#WCSK Episode 2.6b: Predestination, Election, Guilt, Sin and Reprobation

Picking up from last week …

What predestination does

Predestination gives us comfort.

God’s predestination of all things, and specifically His election of those to be saved, is a comfort to believers. Again, Romans 8:29-30 says:

“For those whom [God] foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

These verses are immediately preceded by Paul writing that God works in all things for the good of those who love Him (v. 28). So before time began, God was working in all things for the good of those who love Him. In the future, God will work for the good of those who love Him. So then, Paul reasons, because God’s predestination spans all of eternity, He also works in the present for the good of those who love Him. So present circumstances, present adversity, and present struggles all fall under the reign of a sovereign God Who is actively working for the good of the elect.

Predestination motivates our praise and worship of The Lord while crushing spiritual pride over “chosenness.”

Ephesians 1:5-6 says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (emphasis added). In other words, cognizant that our election is an act of free, loving grace, believers are compelled to praise God for what He has done for us. In the same light, in I Thessalonians 1:2, Paul writes to the church and says, “We give thanks to God always for all of you” and qualifies one reason for the thanks as God’s “choice of you” (v. 4). Paul reiterates the same sentiment in II Thessalonians 2:13: “We should always give thanks to God … because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation.”

As mentioned in the beginning, the agent of predestination is God, so there is absolutely no room for anyone to boast. A person alone cannot achieve salvation because election is independent of the individual. Salvation is only possible with God. Predestination, therefore, eliminates any sense of worth or merit that anyone may feel. Spiritual pride makes its subscribers think they’re better than everyone else, leading to arrogance, oppression, and condemnation. Predestination leads to humility, to liberation, and ultimately, to salvation.

Predestination animates your purpose in life: to glorify God by your endurance for the elect.

Essentially, predestination compels you to seek and reach out to others because there are many, many people who have been chosen before the foundation of the world but haven’t heard the gospel call yet. Remember the golden chain of salvation:

foreknowledge -> predestination -> calling -> justification -> glorification

As mentioned before, calling entails the external call (preaching of the gospel) and the internal call (God compelling you to respond in faith). And what is the natural event that precedes faith? “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (emphasis added; Romans 10:17). This highlights the pressing need for evangelism because many chosen elect have yet to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Evangelism is a vehicle by which God’s purposes materialize in the natural world. God uses evangelism as a vehicle to bring others to Himself, and without participation in this, some people will not be saved:

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.[1]

Of course, the necessity for evangelism does not suggest that a lack of evangelism will override God’s sovereignty. It does remind us, however, that God is intimately involved in the real world and frequently uses natural means to execute His sovereign will. It also suggests that Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross was a purposeful act to make certain the salvation of God’s elect—He endured the Cross for the sake of those predestined before the foundation of the world. Accordingly, Paul writes in II Timothy 2:10, “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.” We, as believers, don’t endure for our sakes. We endure for the sake of the elect and for our actions to serve as a testimony to others. Our story and how we respond should be a source of encouragement, inspiration, and empowerment to God’s chosen people.

Predestination unburdens you from feelings of guilt.

Guilt is something a person incurs when he or she violates a rule. It is that uneasy feeling in your conscience when you do something wrong. This objective guilt fuels subjective feelings of guilt, which everyone experiences differently. For example, some believers are crippled with guilty emotions if they even think about sipping some wine, while others experience no such emotional paralysis. Yes, The Lord is merciful and loving, but He also has many rules and regulations. Because God makes the ultimate rules we are to follow, many Christians are plagued and burdened from the ultimate guilt that comes from violating God’s Law and “missing the mark” that God has set. Ultimate guilt leads to accusation, embarrassment, and shame, and it stunts our psychological growth. Shame also tends to drive people away from family, the church, and God due to a perceived sense of “unworthiness.”[2] Of course, it is true that without Christ, no one can stand before God because of the burden of sin.[3] When people attempt to atone for their guilt, they often resort to manmade methods with unsatisfactory results.

