28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. – Romans 8:28-30
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both[a] which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. – Ephesians 1:4-11
This topic is one that always tends to bring a lot of controversy and confusion. There aren’t many passages that talk about predestination in the Bible, so in order to determine what it does or doesn’t mean, it’s helpful to look at some other more basic principles first.
Most of the time, when people talk about predestination, they refer to the idea that God has already hand-picked those who will be saved and those who won’t and there’s nothing we can do about it. There are some varying opinions about how that works, but that’s still what most people think of when they hear about this topic or read the above passages.
Typically, you get two main reactions to this doctrine. You get those who feel relieved by it (assuming that they are among the saved), and you get those who are terrified by it (fearing that they might be irrevocably lost). Sometimes individuals decide that there’s no point in trying to live godly or in studying the Bible if everyone’s eternity is already decided. Because how you live on this earth wouldn’t affect it at all. You could live it up in this life with no thought to right or wrong and still wind up in heaven. Or you could live as pious a life as anyone and still land in hell.
To help combat this tendency, churches began teaching that those who were predestined to salvation would act like it. Therefore, they were able to keep people interested in going to church because that would show that they must be saved. If you ask me, that kind of has the cause and effect reversed. But I won’t deny that it was a clever and successful ploy.
But when you get down to it and really study it, you have to take these passages in conjunction with all the others that the Bible offers. Does the Bible teach that God picks and chooses who will be saved and who will not, regardless of their belief and actions? And if part of our salvation does hinge on our behavior, then what is meant by “predestination” in the above passages?
God’s Choice, or Our Own?
As I stated, most people who espouse the doctrine of predestination believe that God has already decided the eternal fate of every individual and nothing we do can change that. But is that what God really teaches?
When you study the subject of salvation, there are several passages that tell us the things that are required in order to obtain it. Grace is the main ingredient, as we see in Ephesians 2:8-9, since without God’s willingness to save us, we would have no hope at all. And the primary illustration of that grace is in Christ’s sacrifice for us, as the following passage explains:
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. – Romans 5:8-9
But the Bible also teaches us that in order to receive the grace that God offers through the blood of his son, Jesus Christ, we must do several things. First of all, we must believe that Jesus is the son of God and that he gave himself for us (John 3:16). We are told that we must repent, or turn away, from our life of sin (Acts 2:38) and confess Jesus as the Christ (Romans 10:9-10). We must also be baptized to wash away our sins (Romans 6:3-4, Acts 22:16, and 1 Pet 3:21). Finally, according to the scriptures, we must also strive to live our lives in a way that would be pleasing to God (1 Cor 9:27, Heb 10:26-31, and Rev 2:10b).
It’s quite obvious from the passages listed above that our salvation depends upon the things we do or don’t do in this life. We even have the very plain admonition found in Phil 2:12 to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” If God had decided everyone’s fate long ago, and we couldn’t affect it at all, then none of those passages could be correct.
Also, when studying the concept of predestination, it’s important to ask yourself what is the purpose of the Bible if we can’t change our eternal destiny. Why would God go to such lengths to provide us with his written word if we were incapable of following it? How could Jesus really be the “bread of life” (John 6:33-35) if we can’t choose to follow him? It would be pretty sick and twisted for an all-powerful being to tell us to do certain things in order to be pleasing to him, yet not allow us the freedom of choice to do them.
And in fact, God doesn’t operate that way at all. He has told us many times that he longs for us to serve him:
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” – Matthew 23:37
9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[a] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. – 2 Pet 3:9
God absolutely wants us to do what’s right, and he’s insured that we have a way of knowing what his will is. Ezekiel 18 teaches us that people are judged based on what they do. The wicked are judged according to their wickedness, and the righteous are judged according the their righteousness. It is evident from all the passages we’ve looked at that God has not consigned some of us to heaven and some to hell regardless of our actions. He has offered us a way to escape damnation; all we have to do is accept.
So then what does predestination really mean? It’s hard to claim that it doesn’t exist at all since we’ve already looked at two passages that talk about it. Therefore, what we must do is come to an understanding of these passages that doesn’t contradict what we’ve already established: that God desires all people to be saved, and has given all people an opportunity for salvation as long as they obey him.
