by Shawn Brasseaux
In Christendom, certain individuals teach election and predestination (that God has already chosen a select group of people to go to heaven, and that He has chosen everyone else to go to hell). Does the Bible support these tenets? Has God really chosen people to go to hell? What about the theological position of limited atonement, the teaching that the Lord Jesus Christ only died to save Christians (and that He did not die for everyone)? While the Bible uses the terms “elect” and “predestinate,” does the Bible really teach these strange ideas?
Those who hold to these theological (Calvinistic) positions of predestination, election, and limited atonement do not believe in witnessing to the lost world. What does the Bible say about these teachings? Should we really witness, if God has already chosen to only save some people anyway? In order to understand these terms, we need to understand what the Bible says about these topics. After all, the Bible alone is the final authority, not some preacher, church, or creed.
PREDESTINATION AND ELECTION
The teachings of election and predestination are very similar, which is why we examine both issues together in one section. First, let us see how religion defines “predestination” and “election.” Protestant reformer and theologian John Calvin (1509-1564) wrote:
“Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself, what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal death for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say he is predestinated either to life or to death,” (Institutes, Book III, Ch. XXI, Sec. 5).
Is Calvin correct? Has God really foreordained (predestinated) some to eternal life (heaven) and the rest to eternal death (hell)? Let us compare this Calvinistic teaching to God’s Word. It should be first noted that the King James Bible only uses the word “predestinate” four times, all of which are found in Paul’s epistles. Let us briefly look at those four verses, and let us be sure to consider the context. The first two verses in which “predestinate” is found is in the passage Romans 8:28-30 KJV:
“28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
The first instances in which this word “predestinate” is used occur within a context, so we need to notice the context. God the Father “predestinated” (predetermined) us “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” The context is not salvation; God did not choose us to be saved—we chose to receive God’s salvation that He offers everyone. Anyone who would choose to be saved (that is, trust the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour), God predestinated that person to “conformed to the image of His Son.” Whoever would chose to trust in Christ, God would also call them, justify them, and glorify them. God predestinated the position, not the person.
Let us look at Ephesians 1:4-6 KJV, where the Bible uses “predestinate” the third time:
“4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”
This is the third instance of “predestinate” in the Bible. God the Father has “predestinated us [believers] unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself.” Anyone who would believe the Gospel of Grace and trust in Christ alone for salvation, God chose the place where that believer would go positionally (become a member of the Church the Body of Christ). In other words, God the Father chose that if someone would trust in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, that person would be adopted—placed into the Church the Body of Christ. Any member of the Church the Body of Christ would be “holy and without blame before [God the Father] in love” (verse 4). Again, God predestinated the position, not the person.
The last instance of “predestination” in the Bible is found in Ephesians 1:10,11 KJV:
“10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.”
What did God predestinate believers to be, according to verse 12? God the Father predestinated the fact that all believers would be “to the praise of [God’s] glory.” By our obtaining the “inheritance” of verse 11, we would bring praise to God’s name! This does not involve salvation; this refers to our position. It is referring to the time in the future when God the Father will restore to Jesus Christ all governmental authority in the heavens and in the earth. This is what God predestinated believers to accomplish!
In the Bible, “predestination” never refers to God choosing people to be saved and choosing people to go to hell—this is a religious, man-made teaching. The Bible passages we looked at show that predestination refers to God the Father predestinating the position of the believer in Christ. That is, if a person would trust Christ as personal Saviour, what would happen to that person? God predestinated the position, not the person. Remember, free will allows the person to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation. (Calvinism erroneously teaches that whether a person wants to get saved or not, they will be saved. If a person wants to be saved, but is not predestinated and elected to heaven, they cannot be saved). If the person denies God’s offer of salvation, they do not receive that predestinated position in Christ that God has reserved only for those who would trust Christ.
So, what have we just discussed? Romans 8:28-30 speaks of believers being predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, to be called, to be justified, and to be glorified. This is the position that God predestinated for anyone who would trust in His Son! Ephesians 1:4-6 describe “predestination” as God chose that whoever would trust in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, that person would be adopted (or, placed into the Church the Body of Christ). Any member of the Church the Body of Christ would be “holy and without blame before [God the Father] in love” (verse 4). Again, God predestinated the position, not the person.
The last instance of “predestination” is found in Ephesians 1:10-11 KJV, and we learn that God the Father predestinated the fact that all believers in Jesus Christ would be “to the praise of [God’s] glory.” By our obtaining the “inheritance” of verse 11, we would bring praise to God’s name! God predestinated our position in Christ, and this position we have will enable us to play a role in restoring to Jesus Christ all governmental authority in the heavens and in the earth! See, predestination in the Bible refers to the position, not the person.
Let us now look at the issue of election. John Calvin gives his definition of “election” (again, notice this is religion’s definition of “election”):
“…We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without any respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by a just and blameless, but at the same time incomprehensible judgment…” (Institutes, Book III, Ch. XXI, Sec. 7).