This is actually where Satan, the accuser, steps in all the time. The devil constantly accuses people of their sins in order to plant the seed of guilt, generate guilty feelings, and destroy people.[4] The devil uses guilt as a means to condemn you. God, on the other hand, convicts you of sin in order to show you that something is wrong. The devil convicts and offers no viable solutions. God convicts so that He can show you the only solution: Jesus. God’s conviction is a means to repentance, healing, reconciliation, forgiveness, righteousness, and obedience. In fact, when the devil accuses, the best way to respond is the same way Jesus did: with God’s Word. We resist the accuser with the unyielding truth of that Word.[5] So, when Satan says, “You’re a despicable sinner!” you can agree. “Yes, you are right, I am a sinner. But as it is written, I have confessed my sins to The Lord Who has forgiven me.[6] For Jesus came into this world to save sinners just like me.”[7] That is a truth to which the devil has no response.

God does not change his eternal law or “move the mark” so that what we do is now “OK.” He makes us aware that indifference to His law still fails to solve the problem of guilt. He also reminds us that in our power, nothing can be done to pay our debt.[8]

And here is where God solves the problem. The Bible is an eternal truth that is bigger than any individual’s guilt and feelings of guilt. The Bible says that if we earnestly confess our sins, that God will forgive us.[9] Herein lies the ultimate solution to ultimate guilt: the forgiveness of God. As R.C. Sproul writes, “The only real cure for real guilt is real forgiveness based on real repentance and real faith.”[10] God has already promised that if we confess, He will forgive us and remove every speck of unrighteousness from us. That is a promise anyone can trust in because it comes from God. Granted, there are some people whom God has already forgiven but are still crippled by guilt. Why? They don’t believe God. They have yet to embrace the awesome fact that God has already spoken an eternal truth that is bigger than any individual’s guilt and feelings of guilt. When the Bible says, “If you confess, then He will forgive” that truly means if you confess, then He will forgive. And if God has forgiven you through the power of Jesus’s blood sacrifice on the cross, you are forgiven, and your guilt is eradicated. God’s forgiveness even transcends other unforgiving people and unchanging circumstances.

So how does all of this relate to predestination? Very simply stated, for the elect, God had already predetermined that they would come to repentance and have their guilt washed away. So, for the elect, once they clinch this humbling truth and praise God for what He has done, they can repent, confess their sins, be forgiven, be unshackled from guilt, move forward, and obey. Paul actually anticipated all the elect who would live on earth burdened by guilt. He writes about predestination and then empowers believers by saying:

“Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[11]

The devil is an accusatory loser. He’s a liar, a parasite, and he offers nothing of value. He may try to ultimately harm you and may convince you that he has power over you, but he’s still a loser. He’s such a loser that God already predestined that the accuser would not be able to separate the elect from Him no matter how much guilt and accusations the deceiver pours over us. For who can bring a charge against God’s elect? No one. Why? Because Jesus already beat the accuser. And before the foundation of the world, God predestined the elect, who will not and cannot ever be separated from the love of Christ.

Predestination guarantees your salvation.

People make lasting decisions all the time that are based on uncertainty. Marriage is one example. In the beginning, a couple comes together and intends to spend the rest of their lives together. This decision is not absolutely certain because no person knows the future, and the success of the marriage is dependent on people and circumstances. People are fallible. People change. Circumstances change all the time. Marriage, then, is a lifelong commitment based on uncertainty. But aware of this reality, people still get married. Experience tells us that people are willing to make temporal decisions based on uncertainty all the time. Yet, when it comes to your eternal destiny and something that will last forever, would you rather devote your entire being to pursue something that is uncertain and insecure or something that is absolutely certain and assured?

As I mentioned in the first lesson of WCSK Volume II, faith is never blind. Faith has value only because of what that faith is in: a very certain God.

