who refuse to repent and believe in Christ. “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). That is because God only chooses to save those who obey the call.

 

The Bible explicitly says that men make themselves vessels of honor by choosing to purge themselves of their sins (2 Tim. 2:21). On the other hand, if men choose to persist in their sin, God makes them into vessels of wrath because they have fitted themselves for destruction (Jer. 18:4; Rom. 9:21-22). God does not do this eagerly but through “longsuffering” (Rom. 9:22), because He wanted them to repent (2 Pet. 3:9). But Israel had marred itself and fitted itself for destruction by persisting in sin and ultimately rejecting the Messiah. Therefore, God made them a vessel to receive His wrath. Israel cannot object to this since the potter has power over the clay (Rom. 9:21). God can use His own wise judgment and just discretion in appointing some to eternal life (believers) and others to damnation (unbelievers).

 

God, who is the potter, was not at fault for the marred clay since the Lord originally intended to make Israel a different type of vessel. His original plan was not for them to be a vessel of wrath. “And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O House of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? Saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them” (Jer. 18:4-10).

 

God had an original plan but had to change His plans when the clay was marred. Making Israel a vessel of wrath was not God’s plan from the beginning. God made Israel a vessel for wrath but it was only because of their sinful choices. John Wesley said, “The vessels of wrath – Those who had moved his wrath by still rejecting his mercy. Fitted for destruction – By their own willful and final impenitence.”2 Pelagius said, “By filling up the quota of their sins they became vessels worthy of wrath, and by their own doing they became vessels prepared for destruction.”3

 

Someone might ask, “If Romans chapter nine is talking about God’s predetermined plan for nations, and not necessarily individuals, why does it refer to Jacob and Esau who were individuals?” Actually, by choosing Israel over Esau, God was choosing one nation over the other. Jacob and Esau represented two nations. Jacob represented the Israelites and Esau represented the Edomites. “And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23).

 

Paul uses this scenario or example in his defense of the election of the Gentiles and the cutting off of the Jews to show or illustrate that God has the right and authority to do this. But Paul was not saying that Jacob was chosen unconditionally for salvation and Esau was chosen unconditionally for damnation. There is nothing in the Old or New Testament which states such a thing. In fact, the opposite is seen since Paul says that the chosen people were cut off and the Gentiles were grafted in.

 

Since Jacob was not chosen to unconditional salvation because Israel was cut off, we cannot assume that Esau was chosen to unconditional reprobation. It is a very strange and wild interpretation of Romans nine to say that God unconditionally and eternally choose Jacob to be saved and Esau to be damned. God choose the one and not the other to be the “chosen people” who would inhabit the promise land, be separated from the rest of the world, and from which the Messiah would come. But regarding their personal salvation it says absolutely nothing at all.

 

Regarding the words predestination and election, Jed Smock said, “Biblically these terms are primarily associated with the call of the Jews and Gentiles to join together, ‘to make in himself of twain one new man (the Church), so making peace,’ between these two estranged people (Eph 2:15). These terms should not be associated with some fictitious Calvinistic notion, that God unconditionally elected before Creation certain individuals to eternal salvation and reprobated the rest of humanity to eternal destruction.”4

 

When predestination is properly understood in Scriptural and historical context, this doctrine shows us that God wants everyone to be saved, both Jew and Gentile, and not that He has arbitrarily elected some individuals and capriciously reprobated other individuals for no other reason than the good pleasure of His will. To take the doctrine of predestination and twist it to mean that God doesn’t want everyone to be saved is to greatly distort the wonderful Biblical truth of predestination.

 

The very idea that God’s plan for the majority of the world is for them to sin and be damned is contrary to the entire truth of the Bible. While it may burst our theological bubble and preconceived ideas of God, when the Lord repented of creating mankind when He saw how they were continually choosing to sin, this implies that had God known that they were going to sin He would not have created them in the first place (Gen. 6:5-6). This explains why God did not create hell with mankind in mind (Matt. 25:41). God did not create men to sin and neither did God create hell for men.

