In theological circles there are two main camps when it comes to the doctrine of predestination.
One the one hand we have people who feel that because this doctrine is so embroiled in past difficulty and misunderstanding, that it is better to rather avoid the topic, and not to discuss it at all, especially so from the pulpit.
On the other hand we have a group of people who feel that the doctrine of predestination is so central to our understanding of Scripture, and to our understanding of God and how He works that we cannot ignore it, and that it should be discussed and explained in depth and in great detail so that people will understand salvation and how it is imparted to them.
I make no apologies or excuses for the fact that I fall into the second group of people.
Martin Luther, the great reformer called the doctrine of predestination the ‘core ecclesia’. Core been the Latin for ‘heart’, and ecclesia been the Latin for ‘the church’. So in effect what Luther was saying was that the doctrine of predestination is the heart of the church.
While many would disagree with this statement, I need to say this morning that I can’t think of any other teaching or doctrine that brings us to a clearer realisation of our dependence on divine mercy and grace than the doctrine of predestination. I can’t think of any teaching or doctrine that is more comforting, especially when we consider our struggle and difficulties when it comes to faith than the doctrine of election.
Now having said all this, I do need to utter a word of serious and almost severe caution this morning, because as I have said, this is the one doctrine that has so often been distorted and misinterpreted, and misused that it can easily lead to a view which will regard God as been vengeful and spiteful and hateful, or on the other hand it could lead to a view in which man becomes complacent and settled and satisfied in and of himself.
This is why we will be taking a considerable amount of time to study the doctrine, to be sure that we cover all the main points, all the basics, and to be equally sure that we leave nothing to a chance understanding. The last thing anyone needs is for us to be jumping to any sort of rash or presumptuous conclusions, and for this reason I urge to make sure that you are here every week for the next 8 weeks, and if you should miss one of the sermons, it is really vital that you get hold of the cd and listen to it so that there can be no grey areas in your mind, and to be sure that you will not misunderstand what might follow, or that you will be unsure about what has already been said.
Well let’s start getting into this wonderful doctrine then, so that we can lay the foundation for the study which is going to follow. To begin with I just want you to understand that predestination is not something which is foreign to Scripture, (saw that 2 weeks back), and further we need to realise that predestination is not foreign to the church, or even the individual Christian.
Every single denomination, every single group, and every single Christian that has ever live and studied Scripture has developed some sort of doctrine regarding the issue of predestination. So the question is not based on whether predestination is a reality or not; it is not based on whether predestination is Scriptural or not. The question therefore is not on whether the doctrine of predestination exists, the problem is that not every church and not every Christian has the same doctrine of predestination. The question then becomes one of how do we understand the doctrine of predestination?
That’s the question, and to be fair I must tell you – the answer to this question will only be fully answered on Christmas morning, because that’s when we will finish this wonderful series.
Ephesians 1: 1-6; 11
What we have here is Pauls letter to the church at Ephesus, and he is going to be giving them some theological guidelines with regards to Christianity and with regards to God, His grace, His mercy and His love.
What is interesting about this letter isn’t the fact that Paul discusses the doctrine of predestination (He does that in every letter he writes). What is interesting here is the fact that Paul doesn’t begin with some other doctrine telling us about our freedom, and our choices and our responsibilities, oh no, Paul plunges right into the doctrine of predestination!
Why that is important is quite simply because Paul considers this doctrine so important, that at the onset of his letter, he gets right to the crux of the matter.
So, with this is mind, if we go back to the question we need to answer which was: how do we understand the doctrine of predestination, the first answer we must take note of is the fact that it is a theological priority! With all due respect to the wonderful men and women of God who feel that this doctrine should be side-lined and rather not discussed, they have never noticed the place of importance Paul gives to this teaching.
Secondly, we must notice that Paul is not beating around the bush here. He gets to the point he wants to make, and he makes it clearly and without any form of apology. The point that Paul is making is one about predestination certainly, but to be more specific, he is talking about predestination as it relates to salvation!
Look at verse 5 again. He predestined us for adoption as sons. Dear friends, I have yet to meet the person who will argue with the fact that the adoption that Paul is speaking of here deals with our salvation. Let me just elaborate on the meaning of Adoption as set forth in the Bible. "Adoption is a divine act of God, whereby God sets a goal for the believer." Man had nothing to do with setting that goal. It was solely the work of the Sovereign God. So, if the adoption refers to our salvation, and it does very certainly, then we cannot, we may not ignore the first three words of that verse – “He predestined us...”
