This is the fourth in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, “What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
The Bible refers to some people as “predestined.” What does that mean? How does predestination fit into God’s work of redemption? And if the Bible presents a fatalistic view of predestination, is there any room for human freedom?
As we search the Scriptures for answers, it’s good to remember that, for followers of Jesus, it is biblically faithful to say, “I am predestined.”
Predestination is God’s plan from eternity past to complete the work of redemption in every saint, fully conforming us to the image of His Son.
The Greek word proorizo and its variations, found six times in the New Testament, carry the meaning of “predestine,” “limit or mark out beforehand,” “design definitely beforehand,” or “ordain ahead of time.” Proorizo comes from two Greek words: pro, which means “before” or “ahead of,” and horizo, which means “to appoint, decide, or determine.”
God in focus
It may help to note that in the six New Testament verses where this term appears, God always is the one in focus:
(1) Those who put Jesus to death do what God decided beforehand (Acts 4:28).
(2-3) Believers are “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29-30).
(4) The hidden wisdom of God that Paul preaches was “predestined before the ages for our glory” (1 Cor. 2:7).
(5) God “predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself” (Eph. 1:5).
(6) Believers receive an inheritance from God because we are “predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:11).
Paul’s use of the term describes the benefits of being foreknown and elected, most notably the ultimate joy of being conformed to the image of Christ in present-day sanctification and future glorification.
God’s sovereignty and human responsibility
It may help to note the tension between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. While the six verses referenced above emphasize God’s priority in grace, there are many other biblical texts that affirm the necessity of repentance and faith.
For example, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter makes an emphatic call to follow the Lord: “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Read on and discover how God’s sovereignty and human freedom are intertwined: “‘For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, ‘Be saved from this corrupt generation!’ So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them” (Acts 2:39-41).
Scripture teaches the complementary truths of divine sovereignty and human freedom. God does as He pleases, always acting in accordance with His nature and character as revealed in His Word. He has every right to act in any way He chooses with respect to the salvation of mankind.
At the same time, He created human beings in His image. In part, this means He entrusted us with an ability to make real decisions for which He holds us accountable. How these divine truths intersect in the doctrines of foreknowledge, election, and predestination is, in some ways, a mystery we cannot fully grasp on this side of heaven.
Our response should be to thank God for His sovereign work of redemption and to joyfully embrace eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. In addition, we should remember that predestination is personal. God doesn’t just predestine His purposes; He predestines people and provides them with secure promises that span time and eternity.
While followers of Jesus rest securely in Christ, we should resist the twin temptations of arrogance and complacency. Our predestination is by God’s grace and acquired by faith; it is not granted due to foreseen merit or inherent virtue. This excludes boasting because salvation is fully of the Lord.
Further, while God sets the secure borders of our lives, we should always seek to point those outside the sheepfold to the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).
Next: You are called