Let’s look at these passages in detail and see if we can discover exactly what is being predestined, beginning with Romans 8:28-30.
Vs 28 basically just tells us that God watches out for his people (Christians). That regardless of what might be going on around us, everything works to his purpose of furthering the gospel and his kingdom. Vs 29 begins to talk about those he “foreknew” and “predestined.” But we don’t have to be afraid of those words! We don’t have to wonder what was being predestined; this verse tells us!
He also predestined [us – or those who are Christians] to be conformed to the image of His Son
See? What’s being predestined is not that Joe is going to heaven and Bob is going to hell. Instead, Paul states that Christians in general were predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. In other words, Christians should follow after Christ – they should be Christ-like! And that shouldn’t be a shocking concept to us, since that’s essentially what a Christians is: one who models himself after Christ and his teachings.
Reread the whole passage and you’ll see how much sense that makes (especially in conjunction with the other passages we’ve read). It fits really nicely with the next phrase, “that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” It’s only fitting that we resemble Christ if we’re going to be his brethren. And this passage tells us that that was God’s intent from the very beginning. That those who became Christians would have to model themselves after Christ.
Hopefully that helped clarify the passage in Romans. Now, let’s look at Ephesians 1:4-11.
The passage starts off saying that God chose us before the foundation of the world. We might jump to the conclusion that this is speaking about specific individuals, but remember: that contradicts plainer passages that we’ve alread looked at. Look at the whole verse:
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself
Again, what this seems to be saying is not that God hand-picked individual people and decided where they would go; intead, he predestined that we should appear blameless and holy before him. How can we do that if we are all sinners? By predestining us “to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ.” Because of our sins, we can’t count ourselves as “God’s children” the way that Jesus can. He can have that direct relationship with God because he is deity and he lived a perfect life. However, we can enjoy that same relationship through our “adoption,” since Christ offered himself as the payment for our sins.
It was this plan that God predestined. God already had his plan in place for how to save mankind, should they fall away, as Adam did in the Garden of Eden (1 Pet 1:20-21 and Genesis 3:15).
The whole passage makes so much more sense when we understand that our relationship with Christ and the plan God put in place is what Paul says has been predestined. When you read verses 11 and 12 together, it helps make it even clearer:
11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. – Eph 1:11-12
Verse 12 shows us that one of the reasons God set it up this way was to bring praise to Christ’s glory – that when people see Christ in us, in the way we act, it brings praise to him and helps draw the lost toward their only hope of salvation. But not only that, it reiterates some of what we stated earlier in the phrase “we who first trusted in Christ.” Again, if God arbitrarily decided who to save and who to condemn with no consideration for their actions, why would it matter if these Christians had “trusted in Christ”?
I think we’ve established pretty clearly the fact that our salvation does in fact rely on what we do in this life. God wants to save us, but he’ll only save those who obey him. That is certainly a better arrangement that the idea of God locking us in to an eternal destination regardless of our actions. The Bible is very plain in telling us that we must do certain things to be pleasing to God, and if we do them, we’ll be rewarded.
Therefore, the passages that deal with predestination must not contradict those plainer Bible passages. And when we read Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 carefully, we see that these passages fit in quite well. God has not predestined where each of us will go for eternity; what he has predestined is how we will get there. Only those who follow Christ and conform themselves to his image will actually attain salvation. There is no other way than the plan God established before the foundation of the world.
Your salvation depends upon you. God has done his part; will you do yours?
18 thoughts on “Predestination”
I know this sounds like a cop out but…
predestination is one of those things that I don’t think we will ever come close to comprehending in this world. I know that free will and predestination probably work together in some amazing away far above my understanding.
My understanding of prdestination thus far could be put into this simple analogy. God is like me on Tuesday when I watch the Colts game again on DVR. I know what happens before the game even starts but that doesn’t mean I made Peyton decide to throw for a TD, or I made Rhodes fumble the ball.
God sees beginning from end but that doesn’t mean he makes our choices for us.
I agree with your analogy (and think that it’s certainly a possibility for explaining God’s omniscience, etc.), but I don’t view that as the same thing as predestination. When passages say that God predestined something, that means he caused something to happen. I just think that according to these passages, what he predestined was his plan of salvation – not the specific people who would be saved.
