Saturday, September 20, 2014

Did God Choose Who Would Be Saved?

As we saw last week, God created us not to be like dolls, but to have free will so that we could choose to be His friends. Because God has perfect knowledge of all things, past, present and future (Psalm 139:1-6), the topic of man’s free will always brings up the question of how God can know who will be saved, and who will reject His freely given offer of salvation, without interfering with that choice. That is a mystery we will not fully understand until we reach glory (1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:9; Colossians 1:27).

Nonetheless, let me offer an imperfect example by way of illustration. After 25 years of marriage, I know at least some of my husband Richard’s preferences rather well. I can therefore reasonably accurately predict that if he had an uninterrupted evening of television programming to watch by himself, he would choose a live airing of a Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game over a rerun of a “chick flick.” If he were to make that choice, it would not be due to my influencing his decision in any way, even though I had correctly foretold the outcome.

My knowledge of my husband is incomplete, for only God knows the hearts (Deuteronomy 8:2; 13:3; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 44:21; 139:23, etc.). Yet in His perfect knowledge, He has known from the beginning of time who would be saved by placing their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of His Son (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), and who would be lost and doomed to hell by not believing in Him (John 3:18), instead trusting in their own good works or worldly “wisdom” (Luke 16:15).

Did God choose who is to be saved and who will be doomed? Some believe that is the case, citing Ephesians 1, which says “he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world,” and “He predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself (v. 4,5). A similar verse is 2 Thessalonians 2:13, which says that “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”

Yet if God chose some to be saved and others to be damned, that would contradict Peter’s assertion that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). It also would be out of character for God, Who is love (1 John 4:8), to decide to send some of His creatures to hell before they even come on the earthly scene and have the opportunity to choose salvation. Paul, also writing under Holy Spirit inspiration, also states that God wants “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

Considering the bulk of Scripture in context (2 Timothy 3:16), and rightly dividing the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), I believe we should therefore conclude that God created us with free will in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), and that He has known eternally who would trust Christ and who would reject Him, without interfering with that choice. Paul always addresses believers rather than the unsaved, so when he refers to “us,” or “you” he speaks of the church, or believers in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (1 Corinthians 1:2). 

In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, which says that “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth,” I believe that the choice made by God was not who would be saved, but the means of salvation. Namely, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to indwell us and make us holy with Christ’s righteousness at the moment we realize the truth that we are sinners (Romans 3:23) and that Jesus died and rose again to save us (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

I believe that the “predestination” Paul describes in Ephesians 1 refers not to whom will be saved, but to what is the predetermined destiny for those who will be saved. God the Father has blessed us (believers) with all spiritual blessings (v. 3) “according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (v. 4). In other words, God chose from the beginning of time that those who placed their faith in His Son would be sanctified, or made holy, (1 Corinthians 1:2,30; 6:11; Hebrews 10:29; 13:12) and justified (Acts 13:39; Romans 3:24-30), or freed from sin, by His shed blood (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 5:9)) and His righteousness.

It was for God’s pleasure that He “predestinated believers unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself” (Ephesians 1: 5). In other words, He determined ahead of time that believers in Jesus Christ would become children of God and joint heirs with Christ (v. 11), sealed by His Spirit (v. 13) until He redeems us completely by giving us a glorified body like that of Christ to enjoy throughout eternity (v. 14;  Romans 8:29).

God knew from the beginning of time who would trust His Son, and He predetermined their destiny, which is to be like Christ, to rise from death to eternal life, to be called by the Holy Spirit, to be justified by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, and to live in His glory (Romans 8:29-30).

Because God knew in advance who would be saved, He also predetermined a unique plan and purpose for every believer. He “saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9).

Does this unique, perfect plan for each of us negate our free will? No, because at every step along the way, we have the choice to accept or reject what He would have us do. Sadly, therefore, we are unlikely to completely realize His preordained purpose, but we will come closer if we consistently yield to the Spirit Who guides us, rather than to our sin nature leading us astray (1 Corinthians 15:31; Romans 7:14-25; Ephesians 4:22-32).

Abraham would not have become the father of the great Hebrew nation giving rise to Jesus Christ had he not taken that first step of faith toward the Promised Land (Genesis 12:1-4) or had he not been willing to sacrifice Isaac when God commanded it (Genesis 22). Yet there is hope for each of us, for even Abraham stumbled many times, making wrong choices along the way (Genesis 12:11-13; 16:2; 20:2-3). Through it all, Abraham trusted God, and he was saved because his faith was accounted to him for righteousness (Romans 4:9-16; Galatians 3:7-14; Hebrews 11:8,17).

I believe that when we face Christ at the judgment seat of believers, we will not have to account for our sins, which are paid for in full by His shed blood (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2). Rather, we will be confronted with every idle word we have spoken (Matthew 12:36), every missed opportunity He offered us, and every door He opened that we declined to walk through (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Adam’s rebellion (Genesis 3) came as no surprise to God, Who has complete foreknowledge of all things. From the beginning of time, He also knew that His solution to Adam’s sin was His plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, God taking on human flesh (John 1:14) to be the perfect, sinless sacrifice Whose suffering could reconcile sinful man to Holy God (Colossians 1:20).

Praise God that when He sees believers, He no longer sees our sin, but only the perfect righteousness of His Son, with which we are clothed (Isaiah 61:10) once we place our faith in Him! May we use the God-given blessing of our free will to make the right choices, in accordance with His perfect plan (Jeremiah 29:11) for our lives!

© 2014 Laurie Collett
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Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
There has been a lot of debate over the centuries on what John Calvin taught was thought to be TULIP - that is: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irrisistable grace, and Pereverence of the saints. Many who believe in Eternal Security, such as myself, have some concerns about this format, as it implies that God chooses some people to be saved, even if the chosen person was not willing to be saved in the first place, while leaving others to go into perdition without any chance of repentance. These theologians tend to overlook just one small detail in Romans 8:29 where, as you say, God knew who would believe from eternity past. Although I have respect for Calvin over Arminius, these false interpretations has put him in a bad light.
An excellent post. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
I always appreciate your insights, particularly on topics that tend to be controversial or at least to lend themselves to theological discussions. Thanks as always for your comment and kind words.

God bless.

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post Laurie.

So many do not understand that while God is sovereign and could have decided who could be saved. he chose to allow mankind the freedom to choose. As sovereign he is not forced to do it one way or the other, but can choose how he wants it. In their rush to protect God's sovereignty, they deprive him of it. .

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
I too have always thought about God wanting all to be saved, and none to perish and thought, 'How can God not get what He wants?' I believe He has a unique way of speaking to, convincing and convicting through His Holy Spirit, every person that is on this earth. Otherwise how could 'For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall ALL be made alive.' ( 1 Corinthians ch. 15 v. 22) make sense.
God bless you Laurie

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Donald, for your comment! Praise God for His total sovereignty without negating our free will.
God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Thanks as always for your thought-provoking comment. Please see Donald's comment above as I find it helps to answer your question.
Many blessings to you & your ministry,