 

Contrary to what John Calvin taught, that many men were “made and formed5 for damnation, the Bible says mankind was created for the pleasure of God (Rev. 4:11) and that God takes no pleasure in sin or in the damnation of the wicked (Gen. 6:5-6; Ps. 5:4; Eze. 33:11). Therefore, mankind was created to live holy and not to be sinful. Men were made to have a relationship with God, not to be damned. Clearly, God did not create mankind to be sinful and damned but God created all of us for His pleasure, to glorify Him by walking in the beauty of holiness.

 

God’s plan from the beginning was for Jews and Gentiles to live holy. God “hath chosen us [Jew & Gentile] in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love…” (Eph. 1:4) Holiness is the moral quality of a person’s state of will and love is a personal choice. Therefore, what we have been chosen to is in no way contrary to our will or independent of our will, but our will must be involved. God did not choose for us to be holy or loving despite our choice, since this is impossible or an intrinsic contradiction, but He chose for us to be holy and loving by our free choice.

 

Biblical predestination, when it is properly understood, is not at all contrary to the free will or natural ability of man, nor is it contrary to the Biblical truth that salvation requires man’s free choice. Election does not coerce anyone to obey the gospel; neither does election hinder anyone from obeying the gospel. The gospel is free to be obeyed by both Jew and Gentile. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25; 1 Pet. 1:17). 

 

God’s call to men to convert from death to life, from sin to holiness, from damnation to salvation, is a call which is made to all. God did not arbitrarily choose from all of eternity a few for Heaven and most for hell. God’s decree regarding man’s salvation is, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). He has left it up to our own choice.

 

Calvinists will ask, “But didn’t Jesus say that you have not chosen me but I have chosen you?” Yes, in Jn. 15:16 Jesus said that. But who did He choose and what did He choose them for? Such qualifications make a world of difference.

 

The answer is that He chose twelve men for apostleship. When Jesus said that He choose them and that they did not choose Him, Jesus was talking about apostleship and not salvation. The Bible says, “…the apostles whom he had chosen” (Acts 1:2). Jesus already said, “If any man will come after me…” (Matt. 16:24; Lk. 9:23). To “will” in the Greek means to “have in mind, intend,” “to be resolved or determined, to purpose.”6 Those whom Jesus chose to be Apostles were among those who already chose to come after him. “And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples, and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles…” (Lk. 6:13) Jesus chose, out of those who were already choosing to be his disciples, who would be his apostles. They choose to be his disciples but Jesus chose them to be his apostles.

 

Albert Barnes rightly understood this and said, “It refers here, doubtless, to his choosing or electing them to be apostles…”7 It was common for Christ to talk to his apostles in this manner. He said, “I know whom I have chosen” (Jn. 13:18). “Have I not chosen you twelve” (Jn. 6:70). And he said, “I have chosen you” (Jn. 15:19). Jesus did not talk to all of his disciples this way, but only to his twelve apostles. To take what Jesus said about His apostles and apply it to all believers is to terribly misunderstand or grossly distort the Word of God.

 

In order to teach an arbitrary and individual predestination and election from the Bible, Calvinists have to twist verses and give their own definitions to words. Calvinists have made much use of the word “elect” in their theology. They use the word to teach that Christians do not have a free will but are irresistibly chosen by God to salvation. But the word “elect” itself does not necessarily imply an arbitrary choice on God’s part to coerce certain individuals to be saved. The Greek word for “elect” means “choice, select, i.e. the best of its kind or class, excellence preeminent: applied to certain individual Christians.”8 “Elect” in the Greek can even be translated as “precious.”9

 

So when the Bible talks about the holy Church being the “elect” (Mk. 13:27), and even the holy angels as “elect” (1 Tim. 5:21), it means that they are the most precious, preeminent, excellent, or the best of their kind. This is what the Scriptures means when it says that Jesus Christ was elect. “Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious, and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded” (1 Pet. 2:6). The “elect” are those holy beings who are very precious and choice in the eyes of the Lord, as one may talk of “choice fruits” or “choice flowers” being the best and most precious of their kind. The Bible never describes sinful or unsaved men as “elect.”  It is holy men, holy angels, and holy Jesus who are called elect or precious to God.