I think your point works great in trying to explain how God could do one without the other. In other words, how he could foreordain a plan and how it would work without deciding who would or would not follow it.
“I just think that according to these passages, what he predestined was his plan of salvation – not the specific people who would be saved.”
I can agree with that.
Good topic Nate!
I’m curious though… why did you choose to explain predestination in light of your already established views instead of exploring what the Bible actually says about predestination?
Please don’t miss understand me, I’m not saying you’re wrong; I’m curious why you chose that direction.
Think about it this way, yes predestination is only mentioned in those two passages you mentioned… but what about all of those passages which discuss God’s chosen, or God’s overall plan.
Look at Ephesians 3:8-12,
“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.”
Verse 11 is the key here: “according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Yes, the eternal purpose was realized in Christ, but this passage speaks of Paul’s distinct predestined plan (as evidenced in verse 8). Therefore, God specifically predestined Paul for eternal life.
Look also at Acts 4:27-28, “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.” Once again, a direct action from God points to predestination.
Granted, you could still make the argument that these individuals are part of God’s overall purpose; which would be a correct assertion, but there is also directing at the individual level which cannot just be pushed away.
I like the way Lewis Sperry chafer describes predestination:
“Predestination witnesses to divine certainty but not compulsion. There obviously are different ways of making things certain. It may be done by moral influence or by control of the human will. God chooses to accomplish His purpose by guiding and inclining human wills.”
A literal translation of predestination carries the notion of “knowing beforehand” that which “lies beyond” human understanding.
As an aside note, I would like to state that I do not believe in double-predestination; God does not predestine people to Hell, but continuously pricks at their soul to accept His loving graces.
“Verse 11 is the key here: ‘according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Yes, the eternal purpose was realized in Christ, but this passage speaks of Paul’s distinct predestined plan (as evidenced in verse 8). Therefore, God specifically predestined Paul for eternal life.”
That’s a mighty big “therefore,” Stewart. Paul said that the grace was given to him to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, but we are told nowhere that Paul was “predestined” to that role. And we certainly aren’t told that he was predestined to salvation. That’s making a giant step in logic.
I do agree with you in one point: there are other passages that deal with predestination without actually calling it “predestination.” But once again, it’s important to understand exactly what’s being predestined.
We know from simpler passages that God has given us a free will. If he hadn’t, there wouldn’t have been any purpose in giving us the Bible – what would we have done with it? Secondly, the Bible tells us in passages like 1 Tim 2:3-4 that God desires all men to be saved. Other passages tell us the gospel is for all (Mark 16:15-16, Gal 3:28, Col 3:11). We even have passages that tell us God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34, Rom 2:11, Eph 6:9), which goes against your idea that God does predestine some to Heaven, but none to Hell.
God has given all of us the instructions we need on how to be pleasing to him.
Now, going back to some specific examples: Yes, Paul was definitely chosen by God to deliver a message to the Gentiles. But we can’t conclude that that was predestined. God knew his heart, and knew that he was the right person for the job. But even Paul admitted that if he didn’t keep himself in check, he could also become disqualified (1 Cor 9:27).
King Saul had the same opportunity that David did. But he squandered what God had given him, which led to David’s annointing. We can’t say either of them was predestined – each had a choice.
Pharoah was given 10 chances (11, if you count the first request) to let the Israelites go, but he refused. In some places the passage says that God hardened Pharoah’s heart. However, if that was literally what God had done, it would go against the other clear passages we have that show his willingness for all to do what’s right. But God knew Pharoah’s heart, and knew he wouldn’t allow them to leave. It’s much like if I say someone made me angry, they didn’t actually make me angry, but that was my reaction to what they did.
I appreciate your comments, but as you’ve said before, we have to look at the more complicated scriptures (like these dealing with predestination) in light of the simpler ones (God desires all men to be saved, and “who without partiality judges according to each one’s work” – 1 Pet 1:17).
God absolutely predestined something, but it wasn’t our individual eternal destinations. Instead, it was the plan by which we could be saved.
If that’s the case, what does it mean to be chosen?
