Predestination and Free Will (1) - Foreword
Romans Chapter 9
The doctrine of ‘predestination’ has been one of contentions for the last several centuries. God’s predestination is a doctrinal truth that can be found in the bible, but even to our present age, no accurate conclusion has been made concerning ‘predestination.’ Two of God’s servants: John Calvin and Jacob Arminius, have both offered their views on this issue. Calvin emphasised on God’s sovereignty while Arminius focused on man’s free will. Their views are largely opposing, and particular statements that they had made are even obviously incorrect. However, upon careful study, we will find that there are many lessons that we can learn from both of their teachings, which will aid us in the understanding of this doctrine. We neither advocate the teachings of Calvin nor Arminius but to simply uphold the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – for only He is truly worthy of all honour and praise. Whether Calvin or Arminius, they are both servants of the Lord who labour in bringing His followers to draw upon His spiritual richness. Therefore within this discussion, the emphasis would be placed upon what the Bible – the word of God – has to say, and not to dwell on who is right or wrong.
Through this series of articles, we shall take a comprehensive approach to explore the teachings around this topic from the bible. In this study, we hope to expound on the doctrine of predestination, making it clear and easy to understand for all; and in turn, clear all doubts and misunderstandings about God. Thus allowing us to come to understand how wide and long and high and deep is the love of God towards sinners! And to be fully convinced that His sovereign will is completely trustworthy.
Firstly, before we can begin to understand ‘predestination,’ we need to acknowledge that the bible is the highest and final authority of all truths. No matter how profound a human concept, if it is found to contradict with the truths in the bible, we have to cast it out as rubbish. We should never under any circumstances alter the truths in the bible to cater to the philosophies of man. If we have yet to come to accept this most fundamental understanding, we will never be able to understand the truths behind predestination.
A variant of Calvinism – Hyper-Calvinism – does not believe in the preaching of the gospel, because doing so goes against their teaching. They based their teaching on the ‘Five points of Calvinism,’ notably the second point ‘Unconditional Election’ and the fourth point ‘Irresistible Grace.’ They believe that only a selected number of people have been elected by God to be saved; and those who had been elected will come to faith in the Lord because the grace of God bestowed upon them cannot be resisted or refused. They even believe that whoever shares the gospel, attempts to thwart God’s plan, because they could be preaching to someone who had not been elected by God – what if that person comes to faith? Since an elected person will surely come to faith in time, the work of sharing the gospel has then become redundant.
We need to know that ‘Unconditional Election’ and ‘Irresistible Grace’ are terms not found in the bible. They are doctrines derived by Calvin from studying the bible, not clear and specific teachings in the bible. However, sharing the gospel is a truth that had been written clearly in black and white, not only in a few passages but found all over the New Testament. The Lord Himself had specifically instructed His disciples with the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” Furthermore in the book of Acts, it records in details of how the disciples went to all parts of the world preaching the salvation of Christ. Under such circumstances, how can we adopt a teaching that is an extension of the bible, but choose to go against the clear and specific teachings of the bible, so much so to even disobey the command of the Lord? We have in fact elevated the wisdoms of man above the teachings of God, and have honoured man more than God.
This is really an irony, Calvin’s views towards predestination was supposed to help believers better understand the bible, and to follow the will of God. Why have it turned out that today people have used it to rebel against the truths of God? If by strictly adhering to the ‘Five Points of Calvinism’ causes these people to turn against the clear teachings in the bible, should we not raise a question of doubt upon these teachings?
Arminius, on the other hand, believes that a Christian could lose his salvation. The Lord in the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verses 27 to 30, made it clear that no one can take away the eternal life of a believer, not even the believer himself. No matter how unspiritual or how many times a believer has failed, as long as he had sincerely confessed his sins and accepted the Lord, he would never lose his salvation. Our salvation is anchored on the Lord Jesus Christ and not upon ourselves. The Lord is the greatest in the universe, unless there is someone who can be greater than God, could it then be possible to snatch our salvation away from the Lord. Due to Arminius’ overemphasis on the free will of man, it led him to make this wrong conclusion.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one. ~Jn10:27-30
The bible is a book full of profound knowledge and truths, covering many different aspects of our lives. However, no matter how varied are these truths, when we strive to live them out, we should not encounter a situation whereby the truths contradict with one another. Applying these truths, should lead believers to unity and not produce sects of opposing views such as those of Calvin’s and Arminius’s. Having briefly covered the short-comings of their views, it has shown that their teachings are still incomplete, which is why it has led to doctrinal conflicts among Christians. Unless the time is ripe for the Lord to disclose this mystery, without the revelation of the Holy Spirit, no one will come to the full understanding of this doctrine of ‘Predestination.’ Romans, chapter 9, is the key to the disclosure of the doctrine of ‘predestination.’ By embarking on a detailed study of this passage, we shall uncover the truths behind ‘predestination.’