The good news is that eternity is based on the certainty of God and the full assurance of God’s promises. Predestination illuminates the comforting fact that not only can you be sure that you’re saved, but once you are counted among God’s elect, your salvation is guaranteed. This nullifies the natural peaks and valleys of the Christian experience where some days we “feel” saved and other days we “feel” unsaved. Thankfully, because of God’s sovereign choice, our salvation is not dependent upon how we feel or our subjective experience. We can’t judge us by us.[12]

Because election is based on God’s sovereign choice, our salvation is based upon foreknowledge and predestination. Election is not based upon our performance. As R.C. Sproul writes, “Election is unto salvation. In this view, if you are elect, you will be saved, and if you are saved, that is the clearest sign that you are numbered among the elect. Let me say it another way: None who are saved are not elect, and none who are elect fail to be saved.”[13] Therefore, election not only makes salvation possible, it also guarantees it. Why did God elect? To make absolutely certain the salvation of those whom He chose.[14] Jesus did not die on a cross just to make salvation possible. He died to ensure salvation for those whom God foreknew.[15] If this is not the case, then those who do not believe in The Lord ceaselessly thwart God’s purposes. Here, God is not sovereign, and thus, God is not God.

By divine design, God sent Jesus into the world to make salvation certain. So when Jesus said, “It is finished” on the Cross,[16] it truly was finished. Salvation was now secure for the elect, not just a potentiality. Jesus did not say, “It is finished from my end, but now it’s up to you guys to take it from here.”

Assurance of salvation always has to be tempered with caution as one cannot use it to move forward with an arrogant sense of self-aggrandizement. One has to work out their salvation with fear and trembling[17] cognizant that in the final judgment, not everyone who “did all the right things” and called God “Lord, Lord” will enter heaven.[18] We cannot rest our sense of salvation on ourselves, because our hearts are deceitful.[19] We can rest our sense of salvation on God, Who is eternally good. Hence, because our salvation is dependent on God, Who predestined us, we can be sure of our salvation and be persuaded that God will remain committed to us.[20]

But how can we be sure? Well, God already has salvation covered, so it certainly isn’t the responsibility of individuals to ascertain whether other people are saved or not. It does persuade you to ensure that you are saved. II Peter 1:10-11 says the following:

“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; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” (emphasis added)

In general, both I Peter and II Peter speak about what election looks like in the lives of believers.

Jesus tells us that those who are in His family are those who do the will of God.[21] In Matthew 13:1-23, Jesus further explains that the “good seeds” are those who hear the Word of God, understand it, and bear fruit, some “a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” This is why Christ said in Matthew 7:16, “You will know them by their fruits.”[22] The Greek word for fruit is karpos, which refers to literal fruit but also means, “works, acts, deeds.” People who are genuinely saved do the will of God, are doers of the Word, and have varying degrees of productivity in their life. The regeneration of the Holy Spirit changes what your heart is inclined to do,[23] and that inclination is toward fruitfulness. Certainly, we are not saved by our works, but a faith that is not productive is dead faith.[24] True religion involves animated, effectual doers[25] who act in service to God and to others.[26]

Reprobation

Wayne Grudem writes, “Reprobation is the sovereign decision of God before creation to pass over some persons, in sorrow deciding not to save them, and to punish them for their sins, and thereby manifest his justice.”[27] Basically, when God elects those who are to be saved, a group remains that is to be judged.

Election is an act of God’s grace and is reason to celebrate. Reprobation is the result of God’s justice and, as hard of a pill it is to swallow, this is what is fair because the penalty of sin is death.

As we have already learned, God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked[28] and desires that all be saved.[29] Reprobation brings sorrow to The Lord.[30] Therefore, Scripture makes clear that God is active in the salvation of the elect, but does not act to “choose” the reprobate. To do so would be a violation of His will. For the reprobate, they “did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, [so] God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”[31]

Many Scripture verses speak of those who were passed over before the foundation of the world.[32] One example can be read in Jude 4:

“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 our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Conclusion: What this all means

