Title: What does it mean to be predestined?
FCF: We often struggle believing that we are not saved by works, but teaching and preaching as though we are.
Prop: Because God has foreordained those whom He has predestined to be conformed to His Son, we must praise God for predestining us.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Genesis chapter 3. Immediately you may now realize that today is going to be a little different. I did not say Matthew. In fact, I did not say a book in the New Testament. Today we will take a brief pause from our book study of Matthew’s gospel, to camp on a topic that we were only able to open up last week.
There are several reasons we are going to study this subject by itself today. You may not realize this, but as I am up here preaching, I am not only communicating to you, but you are communicating to me. Yes. I see when you go to sleep. It is ok. I’ve been there. I don’t claim to be the most interesting speaker. And I don’t take it personally. But don’t take that as liberty to sleep either!
Last week, we touched on the topic of election, or predestination, and I got a lot of facial feedback from you. Some of you were very obviously understanding and tracking with what I was saying. Others of you seemed perplexed or even confused. Some of you were expressing doubt or uncertainty. And some even were expressing opposition. I took note of that and couched it away for the future.
Later I received questions from some of you about the teaching of election. It seemed more and more like God was pushing me to teach more on the topic. I prayed and asked the Lord to show me what He would have me preach on, and after discussing this with some other church leaders, it became apparent that God was leading me to address this issue head on.
Now because this is a topical sermon, instead of approaching a single passage of scripture and drawing out what God wants for us from that passage, we will instead approach scripture with a question. We will still draw out from the text the meaning, but rather than allowing the text to raise and answer questions for us. We will raise the questions and allow God to speak the answers to us.
The overarching question we hope to discover today is - What does it mean to be predestined? Other ways of asking the same question are – What does it mean to be elect of God? Or How does a man become an inheritor of the kingdom of God? All of these are asking essentially the same question.
This question although answerable by itself, is really a question in a long string of questions. We must attempt to start at the beginning to understand all the moving pieces.
And that is why we will begin in Genesis 3:15. We will be covering a lot of scripture today. Most of the passages will be on the screen, but we will not read every passage. I have done my best to draw attention to the part of the verse to which I am referring so you can quickly read it as I summarize it. I realize that this is really unfair to zip through so many references, so I have created a sheet for you that you should have been handed on the way in. It will provide a general outline of the main points of the sermon, and also a list of references for you to refer back to later. So without further ado, Let’s look at Genesis 3:15.
In structuring the sermon to answer the question, what does it mean to be predestined, I determined that we first must answer the question, Is predestination necessary why or why not? It seems odd to ask about necessity before answering what Predestination is, but by establishing whether or not it is necessary and why it is or isn’t, will give us a running start to understanding what predestination is and is not. And once we discover what it is and if it is necessary – then we can answer the question, what does it mean to be predestined? So without further ado – let’s dive in – Is Predestination Necessary, why or why not?
I.) [Slide 2] Is Predestination Necessary?
a. Well I think in order to know the answer to that question, we must first answer another.
b. [Slide 3] What is Man’s condition after the fall?
i. [Slide 4] The Fall – Genesis 3:15 we saw that God has divided two families. The family of the serpent and the family of the woman. And God has put hostility between them. God starts a war.
ii. But who are the seed of the serpent? We know who the seed of the woman is. The bible from there begins tracing a family. Seth, to Noah, to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, To Judah, to David, to Jesus The Messiah. He is the seed through which adoption can take place. But who are the seed of the serpent? Keep that question in the back of your mind.
iii. Original Sin’s Practical Truth
1. [Slide 5] Technical reality? The doctrine of original sin postulates that in Adam all men fell. All men inherited a sin nature. And in that sin nature man became wicked. I believe that Romans 5 establishes this doctrine… but even if it does not establish it’s technical truth… the rest of scripture establishes its practical truth.
2. The Results of the fall on men
a. [Slide 6] Man’s Heart
i. Man’s heart in scripture describes the spiritual side of men.