Christians are chosen. And by that, I don’t mean that God chose individual people to be Christians – if that were the case, we’d all be Christians, since he wants us all to be saved. Instead, God predetermined that Christians (those who followed Christ) would be saved. His grace allows all of us to join that group, but it’s up to us to do it or not.
Would you describe salvation as an invitation?
Um. great!…now explain Romans 9 😉
God’s Sovereign Choice
1(A) I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For(B) I could wish that I myself were(C) accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,[a] my kinsmen(D) according to the flesh. 4They are(E) Israelites, and to them belong(F) the adoption,(G) the glory,(H) the covenants,(I) the giving of the law,(J) the worship, and(K) the promises. 5To them belong(L) the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ(M) who is God over all,(N) blessed forever. Amen.
6But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7and not all are children of Abraham(O) because they are his offspring, but(P) “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but(Q) the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9For this is what the promise said:(R) “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10And not only so, but(S) also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of(T) him who calls— 12she was told,(U) “The older will serve the younger.” 13As it is written,(V) “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14What shall we say then?(W) Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses,(X) “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[b] but on God, who has mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh,(Y) “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
19You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For(Z) who can resist his will?” 20But who are you, O man,(AA) to answer back to God?(AB) Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21(AC) Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump(AD) one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience(AE) vessels of wrath(AF) prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known(AG) the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he(AH) has prepared beforehand for glory— 24even us whom he(AI) has called,(AJ) not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25As indeed he says in Hosea,
(AK) “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.'”
26(AL) “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called(AM) ‘sons of the living God.'”
27And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:(AN) “Though the number of the sons of Israel[c] be as the sand of the sea,(AO) only a remnant of them will be saved, 28for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29And as Isaiah predicted,
(AP) (AQ) “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
(AR) we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”
30What shall we say, then?(AS) That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is,(AT) a righteousness that is by faith; 31but that Israel(AU) who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness[d](AV) did not succeed in reaching that law. 32Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the(AW) stumbling stone, 33as it is written,
(AX) “Behold, I am laying in Zion(AY) a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
(AZ) and whoever believes in him will not be(BA) put to shame.”
The translations in other bible versions are pretty similar. He sure seems to get into some pretty narrow specifics there. If I we’re looking at just the passages you quoted, I might reach the same conclusion you did, but the pot analogy combined with the individual stories of Pharaoh and others seems a bit hard to justify with your conclusion on predestination.
Now if you can show the same thing with this passage as you did with the others and even show thats what the original language intended, I’d happily agree since I’m more in favor of free will personally, but for the time being, I’m more convinced of other concepts like divine middle knowledge (favored by william lane craig and many others) for my justifactation of free will and predestination at the same time.
Yeah, I definitely agree with Jon that predestination refers to where we will go; and Romans 9 is all about that. We are either predestined to life, or not. However with that said, when Paul discusses predestination we see two things:
1) Those who are predestined are chosen based on God’s purpose, “for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls” (Romans 9:11). So then you might ask what the purpose behind predestination? Simple: “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). The choice was made to further glorify God’s purpose and overall plan.
2) God does not predestine individuals to Hell. Note Romans 9:22-33, “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering fthe vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory.” At first glance you see that Paul is creating an argument for explaining predestination… the thing is, he is answering a question that the Romans were having problems with, i.e. predestination. How can God who is righteous allow someone to go to eternal damnation? Paul answers with, “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (Romans 9:20-21). In other words you have no right to question God. However, Paul chooses to illustrate his point with verses 22 thru the rest of the chapter. The part I want you to focus on is the first two words of verse 22, “What if.” You see Paul is setting up a hypothetical statement for us to understand the Will of the creator of the will of the created. You have no right to question why God sends individuals to Hell, even if He did predestine them you have no right to question God’s righteousness or goodness (see back to Romans 8:28). But either way, Paul by no means says God predestines people to Hell, only that IF God were to do that He would be justified in doing so. God predestines individuals to eternal glory; eternal damnation rests on individuals choosing by refusing to follow Him.
Stewart, I agree with part of your second statement, but I’m confused by the end of it. Could you explain it a little more thoroughly?
