Three Most Common Objections Some Have to Predestination

Last Sunday I preached my sermon on the next passage as we progress through our sermon series on Romans 1-8. So I preached on Romans 8:29-30 and titled the sermon, “The Golden Chain of Five Links.” That title did not originate with me, of course. It’s referred as that by many Christian teachers, because it aptly depicts the five acts of God in this passage that guarantees and secures the salvation of Christians. For sake of context, we also need to read v. 28 with it.

Romans 8:28-30 TNIV
(28) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (29) For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (30) And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

So what are the five links in this Golden Chain:
(1) God foreknows, (2) God predestines, (3) God calls, (4) God justifies, and (5) God glorifies in Jesus Christ EVERY person who will be in the kingdom of heaven. God is the one who does all this. The promise of Romans 8:29-30 is that God is the one who guarantees and secures our salvation.

God does it all. He’s done it! Not us. Because, as I said in my sermon, none of us believes God enough to guarantee and secure our salvation. None of us desires to obey God enough to guarantee and secure our salvation. None of us gives thanks to him enough—honors him enough—loves him enough—seeks him enough—trusts his will enough to guarantee and secure our salvation.

That’s why for EVERY true Christian, their salvation is guaranteed and secured and 100% certain—as good as done—because God has foreknown and predestined and will call and justify all those who will be conformed to Christ’s resurrected glory in heaven. So according to this passage, if you follow the links of the Golden Chain, to be glorified in heaven is to have been foreknown and predestined by God. This is why it’s called the golden chain of five inseparable links.

So when people ask, Do you guys at The Crossing believe in predestination? My answer is that every Bible-believing Christian (which is every Christian) SHOULD believe what the Bible teaches us about our salvation in Christ, so yes, we do—don’t you?

Now, as I said in my sermon, we always need to keep in mind that this passage in Romans is not a truth that is void of a larger biblical context. We need to remember that the entire Bible is always the context of any one single passage in the Bible. No verse is truth in a vacuum.

So, in Matthew 4:6-7, when Satan tempted Jesus by quoting Psalm 91:11-12—

“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

What Satan was doing was taking a biblical truth and making it an absolute statement in a vacuum, disconnected from the larger context of the rest of the Bible. So in v. 7, Jesus answers back to Satan with a kind of biblical “yeah, but…”—

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

And we should do a similar kind of thing with this passage in Romans 8:29-30. The entire Bible is always the larger context to provide the meaning of any single verse or passage. And that’s the case here too. So with Romans 8:29-30, there is another “yeah, but…” we must say too.

Which means that while God foreknows and predestines and calls and justifies and will glorify EVERY single (true) Christian—without exception—it’s ALSO true that if you (or anyone else would) draw near to God, he will draw near to you (so promises the Bible in James 4:8). And it’s also true that Jesus invites everyone to come to him and believe in him—“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). Everyone is invited. And we as Christians must always speak this way. Anyone who wants to can come to Christ in repentance and faith and he will embrace them—without exception.

And, then again, it’s also true that ALL of those who (truly) come to Christ in repentance and faith are those he foreknew and predestined and called to justify and glorify in Christ. It’s hard to understand how all this works, I admit. But if we want to be Christians who believe all that God has revealed to us in his word, then we have to endeavor to try to believe both because the Bible clearly teaches both. We cannot jettison one biblical truth to embrace another biblical truth simply because we cannot accept the veracity of mystery.

And so we say with Paul after he writes all this—

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).

But, there are some Christians who do not (yet) accept the Bible’s teaching on predestination. They think that because the Bible offers salvation to everyone (which it does), predestination can’t be true. In addition to this, there are three most common objections some Christians voice as to why they won’t accept predestination. So, with some help from an excellent commentary on Romans by James Montgomery Boice, I’d like to discuss the most common objections to predestination that I hear from many Christians.

Common Objection #1: “If you believe in predestination, you make God a tyrant and salvation arbitrary.”

I think this stems from an elevated view of human goodness and a lesser view of God’s holiness and righteousness. Because anytime we see God as a tyrant because he doesn’t offer everyone forgiveness and salvation, it betrays that we think people basically deserve salvation and God is unfair if he doesn’t offer it to everyone equally (again, the Bible clearly DOES offer salvation to everyone, and so should we, but it also teaches that only those God has foreknown and predestined and called will believe and be justified and glorified in Christ).

Now, if we just read the Epistle of Romans alone, and then we ask the question—What if God really did give us what we really do deserve? What if God really did give us the justice that is fair? We’d discover that Romans tells us that all we’d get is God’s wrath and judgment and condemnation. The righteous justice of God in his judgment for people’s sin is what Romans 1:18-32 is all about—God’s justice condemns us and can only condemn us because we justly deserve only God’s wrath. Do you believe that? Let’s read some of it.