1. [Slide 7] King Ahasuerus wondered who it was that dared to presume in his heart to destroy the Jews. Esther 7:5 (NKJV). So planning to do evil comes from the heart
2. [Slide 8] Obedience to God comes from the heart of a believer (Rom 6:17)
3. [Slide 9] A Spiritually perceptive heart, aware of God’s truth, comes from God (Deut 29:4 (NKJV)
ii. [Slide 10] Man possesses understanding of wisdom from his heart Prov 8:5
iii. [Slide 11] Man reflects and reasons from his heart Luke 2:19
iv. [Slide 12] Man feels happiness and sorrow from his heart Isaiah 65:14
v. [Slide 13] Man experiences pain in his heart – Prov 25:20
vi. [Slide 14] Putting all this together, man’s heart is the seat of everything a man is. So much so that everything a man is on the outside comes from who he is in his heart. Matthew 12:34 and Mark 7:21-23
vii. Meaning we are not who we are because of what we do, but rather, we do what we do because of who we are.
viii. So far, this is easy for us to swallow. There is just one problem.
b. [Slide 15] Man’s heart is wicked
i. [Slide 16]Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV or any others) Mans heart, depending on your translation, is either desperately wicked or incurably sick.
ii. Obviously we are not talking about a physical sickness but a spiritual one, so desperately wicked is accurate. This means that there is no way for the heart of man to become unsick – or unwicked.
iii. [Slide 17] Our wicked condition is PERMENANT
iv. [Slide 18] Isaiah 64:6 – Righteous deeds to God are like menstrual rags when our heart is far from Him.
v. [Slide 19] Psalm 51:16-17 God desires a contrite heart not sacrifices.
vi. [Slide 20] Not only is our wicked condition permanent, it is also PERVASIVE so that even righteous deeds done with an impure heart are revolting.
vii. In fact it is so pervasive that the New Testament writers quote the Old Testament when they conclude that there are NONE righteous not even one. And that there are NONE who seek after God – not even one.
viii. Jesus told the rich young ruler there is only one Good!
ix. [Slide 21] This means, not that man is as evil as he possibly could be – Notice that in Psalm 51 and Isaiah 64 they were doing righteous deeds… - it is simply that everything man does including deeds of righteousness is contaminated by a wicked and incurably sick heart.
x. So what does that mean for Man?
c. Man’s destiny
i. [Slide 22 R] Ephesians 2:1-3 - The Christians that Paul is talking to of the church of Ephesus, They were once dead in sins. Obviously not physically dead, but spiritually.
ii. And that makes them what? Sons of Disobedience, Children of Satan, and thus, they are children of wrath like the rest…
iii. Who are the seed of the serpent? Men. We are all born of our father…
d. Man’s Free Will Now
i. But certainly man would see this in himself? Certainly man would understand his own wickedness and want to change it.
ii. [Slide 23 R] Romans 3:9-12 – None seek after God. None do good. All do evil… why?
iii. [Slide 24 R] John 3:19-20 – Because man loves his sin.
iv. But if man would just pick up a bible they’d see it!
v. [Slide 25 R] I Corinthians 2:14 – An unbeliever can’t understand this book. Man is spiritually dead, and the bible is spiritually given.
vi. [Slide 26A] So if a man Cannot understand God's word, Does not seek God because he wants to keep sinning, is not righteous on his own merit, but is wholly wicked and incurably sick, rebels from the start, dead in their sin, and only deserving of wrath... in such a condition - what man will ever choose God?
vii. [Slide 26B] No one will.
viii. But don’t we have free will?
ix. Of course we do!
x. You chose which shirt to wear, You chose which route to drive to get here. You chose to get coffee or not. You chose to be impatient with your wife, whether you told her you were impatient with her or not.
xi. But do you have the free will to choose to sprout gills and go for a 3 day swim in Lake Huron?
xii. Do you have the free will to choose to change your DNA sequence so that you are no longer whatever race you are and are instead, the heir to the House of Romanov?
xiii. Can you choose to stop your hair from growing, or to force your legs to grow longer ?
xiv. Mankind has free will, that is true - but his free will is limited by who he is. And we just described who he is. What is man’s nature?
e. Man’s Nature
i. [Slide 27] Ephesians 2:3 – by nature a child of what?
c. This paints quite a bleak picture for mankind. But the bible speaks of something called the good news. The gospel.
d. [Slide 28] What is the gospel?
i. [Slide 29] Dependence and Surrender – on what?
ii. [Slide 30] Substitution – Christ taking our place
iii. [Slide 31] Atonement - Christ, in taking our place - takes our wrath status
iv. [Slide 32] Justification - Christ in taking our place, not only takes our wrath status but gives us a new heart with His righteousness etched into it.
v. [Slide 33] What is required of man in regards to the gospel?
