Verses and personal thoughts regarding God's complete sovereignty and man's total depravity.
by Jordan Niednagel
"...thou art as unable to raise thyself out of this loathsome, dead state, to a life of righteousness and true holiness, as ever Lazarus was to raise himself from the cave in which he lay so long. Thou mayest try the power of thy boasted free will, and the force and energy of moral persuasion and rational arguments (which, without doubt, have their proper place in religion); but all thy efforts, exerted with never so much vigor, will prove quite fruitless and abortive, till that same Jesus, who said ‘take away the stone' and cried 'Lazarus, come forth,' also quicken you."
George Whitfield - "The Divine Dramatist"
It is a very divisive topic. It is something that even my dearest of friends differ on. I, myself, waver at times, thinking perhaps it could be one way, or both ways. Perhaps, in the end, the human mind simply cannot fully understand it. While such could possibly be the case, I am quickly reminded of Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, John Calvin, Justin Martyr, John Newton, John Bunyan, and a host of other great heroes of the faith who regarded the doctrine as comprehensible fact, not mere speculation left to the whims of man's faulty intellect. In the end, yes, I do firmly believe in God's sovereign election of the soul of man. However, when asked whether man has a free will or not, I reply with a firm yes. Man has a choice to follow Christ and believe in the name of Jesus for salvation.
How, then, can both be true? I've come to learn that the answer to this dillema is rather simple. Man is free to choose, but due to his fallen, sinful nature, his choice will never be to follow Christ. It is akin to offering straw to a lion. Physically, the lion could take the straw in its mouth, chew it, and swallow it. However, he is a carnivore, and to do so would go completely against his nature. The lion will simply never, ever eat the straw. So man, when left to himself, will never choose God, for to do so would be completely against His fallen nature. Man, as the Scriptures teach, is dead in his sin. He is not sick, nor diseased, but completely, utterly dead. A corpse cannot respond to a verbal call. It is impossible, yet as Jesus Christ Himself said to His disciples when asked, "Who then, can be saved?", His reply gave us the simple answer ... "with God all things are possible."
Yet, I must admit something, and it is something that both Armenians and Calvinists will rarely admit. Both doctrines, when boiled down, are unfair, no matter how you look at it. If man has something to do with his salvation, time and circumstance plays a huge part. What, then, of the buddhist raised in India who is taught that his religion is the one true way, as compared to the fortunate American who is raised in a Christian home and taught the ways of Christ? No matter how you boil it down, one is luckier than the other, and by random chance, one has better odds at making it to heaven than the other. Conversely, God's ultimate choice of who is and isn't saved, regardless of their works, words, or personage as clearly taught in Romans 9, also isn't fair. Why do I know this? Because Paul Himself never tries to rationalize it as being fair. His question and his answer are clear and simple, as stated in Romans 9:19-20. "Thou wilt say then unto me, 'Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?' Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, 'Why hast thou made me thus?" And one statement a few verses earlier sums it up best. "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." How more clearly could he have summed it up? It doesn't matter how hard you run, nor how great your will is, it doesn't depend on you. It depends on God.
Some of my Armenian and Calvnist brethren get on me for this ... calling something of God unfair. Please understand me, in the end, when we all get to heaven, I think we'll fully understand salvation's true beauty and justice. My opinion is that, simply, here on earth we cannot rationalize it as fair so far as we understand fairness. By all means, prove me wrong. Explain to me where I am in error. My simple reply is that Paul never tried to rationalize it, and I won't attempt to either. My answer is Paul's answer. Who are we to question God?
Charles Spurgeon was very strong and adamant about the issue, much morso than I am.
"What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ, - the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor."
With such in mind, my introduction is now over. The following are a number of verses that speak on the doctrine of predestination.
Verses That Lead Me To Believe In Predestination
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . . Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will. - Ephesians 1:4-5, 11
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9
For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. - 2 Timothy 2:10
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. - I Peter 1:1-2
Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble. - II Peter 1:10
“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this they were very astonished and said 'Then who can be saved?' And looking at them Jesus said to them, 'With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.' " - Matthew 19:24-26
At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” - Luke 10:21-22
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” - John 6:44
And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. - John 6:65-66
“He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” - John 8:47
“I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours.” - John 17:9
Praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved .- Acts 2:47
When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. - Acts 13:48
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28
And these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. - Romans 8:30
So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. - Romans 9:16
So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” - Romans 9:18-19
But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased . . . - Galatians 1:15
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? - Galatians 4:9
“Now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?” - Luke 18:7
“For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.” - Mark 13:22
“Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” - Matthew 24:22
Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. - Romans 8:33
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. - Romans 8:29
Among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ. - Romans 1:6
But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. - Romans 11:4-5
“And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.” - Mark 13:27
Knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you.” - I Thessalonians 1:4
Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness.” - Titus 1:1
For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls. - Romans 9:11
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. - Colossians 3:12
“For many are called, but few are chosen.” - Matthew 22:14
“Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days.” - Mark 13:20
“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” - Revelation 17:14
And “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. - I Peter 2:8
Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: - Jude 1:1
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny out only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. - Jude 1:4
Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. - John 1:13
But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their hart, and be converted and I heal them.” - John 12:37-40
I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, “He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.” - John 13:18
Personal Thoughts On Some Passages
Ephesians 1:4-5, 11: I like how it says “kind intention of His will,” and “In love He predestined.” The point is stressed that He did it out of pure love, though man may think it to be unfair. Without God, however, no one would be saved, let alone a few.
Ephesians 2:8-9: If man had any part in salvation, there would be room for boasting. Paul makes it clear that it is “not of yourselves.” How could he have made his point any more clear?