Romans 1:18-21 TNIV
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

So if we really expect and seek true justice from God, we will not find ourselves on the side of it we presume to be—but rather, we’ll get only wrath and condemnation forever.

But in order to be saved from God’s condemnation, we need mercy, not justice. In other words, we need for God NOT to be fair, but to be unfair and have mercy. And that’s really what predestination is all about. It is God showing mercy to some—those whom he wants to show mercy (Rom 9:18). And we simply don’t know why it’s some and not others or everyone. Only God knows. But God is NOT a tyrant in judging and condemning anyone. He is just in condemning everyone. And he is merciful in saving anyone. But no one deserves it. So how can God be a tyrant by choosing to save some but not all?

Common Objection #2. If you believe in predestination, you must deny any real human freedom.

This, of course, if based upon a misunderstanding of just how much real freedom fallen human beings—whose thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened—actually have. How free, really, is a person with futile thinking and a foolish, darkened heart? Are they free not to be foolish and futile? What does God’s word tell us about our “freedom” as fallen human beings in bondage to futile thinking and foolish hearts darkened by sin? It tells us that, outside the mercy of God and the help of God to open eyes and soften hardened hearts and enlighten darkened hearts, no human being is really free to sincerely choose God rather than sin.

In Romans 3:10-18, the apostle Paul goes through a litany of Old Testament verses that describe the reality of every human being from God’s point of view.

Romans 3:10-18 TNIV
As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

This is not freedom, but bondage. And the apostle Paul later sums it up this way…

Romans 8:7 TNIV
“The sinful mind is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”

Now, if these verses are truly describing the human condition, then the problem with fallen human beings is that, left to themselves, no one would ever respond in true repentance and faith in Christ. They hear the gospel, but they turn away, preferring their own way and their own will rather than repentance and faith in and submission to and trust in Christ. So predestination does not take away freedom. Quite the opposite. It restores it. But you have to believe what the Bible says about fallen human beings before you can see it that way. Otherwise, you will be trapped into thinking that when God chooses to be merciful to some rather than all—to open their eyes and hearts to him—he’s actually denying human freedom.

It is because God foreknows me and predestines me to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ in his resurrected glory forever that I am ever able to turn from sin’s bondage and set free to serve, love, and obey Christ more and more (but never perfectly this side of the resurrection of glory). That’s real freedom. But apart from God’s saving mercy, no one can do that. But in foreknowing and predestining some to be called, justified, and glorified in Christ, God restores their real human freedom.

Common Objection #3. If you believe in predestination, you will destroy the motivation for telling others about Christ. Why should we labor to bring salvation to those whom God has already determined to save anyway?

The biblical answer to this is that God also predestines the means to accomplish his purposes, not just what his purposes are. So, the apostle Paul writes…

2 Timothy 2:10 TNIV
“I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”

Paul saw God’s predestination of the “elect” as an even better motive for him to labor hard and even suffer much in order to tell others about Christ. But why? Because his reasoning is that, if God has determined to bring salvation (eternal glory in Christ) to his elect by means of Paul’s faithful witness, then it is as important and necessary that Paul (and you and I) be a witness to those who are elect as it is that those who are elect receive salvation.

But the Bible tells us even more than that. Suppose God does not elect some to salvation and so does not predestine to give faith and repentance to those who are otherwise dead in their sins. He does no more in their heart to give them a desire for him than he does in everyone else who is hostile to him in their minds and hearts. Everything is equal and “fair.” He doesn’t work in anyone more than in anyone else. So no one is enabled by God more than anyone else to respond to the message of the gospel. If God does not commit himself to doing that, what hope do you and I have of ever doing that? If the hearts of people are as foolish and darkened and incapable of belief in Christ as the Bible tells us they are, how can you and I ever hope to bring anyone to repentance and faith in Christ? How do you and I work in someone’s foolish and darkened heart to open their eyes and enlighten their heart to give them a desire for Christ? Certainly we are part of the process that GOD uses when HE is the one working in someone’s heart. And he works in the hearts by calling those he foreknew and predestined to be eternally justified and glorified in Christ.

But look at it another way. If God HAS foreknown and predestinedelected—some to salvation, then, just like the apostle Paul, I can be both relaxed and bold in my witness for Christ. And so can you. We can know that God will save those he has predestined to save and will even predestine to use my and your witness to do so—however feeble or imperfect our witness may be—if that is the means he has chosen. Far from destroying the basis for witnessing, what the Bible teaches about God’s foreknowledge and predestination and calling actually makes it possible. And fruitful.

Thanks for reading.

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