1. Repent –
a. [Slide 34] As a command of God
i. [Slide 35 R] Acts 17:30
ii. [Slide 36 R] Mark 1:14-15
iii. [Slide 37 R] Acts 26:20
b. [Slide 38] As God’s desire for man
i. [Slide 39 R] II Peter 3:9
ii. [Slide 40 R] I Timothy 2:3-4
c. [Slide 41] As a gift from God
i. [Slide 42 R] Acts 11:18
ii. [Slide 43 R] II Timothy 2:24-26
iii. Wait a second… If God commands this of us, and wants this of us, and it is a gift from Him, how is it our responsibility? Hang on we’ll get there.
d. But not just are we to repent, but also we are to
2. [Slide 44] Believe in the gospel
a. As a command of God
i. [Slide 45] Mark 1:14-15
ii. [Slide 46] Acts 26:20
iii. [Slide 47 R] John 14:1
b. [Slide 48] As God’s Desire for Man
i. [Slide 49] I Timothy 2:4
ii. [Slide 50] II Peter 3:9
c. [Slide 51] As a gift from God
i. [Slide 52 R] Philippians 1:29
ii. [Slide 53 R] Ephesians 2:8-9
iii. Wait a second… if God commands us to have faith and desires us to have faith, and it is a gift from Him, how is it our responsibility? Again… hang on.
3. Combining what is expected of man in the gospel, with what we learned about man’s nature… here is the problem. Man can’t do what is expected of Him. He is commanded and God desires it – but Man is unable to do it.
e. [Slide 54] So going back to the question… why is predestination necessary? Even without having a clear picture of what predestination is – we know that it is necessary quite simply because mankind is spiritually dead. They are not only sinful… but they are totally and completely - RADICALLY separated from God. They would never seek Him, because they love their sin, and they don’t want to change.
[Slide 55 (blank)] So what makes the good news so good? It would be like saying – hey everyone I personally bought for every single person a brand new 2020 Chevy Corvette. The only stipulation is that you have to be over 20 feet tall. Not only is no one that tall – but you’d never fit into it anyway. So how is this gospel – good news? Predestination. What is it? And what isn’t it?
II.) [Slide 56] What Predestination is and is not?
a. To understand what predestination is and is not, we first need to answer how is predestination accomplished. And the bible tells us exactly how predestination comes about. We will focus on two different passages of scripture. Romans 8:26-30 and Ephesians 1:3-15.
b. There are primarily two different opinions on predestination as to how God accomplishes this work. No one, unless they are heretics, denies that God predestines His own. In other words, God chooses who He will save. God acts first, thus solving the problem of man’s wicked heart not seeking Him. However, there are two major schools of thought on how God does this choosing.
i. [Slide 57] God predestines us based on His foresight, seeing who would choose to respond to His gospel. OR…
ii. God predestines us based on the purpose and counsel of His will. In other words He chooses us because He wants to.
iii. One of these answers is more satisfying than the other – but we must test them both from scripture.
c. [Slide 58] So, Does God, before time began, predestine His own using his knowledge of the future, to see who would choose Him, and thus, predestining them.
i. Turn to Romans 8:26-30 – This will not be on the screen. And keep a book mark here, we will return to Romans 9 soon.
1. So from verse 26 we see that Paul is talking about how the Spirit helps us in prayer and really beyond. All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.
2. But then verse 29 hits, and this is where it gets problematic. Paul basis this guarantee of all things working together for good for believers on the fact that those whom God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son. In other words Paul is sure that all will work out for the good because God has predestined us to be conformed to Christ.
3. But there is that word foreknew. Advocates of this particular view of predestination would interpret this to mean
a. Those whom God looked into the future, knew their hearts, saw who would choose Him.
b. Now this seems to make a lot of sense. In fact this is rooted in other usages of the word. In both Acts and II Peter we see the use of this for things and people being put in a known beforehand kind of way.
c. However there are three major problems with this view
i. To assume that this one word means not only that God knew them beforehand, but peered into the future to see what they would choose if offered the gospel – is stretching Greek quite a bit. I mean that is a paragraph of explanation for one word.
ii. If it were true that this is referring to God knowing if someone would choose him, there is a little word in this verse that makes this very problematic. And it is the word “also.” God cannot foreknow who would choose Him without foreknowing who would not choose Him right? I mean God probably can keep track of all the “yeses” and also all the “nos” But wait – Those he foreknows he ALSO predestines. So is everyone getting saved since God has foreknown everyone? Or suppose God does not keep track of all the “nos” Are we saying that God only would be able to foreknow who would be a “yes?” Doesn’t the bible say God knows the hearts of all men?