Actually, “election” according to Calvin and “election” according to the Bible are two totally different concepts. The Bible never says God chose a certain number of people to go to hell—anyone who goes to hell goes to hell voluntarily. They did not have to go to hell because God provided His Son’s blood as their means of salvation!
In the Bible, we read of four “elections” of God. Notice, these references are related to service, not salvation.
- JESUS CHRIST: The first time “elect” appears in the Bible is Isaiah 42:1 KJV: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles” (cf. 1 Peter 2:6). This is a reference to Israel’s Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Did God the Father “elect” Jesus Christ to go to heaven? No, that is nonsense. God the Father sent Jesus Christ to do a job on earth! Matthew 12:18 says that God chose (predestinated) His Son to be His “servant” (election). Now, we understand that “election” in the Bible is not the same as “election” in religion.
- THE NATION ISRAEL: The second time “elect” is mentioned in Scripture is Isaiah 45:4, where JEHOVAH speaks: “For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.” This time, who is God’s “elect?” The nation Israel! This is not a reference to individuals, but rather to a corporate election—an elected group of people. See Matthew 24:24, 31, Romans 11:7, and 1 Peter 1:2, and 1 Peter 5:5. Israel’s position (predestination) as God’s chosen people on the earth allow Israel to serve God on earth (election).
- THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST: Romans 8:33, Colossians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4, and 2 Timothy 2:10 speak of the third election of God. The Church the Body of Christ is the “elect of God.” How are we the “elect of God?” We are “servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Our position in Christ (predestination) enables us to serve God in the heavens (election). Again, notice it is a corporate election—the word “elect” describes the group, not the individual people who make up the group.
- GOD’S ANGELS: The last election of the Bible is found in 1 Timothy 5:21: “the elect angels.” According to the Bible, some of God’s angels followed Satan in his rebellion against God (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6). Today, there are two groups of angels: God’s righteous holy angels (Matthew 25:31) and the devil’s wicked angels (Matthew 24:41). Why are there elect angels? Did God choose them for everlasting life? No, that is nonsense. The “elect angels” are those that chose (free will) to be faithful to God. This is yet another corporate (group) election—all holy angels in one group. It is not an election based on individuals. Hebrews 1:14 says that God’s angels are “ministering spirits,” spirits that serve. The righteous angels that did not rebel against God (predestination) enables them to serve God (election).
Romans 9:21-24 is often used to support the election of religion (that God has chosen people for heaven and the rest for hell):
“21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”
Before we try to use this to “prove” God has chosen some for heaven and He has chosen the rest for hell, let us understand that the context of these verses is national Israel and the Gentiles (nations). Romans chapters 9, 10, and 11 deal with national Israel. These chapters are talking about nations. Another verse people like to twist is Romans 9:13—“As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Again, the context is God dealing with nations, not individuals. God had chosen Israel in the Old Testament, but He had not chosen Gentiles (who were pagan idolaters; Romans 1:18-32).
Notice Ephesians 2:11-13 KJV:
“11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.”
Today, in the Dispensation of Grace, God is not dealing with mankind on a national basis like He dealt with man in time past. Today, God is dealing with us on an individual basis. We do not need to become a part of the nation Israel to be saved (like in time past). Today, we need to become individual members of the Church the Body of Christ.
In the Bible, the word “elect” does not mean “elected for heaven,” or “elected for hell” (these are religious definitions). “Elect” means selected for a task, a role, a job. In His foreknowledge, God already knew who would accept His offer of salvation, and that coincided with His will because those are the exact people He chose to serve Him! This is what the Bible means when it calls the Christians “the elect” (for instance, Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; et al.). We were elected to serve Christ—but the Bible does not say God has sent everyone else to a lost eternity (again, that would be “election” according to religion). God the Son was the Father’s “elect,” He was sent to do the Father’s will (Isaiah 42:1).
Election in the Bible refers to service, just like predestination refers to position. Remember Isaiah 42:1: ““Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect.”
Did Jesus Christ really die for everyone, or just for a “chosen few?” Those who hold to the idea of “limited atonement” want to believe that Christ’s blood does not atone for all sins of all men, just the sins of those who were “chosen” to be saved. Does the Bible support these claims?
Matthew 20:28 KJV says, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” People use this verse and say, “See, Christ did not die for all; He only died for many.” But, let us understand this from the dispensational point-of-view: the Bible says that Jesus Christ came to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:25; Matthew 15:24; Luke 1:68; John 1:11). Why did Jesus come to earth? To save His people, the nation Israel! Matthew 20:28 fits perfectly with Matthew 1:25.
Notice what the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:6: “[Jesus Christ] Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” For how many did Christ die? For a select few, or for “all?” The Bible says “ALL!” When we come to the Apostle Paul’s ministry—the “due time”—God reveals that now salvation is going to the Gentiles, the whole world (Romans 11:11,12).
John 3:16-17 KJV says: “16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Did God love just the believers, or the whole world? Did God want the whole world to be saved, or just believers to be saved? Notice the word “whosoever” means anyone and everyone who “believes in Christ;” it makes no mention of people chosen to be saved or damned.