But I will say that I also think it’s important to notice the “what if” in the passage.
Also, when it talks about God choosing Jacob over Esau, that choice had nothing to do with their eternal destination, but rather who would receive God’s blessings in this life. Compared to eternity, the choice that God made there is rather mundane.
Romans 9 is not one of the easiest passages to understand, in my opinion, but like Stewart, I don’t think it’s teaching that God chooses certain individuals to send to hell. I even believe that Pharaoh had a choice to obey God. God definitely chose to put Pharaoh in his position of power, but I believe Pharaoh had a choice in how he responded. Just like I think Pilate had a choice in crucifying Christ. If he had let him go, Christ still would have become our sacrifice in some way.
I think the main point of Romans 9 is to show God’s justification in bringing the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul asks this question at the end of the chapter”
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.[n] 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.
Paul points out that God is justified in his choice because even though the Gentiles were not God’s chosen people under the Old Law, they were now given opportunity, and because of their faith, they were accepted. The Jews, though they had the “birthright” of being God’s chosen, cast away their salvation because they lost their faith.
Of course, as the beginning of the passage indicates, Jews and Gentiles are spoken of in generalities; not all Jews were unfaithful, and not all Gentiles responded to the gospel in faith.
Ultimately, I think the real answer to this passage lies in Romans 11, especially verses 17-24. Here, Paul says that some of the Jews were “broken off” because of unbelief, and the Gentiles were “grafted in” because of their faith. He then says that if the Jews repent, they can be grafted in again, and if the Gentiles who are saved turn away at some point, they can also be cut off.
I think this passage shows us that God judges us based on our response to him, not on a decision he made before our birth. Incidentally, I also think this passage shows the fallacy of “eternal security.”
Jon, thanks for weighing in on this post. I hope my response isn’t so late that you miss it. I look forward to any reply you or Stewart may have.
Nate, its good to see that we mostly agree here 😀
Ok, for clarification purposes did you want me to further explain what I meant by: We have no right to question the creator, or that Paul was presenting a hypothetical situation?
Also, I’m curious how this passage shows the fallacy of eternal security? Because I would tend to view it as support of such a claim.
This was the statement I was confused by:
“God predestines individuals to eternal glory; eternal damnation rests on individuals choosing by refusing to follow Him.”
Also, I think that Romans 11 teaches against eternal security since Paul warns the Gentiles that if they aren’t careful, they could also be “cut off.” However, if they were to repent, they could be “grafted back in.”
These verses in particular make that point clear, I think:
Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Ah ok, I see what you are saying. For that to be loss of salvation then you would have to prove Paul is referring to individuals and not the Gentile people as a whole. It seems to me that in Romans 9-11 since Paul is referring to the fact that God has not forgotten about His people… “If God did not spare the natural branches (Israel), He may not spare you (Gentiles) either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you (Gentiles), goodness, if you (Gentiles) continue in His goodness. Otherwise you (Gentiles) also will be cut off. And they (Israel) also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them (Israel) in again.” Paul is not talking about individuals here, he is referring to people and explaining that Israel will once again return to God’s good favor.
Ok, the statement: “God predestines individuals to eternal glory; eternal damnation rests on individuals choosing by refusing to follow Him.” Well eternal glory is heaven… eternal damnation is Hell (I assume that was not the confusing part, but you can never be too sure). What I meant by individuals choosing is a reference to the fact that we have free choice. We can freely choose to follow God or not. When we choose to not follow God then we don’t acquire salvation, which He wants to give us all.