iii. [Slide 59 R] Lastly – in I Peter1:19-20 Peter says that Jesus was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was manifested in these last times for your sake. Does this mean that God knew what Jesus would choose? How is Peter using this word foreknowledge?
iv. Knowledge in scripture is often equated to relational intimacy. Jesus was not known beforehand, but rather, foreordained. He was chosen. He was loved and selected.
v. And in a similar vein in Matthew 7:23 – people are cast out of Jesus’ presence because they were lawbreakers and because He did not… KNOW them.
d. Thus – Foreknowledge cannot simply mean that God knew what we would choose. But rather, that God foreloved, foregraced, foreordained. This is election.
e. And then in that election he also predestined or designed a destiny for us, which was what?
f. To be conformed to the image of His Son. And how does that work? Verse 30.
g. Predestined means you will be called.
h. If Called you will be justified
i. If Justified you will be glorified.
j. PRAISE THE LORD!
ii. So if God did not predestine us because of what we would choose. Why did He predestine us?
d. [Slide 60] God predestined us based on the purpose and counsel of His will.
i. Again turn to Ephesians 1:3-15 – keep something there at Romans 9 though.
1. Purpose of his will
2. To the glory of His grace
3. Not of works
4. Accomplishing the council of His will.
5. And what does that result in? Our hope in Him, our belief in Him, the Seal of the Spirit, our inheritance until when – we are glorified.
6. Paul finishes this the same way He did Romans. Predestined, called, justified, and finally – GLORIFIED! Hallelujah.
ii. [Slide 61] This is the same way God chose Israel in Deuteronomy 7:7-11
iii. And this is exactly how He said the New Covenant would be in Ezekiel 36:22-36
iv. Both of which we simply don’t have time to get to this morning. But please look them up on your own.
e. So what is Predestination? It is the loving act of God by which He secures and brings many sons to glory through His Son, IN SPITE OF their nature. He alone accomplishes it, based on the purpose of His will to accomplish the counsel of His will.
i. [Slide 62 R] II Timothy 1:9
ii. [Slide 63 R] Acts 13:48
[Slide 64 (blank)] I know this is hard to handle. I know many of you may have never heard this, and never known the bible speaks of this. I know it is hard to wrap your mind around because I was not raised with this teaching either. I was never taught this until college, and even then, it was only a class or two. I also know you may have some objections. I have time for two. Two of the biggest. And I have time for two applications. I know this will only scratch the surface. How do I know that? Because this sermon is 4500 words long and I have another document with 3000 words on it with more, that simply would not fit.
But know that every Saturday, some men in this church meet and talk about this book together. I think this would be an appropriate venue for you to come and raise your objections or ask questions. We can search the scriptures together for the answers. Just let me know you’d like to come.
[Slide 65] Objections:
1.) If God desires all men to be saved, then why doesn’t He simply provision all men with what is necessary to be saved?
The logic is that if God desires something, and He doesn’t get it, that the only answer MUST be that something prevented Him from getting it. It seems to track logically, that mankind prevents Him by his choices.
And in some sense that is true. In Matthew 23 we saw just an instance where Jesus says that He wanted to gather Jerusalem unto Himself like a hen gathers her chicks, but they would not allow it. This very clearly tells us that the culpability of judgement is placed squarely on the decision of men, even though God was wanting otherwise.
However, You also have passages like [Slide 66 R] Isaiah 14:27 and [Slide 67 R] Job 42:2 – That say very clearly that when God sets His mind to do something, there is absolutely nothing that can thwart His plan.
[Slide 68] So how can God desire all men to be saved, but only choose some, and then blame mankind for Him not choosing them?
Paul asked the same question in Romans 9. Let’s take a look starting in verse 6.
6-13 – Paul is establishing that mankind cannot inherit family status with God. It must be granted. It was granted to Isaac – even though He was not Abraham’s first born – but he was Sarah’s. And with Isaac, before Jacob or Esau were born, and before either of them did anything good or bad, God chose in love Jacob and by comparison, hate in Esau. And the descendants of Esau were the Edomites – which plagued the children of Israel all their history.
14 – 18 – So Paul anticipates the question. If God does the choosing, isn’t it unjust that He rejected Esau before he did anything wrong? Paul uses the strongest Greek negation possible. May it never have been born, may it never have existed. May that thought be erased from your mind forever. Then Paul explains that It is God ‘s peroggative to choose who to show mercy and compassion to. So therefore it does not depend on human desire or effort, but on His mercy alone. And not only does God show mercy to whom He wishes but also he hardens those he chooses to harden.