I have to go back to my 2-year-old son (again) because being a father has helped me make so much sense of the Bible, particularly the doctrine of predestination. Elisha lives with my wife and me in our house. The house belongs to the two adults, but we freely share our house with Elisha because he is our son, and we love him. Naturally speaking, Elisha exists because of my wife and me, and we liberally give to him because of our decision to have a son. And, out of love, each and every day we allow him to exercise his freedom as a zealous and energetic toddler. He is free to put animal stickers on the dining room table, because we allow him to do that. He is free to make a mess with Play-Doh in the section of the living room that we have predetermined is for him. But Elisha, being a child, is subordinate to my wife and me because he is the child and we are the parents. As a result of this, there are many things that Elisha is not free to do because Elisha is not autonomous. He does not live in a house where he can do whatever he wants. We have predestined that some things Elisha cannot do, and we have put barriers in place that define the contours of his freedom. Elisha is not autonomous and cannot open our front door because there is a high deadbolt that prevents him from walking outside. He is free to roam about the house. Elisha is not autonomous and cannot open the drawer that contains knives because there is a plastic lock on it. He loves to carry a spoon around, and we have allowed him the freedom to open a drawer filled with plastic spoons.

Elisha hates sleep. Every night, when it’s bedtime, he cries like we’re hurting him. Although he doesn’t verbalize it, his tears are saying, “It’s not fair! This is my life, and I want to live it.” Little does Elisha realize that his parents are looking out for him, and they both want him to live a happy, healthy life. Because we want all things to work out for good in his life, we recognize the value of good sleep, and we put him to bed early.

The reason we purposely limit his choices is to protect him. If we did allow him to be autonomous, not only would we be bad parents, but we would knowingly give our son the “freedom” to hurt himself. True freedom isn’t about the number of choices you have. It’s about where those choices take you.

Our house is symbolic of the world, and the parent-child relationship is analogous to the relationship between God and His creations. If things begin to make sense in the small gap between a child and parents, imagine what happens in the infinite gap between humans and The Lord. Even more, we, being temporary, are trying to rationalize an eternal choice made by an infinite God using our finite understanding.

Hence, predestination can never be interpreted as a doctrine in isolation. It must be interpreted in the context of a relationship between a loving, personal God and His creation. In the same way that a law must consider the Lawgiver, predestination must take into consideration the God Who predestines. He is the one Who predestines with positive intent, and this subsequently fuels a chain that leads to eternal life.

Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal

 

[1] Romans 10:14-17

[2] And this helps explain why, in this day and age, making anyone feel guilty about anything is a path seldom taken: because guilt diminishes self-esteem, leads to animosity, and drives people away. Making someone feel good about something—even if it’s wrong—boosts self-esteem and retains people.

[3] Psalm 130:3

[4] For example, see Zechariah 3:1-5

[5] James 4:7

[6] I John 1:9

[7] I Timothy 1:15

[8] See Matthew 18:25 where Jesus talked about forgiveness and the utter inability of a debtor to pay his debts.

[9] I John 1:9

[10] R.C. Sproul, What Can I Do With My Guilt? (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2011), 47.

[11] Romans 8:33-39

[12] I Corinthians 10:12

[13] R.C. Sproul, Can I Be Sure I’m Saved? (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2010), Loc 328, Kindle.

[14] See John 17:6-12 (the high priestly prayer) and those for whom Jesus prays: the elect; those whom God gave to Jesus.

[15] This is what Calvinists call limited atonement. Hence, The Lord is the One who saves. The Lord is not One who simply enables human beings to save themselves by faith.

[16] John 19:30

[17] Philippians 2:12

[18] Matthew 7:21-23

[19] Jeremiah 17:9

[20] II Timothy 2:12

[21] Matthew 12:47-50

[22] See also Galatians 5:22-23, the fruits of the Spirit.

[23] Romans 8:14-17, 12:2; II Corinthians 1:21-22, 3:18, 5:1-5, 17

[24] James 2:26

[25] James 1:25

[26] James 1:17. Always be aware that works come from faith and that no one is justified by works of the Law (Luke 18:18-30; Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:11). Many people, in fact, do good things, but this doesn’t come from faith. Hence, the works by themselves have no lasting value. Civic virtue results from what Jonathan Edwards called an “enlightened self-interest.”

[27] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 684

[28] II Peter 3:9

[29] I Timothy 2:4

[30] Ezekiel 33:11

[31] Romans 1:28

[32] Romans 1:24, 9:17-22, 11:7; II Timothy 3:8; I Peter 2:8; Revelation 13:7-8, 17:8

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