If Paul is talking about the Gentile and Jewish people as a whole, then what’s the real point of this passage? Let me explain my question a little:
If Paul is telling them that Gentiles now have the opportunity to be saved, why would they later be cut off from that opportunity? Let’s say that there’s a Gentile named Joe who becomes saved, and let’s assume that the doctrine of eternal security is true. When Paul gives the warning here that Gentiles could be cut off because of unbelief, does that mean that no Gentile would ever be able to be saved again? That Joe is still saved because he made it before the cut off, but that no other Gentile will be saved again because of a general disbelief among Gentiles? What if all the remaining Gentiles refuse to believe except for one (let’s call him Sam)? Will Sam be denied salvation because the Gentiles as a whole have been cut off? And if Sam can still be saved, then what’s the purpose of Paul’s statement? Obviously Gentiles would still be allowed to be saved…
Furthermore, I think we both agree that no one can be saved without faith. So Paul couldn’t be talking about the Gentiles who aren’t Christians, since they don’t already have faith. They can’t be cut off from something they were never a part of. But if eternal security is true, then he can’t be talking about Gentile Christians that might fall away, because if they were really Christians to begin with, they wouldn’t fall away. So why would Paul write this whole section if it’s talking about Jews and Gentiles in general having access to God’s plan of salvation? Isn’t he going to judge me solely by my actions and not those of my entire race? or family? or country? Ezek 18 plainly teaches that each person is held responsible for what he does, not the actions of someone else.
Ok, I think all my questions and hypothetical arguments were probably pretty confusing, so let me just say what I think this passage is teaching.
I think that Paul is referring to Jews and Gentiles as a whole at first. We know that not all Jews were “cut off” because the apostles and the first converts of Acts 2 were all Jews. Obviously, they were saved. However, Paul is making the statement that the Jews (in general) were cut off because of unbelief. That makes sense; the majority of them refused to believe in Christ.
Then he says that the Gentiles were grafted in. We also have record of that with the conversion of Cornelius in Acts 10. Obviously, not all Gentiles were saved at that point, but those particular ones were, and the apostles began to realize that Gentiles now had access to salvation. Then Paul, who is addressing Christians in Romans 11, tells the Gentiles (who are Christians) not to become haughty because they have found favor with God, but to be careful. Because if God didn’t overlook the Jews’ (in general) transgressions despite them being his “chosen people” for generations and generations, then he might not spare the Gentiles either, if they fall away from “continuing in his goodness.” Since the Gentile people as a whole were not “continuing in his goodness” currently, then Paul must only be talking about those who were: Christians. And what’s the warning he gives them? That if they fall away in unbelief, they will be cut off. However, they, as well as the Jews, can still be reconciled to God if they restore their belief.
The only real way to make this passage function logically is to understand that Paul is warning the new Gentile Christians not to become cocky in their salvation, but to understand that if they turn away from their faith, they will be in the same situation as the unfaithful Jews.
Yes they can be cut off from that opportunity and that is Paul’s whole point. The Jews are cut off, and just as they were cut off the Gentiles could be too. Paul is most definitely saying that there could come a time where the Gentiles are cut off and that the Jews may once again as a whole, gain entrance into heaven. Even in the OT we know that others apart from the Jews were saved (Malchezidech for instance, and some believe Cyrus was). This future time is a reference to the tribulation, where the Jews are grafted back in.
If Paul began by referring to the Jews and Gentiles as a whole, why are there no literary markers indicating he changed to individuals? I mean he even continues using the same words.
Also, remember Paul was writing to a mixed company of people. There are saved Gentiles and saved Jews at this church. I do agree that Paul warns the Gentiles about being cocky… but not because of loss of salvation. At some point, when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, then the Jews will be grafted back in.
I’m sorry, Stewart, but here, I think the burden of proof is on you.
You really think this could be talking about a blanket condemnation or salvation of Jews and Gentiles as a group? Where does the Bible ever give us any indication of something like that? God has been explicit about people being saved as individuals, not because of the actions of others.
Haven’t you read all the passages that talk about there no longer being “Jew, Greek, Gentile, slave, or free”? But in Christ, we are all one: Christians.
To look at this passage in the way you’ve presented would be to make Paul contradict himself from the outset. After all, he’s just said that the Jews have been cut off. Being a Jew, he would be talking about himself and all the other apostles (not to mention the thousands of other Jewish Christians). How much sense does that really make? I’d recommend you put aside any commentaries you might be looking at and just read that chapter for what it’s worth.
By the way, Acts 17:40 tells us (and Romans 1-2 hint at it) that many Gentiles were saved, even under the Old Law, since God “overlooked” those times of ignorance. In other words, though they didn’t have the law, God judged them on some type of moral law. Thankfully, all those generations of people weren’t just consigned to hell, even though they had no access to God’s law.
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