19-29 – Then Paul anticipates the next logical question. Which is the same one we came to… How can God judge someone for being hardened when He hardens them? Who has ever been able to usurp His will? How does Paul answer such a question?
Paul begins with a pretty humbling statement. Who are you to talk back to God? That kinda sets the tone doesn’t it?
And then He proceeds to offer illustrations of our standing to God. His summarization is that God can do with His creation what He chooses. And then He concludes by saying, essentially, ALL have EARNED wrath. It is always man’s fault if they are cast into hell. Man’s default position is to be like Sodom and Gomorrah. That is where we are all running. And if it were not for God saving some, none would be saved.
And yes God desires all men to be saved, but if mankind is unable to thwart Him, we must conclude that it is God who does not allow Himself to get what He desires. God has a grander purpose beyond the salvation of all men that prevents Him from saving them all.
That is where my knowledge and understanding expires. I have no idea what that purpose is. I have guesses. And I am sure if I had more time to study I could solidify those. But in reality the answer to that question is not relevant to address this objection. Why doesn’t God save all? The real question is, why does God save any?
2.) What about the verses that tell us that it is our responsibility to choose God?
There is an unmistakable role that man plays within His salvific experience. Not just in conversion, but also in sanctification. There is, as we saw, responsibility on the part of man to repent and believe the gospel.
So if God supplies repentance and faith, why does the bible still insist that we must do this? Because it is God’s command. This is true in other areas of life too. We have lungs, and we can breathe, but God gives us breath. We go out and work and earn money to make a living, God even commands this, but God says He supplies all our needs. We only balk at salvation because of the eternal nature of the provisioning. There is more at stake than a mere life. There is eternity at stake.
Mankind plays a part, a role in conversion and sanctification – but it is only a role that God can empower us and impassion us to perform.
Jesus compares salvation to being born again. Tell me…what role did you have in your own birth? The only role you played is that after you were born you lived.
Ephesians compares our spiritual state to being dead in sin and salvation to being raised to life… tell me…what role did Lazarus have in his being raised from the dead? He walked out of the tomb and lived his life until he died again.
What role do you play in your salvation? You use God’s gifts of repentance and faith to continue to repent and believe until He completes the work in you, and presents you faultless before the throne of God.
Only then is salvation truly – without works.
[Slide 69 (end)] So what does it mean to be predestined? In a word… Everything.
There is much more to say, but our time draws short. So let us apply all this teaching to ourselves. How then shall we live?
Friends if you are a follower of Christ. If you are a person who continues to repent and continues to believe… God has predestined you to be conformed to the image of His Son. To reign with Him in His Kingdom. He has predestined you for adoption as sons and daughters.
When the writers of the New Testament speak of this – they ALWAYS speak of it in a spirit of PRAISE. It was never intended nor interpreted as a cause for debate or as an affront against God. It was always and only used as a teaching on which we ought to break out in Thanksgiving and praise. Because we were unworthy and He has chosen to make us worthy. We were blind and He made us to see. We were lost and he found us. We were wandering in darkness, and He has turned on the light.
Praise God for your election! Because we would be doomed without it.
But what if you are here today and you are either unsure you are Christ’s follower or you are sure you aren’t His follower? How does such a teaching apply to you?
I once had a pastor that told me that the doctrine of election was a teaching that we should not let unbelievers know about. Because if we tell them that they have no say in their salvation, they will conclude that all is futile and that they are hopeless unless God chooses them.
If you are an unbeliever and you conclude that you are hopeless unless God chooses you – then you are closer to salvation than you have ever been in your entire life. If you have understood that you are absolutely helpless before a holy God, and that you are guilty, and that nothing you can do can change it… then you stand upon a precipice. And God, even now, may yet be drawing you to His Son. So how do you know if He is drawing you?
Repent and Believe!
But wait, you said that those are gifts that come from God only!
YES! I did! So Repent and Believe. And See… are you being drawn? If you are… your repentance will not end because it is from Him, and your faith will endure, because it is from Him… and you will keep believing in Him and keep calling on His name – and you will be saved. The proof is in the putting. The evidence of God drawing is in your heart turning to Him! Is it turning?
The doctrine of election - it cannot chase you from Him – because you are already radically separated from Him.
But it just may draw you to Him.