Predestination and salvation

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Predestination – no afterthought

Predestination determines that the salvation that God offers was not an afterthought, but a purposeful, planned act.

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.  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.   Romans 8:29-30

When God saved us He also justified us, however God knew us way before that, our justification came much later. This passage in Romans is a chain of which the first link is His foreknowledge. The second link is our predestination. The third, is our calling and the fourth is our justification finally the fifth being our glorification.  We think that we knew God when we were justified, but God already knew us.  In addition, those that God knew, He marked. He marked us to be identical to Jesus.  He is not content to have just one son, but desires that we all become sons in the image of His first begotten Son Jesus.

The meaning of predestination

Predestination means that our history with God began way before the day of our conversion when we were justified, but began in God’s presence in eternity past.  If we could lose our salvation, it would be a matter of God’s omniscience.  If He knew that at one point that He would save us, how could we not be saved at a later point?

God cannot change our justification without affecting His foreknowledge, predestination and calling.  God is the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega (Revelation 22:13).  We begin things and we try to finish them, but we do not always succeed.  God however is not like us: He finishes what He begins.  The work that God begins will not stop midway.  Salvation is a work of God, not a human work.  God saved us He will complete the work He began in us.

. . . being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; Philippians 1:6

If salvation could stop halfway in our lives that would mean that God declined to finish what He began.  Either He stopped it or man stopped it.  Either way God’s character would make this impossible. He began His work of salvation in us in the foreknowledge that in predestination He would perform it to completion and lead us to glorification.

I believe that we can affirm that our salvation is eternally secure because it is a predestined work of God.  If it depended on us, we would fail, but just as God was responsible for beginning the work, He is also responsible for preserving it.

In Philippians 1:6, Paul is confident (completely convinced in his spirit) that God would complete or fulfill the work (that work, which we will yet define and examine) which He had begun in the Philippian believers.

We can safely deduce that God’s work of predestination began in general in these believers even before they were born, and then more explicitly upon their conversion.  What may not be so clear to all is when He will complete it.

I used to think that the time that God works in our lives was limited to the time that we are living here on earth in this present age.  I have even preached this verse accordingly several times.  Thus, I rendered the phrase “until the day of Jesus Christ” as meaning until the end of life on this earth which most likely would be before the day of Jesus Christ.  In other words, God will finish what He began by the end of your life.  That sounds wonderful and comforting but neither reflects the historical narrative of scripture nor common experience.  Most all Christians know of at least one deceased believing brother or sister in whose life here on earth God had not finished His work.  There are countless examples of people who started well in their walk with Christ but fell away and by the end of their lives could hardly be identified by fruit in their experience as true Christians much less as someone within whom the work of God has been completed and fulfilled.

The Philippians had not begun this work, God had.  Paul based his assurance that God would fulfill and complete this work on his confidence that whatever God starts, He also finishes.  God is perfect and there is no reason why He would begin such a work only to latter abandon it.  He has infinite power to complete it.  No enemy could overcome His purpose. No difficulty could prevent Him from completing His good work. Not to do so would go against His very character and it is unthinkable to consider that He will not complete everything that He has initiated. No, God abandons nothing good that He undertakes.  While He does meet out discipline from time to time and effect course corrections, He always follows through with what He has purposed.

Implications of predestination

God has left no un-finished worlds or solar systems. There are no half-made and forsaken works of His hands. There is no evidence in His works of creation of any change of plan, or of having forsaken what He began from disgust, or disappointment, or lack of power to complete what He started. How then could there be such evidence concerning His work in the human heart? If God indeed began a work, any work, in a person then according to this text and the spirit of all scripture He will finish and complete what He has predestined.

O.k. so, when did God ever do this, and what does His completed work look like in the life of one of His children?  As stated above God planned us in eternity past when He foreknew us, the Apostle Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit calls us His workmanship.  There are ample examples throughout the Scriptures that show us that God prepares each one of His children that He foreknew and predestined them to be conformed to the image of His Son.  God is great enough to leave no detail to chance.  God somehow divinely chooses and puts together through the free will of each generation the people and circumstances so that each child of God is born into the world to the parents and in the location and circumstances that He has predetermined.  God began His work in us before even before our parents conceived us.  Even before conversion, God has planned and ordained our life circumstances to play part of the mosaic that contributes toward His purposes.  God began His work in each of His children before they took on an earthly body and one day He will finish this work of predestination.

There are many examples of this in the Word but the most classic is Jacob.  Jacob apparently started out all wrong.  Even at birth, he was trying to usurp his brother’s rightful place as firstborn.  Jacob was a lying, conniving, manipulative soul who for some strange and wonderful reason became one of the most used men of God.  At the end of his life, marked by the discipline of many years he grew and matured into the noble man of God called Israel.  What a contrast with what he was in the beginning.  The presence of this patriarch who had wrestled with God and obtained His blessing impressed even Pharaoh, king of the most powerful nation on earth at the time.

We can safely say that God finished the work that He began in Jacob’s life.  He is one of the heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11.  God taught him a thing or two about spiritual vision, for so many years he wandered through life’s desert not understanding what God was doing in his life.  But at the end when he prophesied over his sons and his son Joseph saw that he placed his right hand on Ephraim instead of Manasseh the firstborn, when he tried to correct him, his father said that he knew who was who, but that the younger would be greater than the firstborn.

However, just as we have examples of men and women who saw the work of God fulfilled in their lives we also have examples of those who apparently did not see the work of God completed in their time here on earth.  Are we to conclude that this host of imperfect and admittedly fallible men and women were eternally lost?  What of Esau, he was a carnal man but had more character than Jacob once had.  Saul worried about his image and never learned how to follow his spiritual leader but he did not involve himself in scandalous sins like those that David did (lying, adultery, murder).  We can also cite the example of Ananias and Sapphira.  God Himself cut their lives short.  Are we to understand that because they lied to the Holy Spirit about the price of their offering that they lost their salvation or that God never began a work in their lives?  I shudder to think that someone could be eternally lost because of one act of dishonesty or hypocrisy.

Opportunity of predestination

What about you dear reader, what has yet to be fulfilled in your life?  If you died today, could you say that God finished the work that He began in your life?  Unless you recognize that God has feats for you to conquer through your faith, quite realistically you will not accomplish much of any eternal worth before your time comes to leave this world.  Then how will God have completed His work in you?

To answer this question, consider three possibilities:  First, God never started a work in you.  Second, He started it and then gave up, or third, He started it and will finish it before the day of Jesus Christ.

I believe that we can boldly affirm that what God begins in His predestination, He finishes.  Your challenge is to cooperate with Him now so that He can conclude His work before you leave this life.  Otherwise, you will suffer lost at the judgment seat of Christ.  Then by the end of the Millennium, He will have completed His work in your life, but it will not be a very pleasant experience.

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