 

Someone might ask “Why is one person saved while another person is not?” Some have blamed God in answering this question. Calvinists say God doesn’t want everyone to be saved. But if God doesn’t want everyone to be saved, why should we want everyone to be saved? If God doesn’t want that, neither should we. If we want everyone to be saved, but God does not, are we more benevolent than God is? Or if we want everyone to be saved, but God does not want everyone to be saved, wouldn’t that make us ungodly for wanting everyone to be saved? Imagine that! Being ungodly for having universal benevolence!

 

The law of God demands that we love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). But if we obey that command by wanting everyone to be saved, when God does not want everyone to be saved, then we are ungodly for obeying that command! We would be ungodly for obeying the law of God!

 

Yet at the same time, we are under moral obligation to imitate God. We are told to be holy and perfect as He is (Matt. 5:48; 1 Pet. 1:16). If God doesn’t want everyone to be saved, neither should we, or else we are violating our moral obligation to imitate His character. But at the same time, if we do not want everyone to be saved, we do not love our neighbor as ourselves. And therefore we are violating our moral obligation! This would put us in the dilemma or predicament of violating our moral obligation if we fulfill our moral obligation! In order to fulfill one of God’s commandments, to be holy as He is holy, we would have to violate another one of God’s commandments, to love our neighbor as ourselves.

 

If God does not have benevolence or good-will for all mankind, or if He doesn’t want everyone to be saved, these are some very serious problems which would exist! Despite these dilemmas, Reformed Theology says that God does not want everyone to repent of their sin, believe the gospel, and be saved.

 

Martin Luther said, “As to why some are touched by the law and others not, so that some receive and others scorn the offer of grace…[this is the] hidden will of God, Who, according to His own counsel, ordains such persons as He wills to receive and partake of the mercy preached and offered.”10 In other words, though they are invited, it is ultimately not their choice but God’s. The reason some are saved and some are not, according to Luther, is not because some freely choose to receive the gospel and others freely choose to reject it. The reason is because God is not sincere in His offer and invitation, but has secretly willed some men to embrace the gospel and some men to reject it.

 

If such an ugly doctrine were true, it would make God responsible, not only for all the repentance and faith in the world, but also responsible for all the impenitence and unbelief in the world! But why would God even invite them if their acceptance of the invitation is not their choice? Why would you invite someone to accept that which you don’t even want them to accept?  Why would you invite someone to partake of that which you never intended to give them?

 

This is why John Wesley charged Calvinism’s doctrine of predestination with “making vain all preaching, and tending to destroy holiness, the comfort of religion and zeal for good works, yea, the whole Christian revelation by involving it in fatal contradictions… a doctrine full of blasphemy… it represents our blessed Lord as a hypocrite, a deceiver of the people, a man void of common sincerity, as mocking his helpless creatures by offering what he never intends to give, by saying one thing and meaning another.”11

 

The Bible teaches that God calls all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31) and He blames them if they do not repent (Matt. 11:20; 23:37; Mk. 6:6; Lk. 7:30; 13:34; 14:17-18; 19:14; 19:27; Jn. 5:40; Rev. 2:21). This implies that God wants all men everywhere to repent, that it is their choice to do so, and that if they do not repent it is their own fault. Therefore, it cannot be true that God does not want everyone to repent, or that He only gives repentance to the few He has arbitrarily chosen, or that it is God’s fault that men do not repent.