It is God who chose to adopt us... it was not us who adopted God. So, back to our question as to how we are to understand predestination, we see secondly that it is a Godly priority.
This is not something that we decide on, that we insist on or that we deserve. This is a Godly act, and read again in verse 5: “according to the purpose of HIS will”.
Now back to verse 4 again: “before the foundation of the world” Right in the beginning, before we had done anything to deserve anything as we read in Romans, back then, God in His sovereignty ordained that we should be saved!
That’s the crux of the matter, however I’m going to leave that there for today, because next week we will look exclusively at what predestination is.
For the rest of today, I want to focus on the importance of the doctrine, and maybe goive you a reason as to why we are doing this series. In doing so, I’m going to share 5 more reasons why the doctrine is important. We have looked at the first two already, and I have separated them from the rest, because the first two will be looked at in more detail later on again, while the five to come are simply an explanation with regards to the importance of the doctrine without specifically explaining something about the doctrine.
3. God forbids us to tamper with His revealed will in the slightest way. "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it." (Deut 4.2)
"If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life." (Rev 22.18-19)
As the doctrine of predestination forms part of His revealed will, it is included in this prohibition.
Jerome Zanchius, a sixteenth century puritan said the following:
"An ambassador is to deliver the whole message with which he is charged. He is to omit no part of it, but must declare the mind of the sovereign he represents, fully and without reserve. . . Let the minister of Christ weigh this well."
4. The Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles all preached predestination, declaring to their hearers "all the counsel of God."
Acts 20.27; Rom 9-11; Eph 1; 1 Pet 1.18-21; Jude 4; John 17:12; 10:26-29; 6:64-65
"What shall we then do?" asks William Plumer. "If the doctrine so offends men, shall we give it up? Are we to make peace with human wickedness by observing a profound silence on this topic? Nay, let us rather imitate Christ, who often preached it."
5. Faithful men in the past all refused to suppress this doctrine. (Amazing how all/ many of the greats of theology taught and believed the doctrine of predestination – coincidence? Not a chance!)
In his day, Augustine rebuked those who passed over the doctrine of predestination in silence; and when he was charged with preaching it too freely, he replied by saying that where Scripture leads, there we must follow, adding: "Both the grace of free election and predestination and also wholesome admonitions and doctrines are to be preached." Writes Luther: "In chapters nine, ten and eleven [of Romans] the apostle teaches about the eternal predestination of God. He tells how it originally comes about that a person will believe or not, will become rid of his sins or not. He does so in order that our becoming pious be taken entirely out of our own hands and placed into the hands of God. And indeed it is supremely necessary that this be done; for . . . if the matter depended on us, surely not a single person would be saved. Since, however. . . His predestination cannot fail and no one can defeat His purpose, our hope against sin remains."
Calvin says the same: those who try to overturn "that prime article of our faith . . . God's eternal predestination . . . demonstrate their malice no less than their ignorance." In view of his approaching death, he wrote: "I John Calvin, servant of the Word of God in the Church of Geneva . . . have no other hope or refuge than His predestination, on which my entire salvation is grounded."
6. All truth is interconnected; to preserve a complete Biblical testimony, the doctrine of predestination is necessary. Comments Zanchius: "The whole circle of arts have a kind of mutual bond and connection, and by a sort of reciprocal relationship are held together and interwoven with each other. Much the same may be said of this important doctrine [predestination]; it is the bond which connects and keeps together the whole Christian system, which, without this, is like a system of sand, ever ready to fall to pieces. It is the cement which holds the fabric together; nay, it is the very soul which animates the whole frame. It is so blended and interwoven with the entire scheme of Gospel doctrine that when the former is excluded, the latter bleeds to death."
7. The truth of predestination should be preached for the comfort of believers. "The doctrine of sovereign Predestination . . . should be publicly taught and preached in order that true believers may know themselves to be special objects of God's love and mercy, and that they may be confirmed and strengthened in the assurance of their salvation . . . For the Christian this should be one of the most comforting doctrines in all the Scriptures." (Loraine Boettner)
If we would be a means of comfort to the people of God, we must assure them, by showing them marks of God's grace, that He chose them in love before the foundation of the world, that Christ died for them in particular and that the Holy Spirit who regenerated them shall certainly convey them to heaven.
Can I be sure of heaven – sinful to not believe what God has ordained shall come to pass
O wretched man that I am – new light if considered we were chosen by God Himself
Thank you for reading this message, and may the Lord bless you as you seek to understand His Word and to be faithful to it. Please take a moment and rate or comment on this message to enable me to also be faithful to the Word of God
Your brother in Christ