2 Timothy 2:10: This is a personal favorite. The question is often asked, “Why witness if God chooses?” Here Paul answers by saying that he “endures all things for the sake of those who are chosen.”
Matthew 19:24-26: It is impossible for a large camel to go through the miniscule eye of a needle. The disciples then rightfully ask, “Then who can be saved?” Only with God, Jesus answers, is it possible. Whether rich or poor, only by God, and God alone, is salvation possible.
Luke 10:21-22: Here we see Jesus joyful regarding the fact that spiritual truths were hidden from certain people. This is certainly not the common perception of Christ. He also says clearly, “anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
John 6:65-66: To come to God one must be granted by God. He says “no one” can come unless He draws him, clearly insinuating that not everyone is open to come, and that He doesn’t draw every single person on the planet. Those who heard Him (disciples) clearly understood what He was saying, and look what happened . . . Many of them withdrew. Truly, the severity of His words struck their hearts.
John 17:19: Jesus singles out a group of individuals to whom He asks on their behalf, and not those of “the world.”
Acts 13:48: The way this verse is stated is amazing. “And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” What about the ones that hadn’t been appointed? Is every man and woman on earth appointed?
Romans 9:16: This is not talking about a nation or a group of people, as some suggest, but the individual man who wills or the individual man who runs. Paul clearly says it does not depend at all on us, but “on God who has mercy.”
Romans 9:18-19: This is probably the most clear passage in reference to Calvinism. The question is clearly asked, if God chooses, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” Paul couldn’t make it any more obvious. God is the one who chooses, even if we as men think it to be unfair. Why would Paul bring up such a question unless he was expecting this teaching to be so controversial?
Galatians 1:15: Paul says he was separated from his mother’s womb, just like John The Baptist. Were these two men just rare occurrences? Is it not seemingly unfair that they were separated before they were born, and others were not? Surely God gave a measure of grace to these two that weren’t given to many others.
Galatians 4:9: It’s almost humorous how Paul corrects himself here, saying, “or rather to be known by God.”
Romans 9:11: Again, clearly speaking of two individual men, and not nations or peoples. It refers to them as twins, having not yet done anything good or bad. As the verse says, it was this way so that His choice would stand.
Matthew 22:14: This is a famous statement of Jesus, but what does it mean? Simply put, there are two kinds of calls. The outward call and the inward call. Everyone receives the outward call, but not everyone the inward. Here Jesus makes that distinction. Many hear the spoken gospel, or in His words, “Many are called.” However, not many are selected, or in His words, “few are chosen.” Chosen by whom? Certainly man can’t choose himself. The clear meaning is chosen of God for salvation.
Elect: There are just so many verses referring to the elect. The term wouldn’t make much sense if everyone was elect. Just as one cannot elect himself to be President, one cannot elect himself to salvation, but must rather be elected by another.
Personal Reasoning & Logic
Clearly we can see from Scripture that God frequently chooses. He chose Abraham, despite the fact that there were millions of other people on earth to choose from. He chose the nation of Israel, despite the fact that there were many other nations on earth to choose from. We see from Scripture that he chose Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. We see further that He chose Saul to become the first king. We see later that He chose David to be Saul’s successor from among his seven brothers.
In the New Testament, one must be reminded of John The Baptist, who even while in his mother’s womb was full of the Holy Spirit. Are all babies full of the Spirit while in the womb? Clearly not. Why? Why would the Lord show special favor to John even before his birth? Think of Paul, who although was against God, was one day thrown off his horse as Jesus appeared to Him. Why Paul? Why not someone else? Why show a measure of favor to Paul that others were not given?
If the issue of fairness is brought up in an attack against predestination, I have clearly shown from the Bible that the Lord shows special favor to individuals without merit. This, from our mortal human understanding, is unfair. God does show favor to whom He desires. We cannot and must not deny this truth.
Lastly, God’s word tells us that no man seeks after God. The things of God are foolishness to him, because they are spiritually appraised. Man is dead in his transgressions, and not partially alive. A dead man cannot talk, cannot breathe, and cannot even move. Such are we spiritually.
Despite the fact that I believe God, in the end, determines who will and who will not be saved, I see in the Bible the call to all people to follow the Lord as though man was the deciding factor. I see Paul preaching like an Armenian, but teaching as a Calvinist. Not once, ever, do you see Paul preaching to the unsaved the doctrines of predestination. Instead, you find such doctrines contained only in his letters to fellow believers. Jesus Christ Himself, who yes, did speak at times of His choosing and man's inability to save himself, also preached as though the onus was on man to determine his eternal destination.
In the end, I believe in preaching like an Armenian, and teaching like a Calvinist. That doesn't mean to go telling people that they can, this day, accept Christ in their hearts and know for sure that they're going to heaven. Rather, it is the simple call to repentance that we see again and again in the New Testament. It's beautiful, and it's basic. There's no need to complicate the matter, and to do so is to undermine the simplicity of the gospel ... the good news.
Spurgeon summarizes it best:
"You know well our Apostle has many things in his writings which are hard to be understood. Yet, he uttered them because of the Spirit and you never meet with any attempt in the Apostle’s writings as you do in the preaching of some ministers, as you do in the conversation of some professors, to reconcile predestination with free-will. He was quite content to preach to men as free agents, and exhort them to repent. Quite willing to speak of God as working in us to will and to do of His good pleasure, while we also work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Paul was never curious to find out where the lines of truth met. He was perfectly content to take his doctrine from His Master’s Spirit."
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