 

The Bible says, “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” (Heb. 12:24-25). The Greek word “refuse” in this passage means, “…one excusing himself for not accepting a wedding invitation to a feast.”12 As the Bible says that God “sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come” (Matt. 22:3).

 

An invitation requires a response of the will. Those who are not saved are not saved because they “would not come,” not because they were not called or because God didn’t want them to come. God was sincere in His invitation. He wanted them to come and they were capable of doing so, otherwise they would not have been invited, but they were free not to come if they so choose. God has done His part in their salvation, but they have not done their part. As Jesus said, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (Jn. 5:40). They did not receive life because they “will not,” which means in the Greek that they did not “choose” or “determine,”13 or because they did not “resolve” or “purpose.”14

 

Man is a free moral being and therefore God cannot save anyone against their will. This is evident from the example of when Jesus said, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”(Lk. 13:34).

 

The Bible describes salvation as a gift that God offers to all to accept and receive (Jn. 1:11-12; Lk. 14:16-24; Rom 5:18). A gift, by definition, is that which can be freely accepted or refused. Salvation, as a gift, can therefore be freely accepted or refused. If men who hear the gospel do not accept God’s offer of salvation, it is not because they couldn’t but because they wouldn’t (Matt. 11:20-21; 23:37, Mk. 6:6; 7:30; 13:34; 14:17-18; 19:14; 19:27; Lk. 14:16-24; Jn. 5:40; Acts 7:51; 17:27; Rev. 2:21). Though God offers salvation to all men, many men choose to reject God’s gracious offer (Isa. 65:2; Lk. 7:30; 14:16-24; Jn. 1:10-11; Rom. 10:21; 2 Thes. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17). To their own damnation many men choose to resist His grace which He has offered to them (Gen. 6:3; Matt. 23:37; Lk. 7:30, 13:34; Acts 7:51). It is not true then that God has loved the elect by making their salvation unconditional, while he has hated the reprobate by making their damnation unavoidable. But God, in His benevolence has made salvation available to all but not all men choose to receive it.

 

While it is true that God hates sinners in the sense that He has a holy abhorrence or disgust of them because of their moral character (Ps. 5:5; Prov. 6:17-19), at the same time He loves sinners in the sense that He has a benevolent care and concern for them and wants their salvation (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 2 Pet. 3:9). God hates and loves sinners at the same time. The former is a state of His affections or sensibilities, but the latter is a state or committal of His will.

 

God not only hates the sin, but He hates the sinner who is the cause of the sin. This is in the sense that He is emotionally disgusted and abhorred by them for their wickedness. But at the same time, God loves them and wants them to repent and be saved because He regards the intrinsic value of their well-being.

 

Love is a committal of the will to promote the well-being of another person for their own sake or because their well-being is intrinsically valuable. God is a benevolent being (1 Jn. 4:8). That is why Christ died for us (Jn. 3:16; 15:13; Rom. 5:8). And that is why He calls all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31). That fact that God calls all men everywhere to repent shows us that, out of His love, He wants all men everywhere to be saved. He wouldn’t call them to repentance if He didn’t want them to repent.

 

The reason some are saved by the gospel and some are not saved by it is not because of predestination but because of free will. It is not that God unconditionally elected the one to be saved and unconditionally reprobated the other to be damned. It is not that God regenerated one so that they will have the ability to repent while he did not regenerate the other and therefore they didn’t have the ability to do so. It is that God has created all men free and some choose to repent and believe while others simple do not.

 

At one point Augustine even admitted, “They that would not come [to Christ], ought not to impute it to another, but only to themselves, because, when they are called, it was in the power of their free will to come.”15

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One Response to Biblical Predestination, Election, and Free Will – Jesse Morrell

  1. Calvinists have it backwards. Paul said, “Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith.” Romans 11:20. Calvinists would have you believe that they did not believe because they were broken off, but this says they were broken off because they did not believe. And Gentiles did not believe because they were grafted in. They were grafted in because they believed.

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