In the first article on predestination, we discussed how to approach a difficult doctrine (see: https://rgfellowship.church/predestination-election-and-reprobation-part-1).
In the second article, we defined the terms “predestine, election, reprobation, God’s sovereignty, man’s responsibility, and compatibilism” (see: https://rgfellowship.church/predestination-part-2-defining-terms).
In the third article, we looked at the major proof texts on the doctrine of predestination (see: https://rgfellowship.church/predestination-part-3-texts-that-prove-election-and-reprobation).
Here, let’s consider some questions that may remain in the minds of those studying the biblical teaching on predestination.
1) Does God send people to hell?
When we talk of election and reprobation, many people say, “But God would never send someone to hell!” People often assume that it is “unkind” to think of God as sending people to hell. They assume it is better to say that “we send ourselves to hell,” or that “we make bad choices, which lead us to hell.” But we want to ask: is that how Scripture speaks? Is that the most biblical approach to this topic? Let’s always remember that we need to prioritize the Bible over our emotions. We need to go with revealed truth, rather than going with our opinions.
In stark contrast to the thought that “God would never send anyone to hell,” the following texts show that God is in fact the one and only being who has the right, power, and will to send people to hell.
Matthew 10:28 “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.“
Luke 12:4–5 “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!“
Matthew 25:41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
James 4:12 “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?”
Here we should note that Satan does nothave power to send people to hell. Also, humans do not have the power to send themselves to hell. Humans do not have the power to make judgments and decrees about the eternal state of their souls. Only God can send beings to hell, and when He does so, He is perfectly just to do so because all have sinned, and He is perfectly sovereign in doing so, because nothing can thwart His will; His sovereign decrees are perfect.
2) Whose will is freer, mine or God’s?
As we have seen, God’s teaching on predestination is not unjust or capricious. Rather, it stresses the fact that God is the only being in the universe who truly has a “free will.” Our God “is in the heavens, He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). Humans are entirely at the mercy of God’s sovereign will.
From the opposite angle, we can consider this: God is not at the mercy of man’s “free will” in the least. The Bible teaches that man has free agency and total responsibility in his choices, but man’s will is always subject to the overriding will of omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God.
3) “Predestination Tattoos.” We must always stress: we don’t know who is predestined!
We have seen that the fact of God predestining people is clearly spelled out in many Bible texts. It is not a hidden doctrine or something one can ignore when reading the Scriptures.
The content of predestination, however, is unknown to man. By this we mean that no one knows who is predestined to a certain fate. We simply do not have access to this part of God’s will and decree.
Charles Spurgeon is reported to have spoken of “predestination tattoos” – if we could just glance at someone’s arm or neck and know if they are elect, then we would only preach to those people! But the point is that such a scenario is absurd. We simply do not know who is elect and who is not.
It is incredibly important to keep this in mind. So many people ignore or spurn the doctrine of predestination because they believe it teaches that people can know who is elect and who is reprobate – who is predestined to what fate – but God’s Word does not teach that we can know the content of God’s decree of predestination.
For example, one can never look at a body of people and say, “I predict that X percent of them are elect, and Y percent are reprobate.”
Likewise, one can never look at a family with a wayward child and say, “That child is probably reprobate.” That would be a total abuse of Christ’s teaching on predestination.
Or consider this: one can never look at a city full of immorality and say, “Look how many reprobates dwell in this city,” or, “There are probably 50 elect people in this city.” That would be a total abuse of Christ’s teaching on predestination.
Instead, we ought to recognize that God has undeniably predestined all people either for election or reprobation – and we don’t know who is elect and who is not. But we go out sharing the gospel, confident that God knows, and that God will powerfully save.
4) How do we evangelize in light of predestination?
Since we don’t know who is elect and who is reprobate, we ought to evangelize everyone with great hope, leaning on God’s sovereign will, and knowing that God has called all humans to repent and believe the gospel. With this understanding of the universe, we then evangelize zealously as instruments that God is using to fulfill His sovereign and unchangeable decrees.
Without an understanding of predestination, people evangelize as free will agents looking to persuade other free will agents, and on this model God would save on the basis of human response. Without an understanding of God’s sovereignty in salvation, Christians will begin to evangelize pragmatically, searching for the best methods, and inventing schemes that are not presented in Scripture.
Instead, the Christian understands that God saves on the basis of His free love given to sinners who could never save themselves. Then and only then can we preach freely, biblically, and without partiality. Christ’s teaching on predestination is absolutely vital to having a correct perspective on evangelism. It takes us out of the realm of obsession with human response and free will, and into the realm of total trust in the saving power of almighty God.
5) Promoting our comfort and killing our pride
We have seen that predestination is absolutely vital to a Christian’s assurance of faith, growth in grace, and comfort in God’s blessings. For this reason alone, we should preach the doctrine from the housetops!
Moreover, and finally, a correct understanding of predestination will break man’s pride at its very root. This is absolutely crucial to a right understanding of the gospel.
The Arminian who denies predestination is – somehow, somewhere – implicitly saying that he contributed something to his salvation. His salvation was dependent on his repentance, on his belief, on his saying yes to Jesus.
Christ’s teaching on predestination breaks that pride at its very root. And we come to realize that our salvation is based only on the free mercy of God, provided for us in eternity past, and applied to us in real time by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit – not by any works, power, or free will that we have exercised. To God be the glory. Great things He has done.