Let us read 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 where the Bible says, “…if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all….” We read twice that Christ died for all! Christ did not die to save some; He died so that all could have a chance to receive salvation. The Bible repeats in Hebrews 2:9 KJV: “[Christ] tasted death for every man.” So, for how many people did the Lord Jesus Christ die? CHRIST TASTED DEATH FOR ALL PEOPLE!
Colossians 1:23 says “[the gospel has been] preached to every creature which is under heaven.” If God only wants to save those He has selected for salvation, why has the gospel been preached “to every creature?” The Apostle John writes (1 John 2:2 KJV): “And he [Jesus Christ the righteous] is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” For whose sins did Christ Jesus die? “For the sins of the whole world.” “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Every man died in Adam, but every man can be made alive in Christ. It is up to the person to trust in Christ or to reject Christ.
Paul writes: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16). Christ came in the world to “save sinners.” If Jesus Christ only came to save believers, then that would mean lost people were not sinners! Is that true?
The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:10 KJV: “For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” How can God be the “Saviour of all men?” Because Christ died for all men! Potentially, anyone can get saved through the finished crosswork of Jesus Christ. However, the benefits of Calvary cannot be applied to a person until that person has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (“specially of those that believe”).
If Christ only died for a select few, then why does Titus 2:11 KJV say, “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men?” God’s grace that brings us salvation has appeared to everyone because everyone can benefit from the cross of Christ. If there really were people that God selected to go to hell, then why has God’s grace already appeared to those people?
John 1:7-11 KJV testifies to the fact that the Light (Jesus Christ) “which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” If God chose some people to go to hell, why has this light from God already lighted every man? Obviously, God has not chosen people to go to hell like so many claim because God has illuminated every person with the truth. Every person has received enough knowledge from God to make a decision for salvation. The sad news is that most people refuse to have faith in what God says, so they remain lost and dead in their trespasses and sins.
Does God want all people saved, or some people saved? According to 1 Timothy 2:4—“[God] who will have all men to be saved”—God wants everyone to get saved. “The Lord is…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). If God wanted all men saved, would Jesus Christ only die for the Christians? Of course not!
What about the ark of Noah? Did God only choose Noah and his family to go into the ark? If God only wanted to save Noah and his family, and if God chose the rest of the world for hell, then why did the ark’s door stay open for seven days prior to the flood, as taught in Genesis 7:4,10?
Notice what 1 Corinthians 1:21 KJV says “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Who will God save? Only those He chose to save? NO! God will save those “that believe,” anyone and everyone who believes/trusts in Christ Jesus for salvation!
Hebrews 7:25 says of Jesus Christ, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Notice how Jesus Christ will save anyone who “comes unto God by him.” This is free will again. Lastly, read Revelation 22:17 KJV: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” The door is open for anyone and everyone to come drink of the living waters (the salvation found in Christ Jesus).
NOTE: If Christ died for all people, and He did, does that mean everyone in the world today is going to heaven? No, it does not. Potentially, everyone can go to heaven. However, the finished cross work of Jesus Christ must be imputed (applied) to an individual. The merits of Calvary are applied to an individual once that individual trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ as his or her personal Saviour. See Ephesians 1:12,13 and 1 Timothy 4:10.
Religious nonsense has made a mess out of the terms “election” and “predestination,” two Bible terms with great importance. Religion has also coined a new term, “limited atonement,” a teaching that also contradicts sound Bible doctrine. These three teachings in religion ignore man’s free will, destroy the message of grace to all mankind, and tarnish God Almighty’s reputation.
- Every person is born with an innate knowledge of a Creator God because creation declares His existence. Thus, everyone is “without excuse” just as Romans 1:20 declares. Everyone can know God; the question is, do they want to know Him? This is free will!! Anyone who goes to heaven went to heaven because he or she trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation—not because God chose he or she for salvation.
- God’s grace that brings salvation has appeared to “all men” (Titus 2:11). God wants no one to perish in the flames of hell (2 Peter 2:9). The Bible never says God chose people to go to heaven or hell. Anyone who goes to hell chose to go there—God gave them a free will do accept of reject His offer of salvation.
- God is a God of unfathomable mercy, love, and grace. His nature demands perfection, and His justice executes judgment on anything that is less than absolute perfection. God’s righteous anger and wrath are brought about because we are born sinners and rebels against Him. However, God sent His Son the Lord Jesus Christ to pay for the sins of the whole world. Christ died for “all” (2 Corinthians 5:14). The blood of Christ was shed so that all sin of all time could be atoned for all people. Christ tasted death for “every man” (Hebrews 2:9).
- As Christians, we should witness to everyone. They can choose to believe the Gospel the Grace, or reject it in unbelief. It is their choice! As the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21: the Lord gave us Christians the ministry of reconciliation. That is, we “ambassadors for Christ” have the ministry of telling the lost world that God has already reconciled them with Himself through Christ and His finished work on the cross! All they have to do place their faith in Paul’s Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), and this will bring about their salvation!
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV
“1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:”