Why do some people respond to the message of the Bible, while others walk away? Are certain people predestined, while others are not? More simply, does God play favorites? These are hard questions, and ones which people have debated for centuries, but as we look for answers we must be careful not to add to, or take away from, what the Bible teaches.
“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.” (Ephesians 1:4)
The first thing we must understand is that “God…desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4) John 3:16-19 famously writes, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him [saving faith which results in obedience to God] should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him [saving faith which results in obedience to God] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” It is not God’s heart that anyone be eternally separated from Him. The problem is not with God; it is with mankind.
Which leads us to the second point: not all will be saved. God has given mankind free will, and we are at liberty to exercise it. As difficult as it is for us to accept, there are people who will not turn away from their evil lifestyles and submit their wills to God. John 3:20-21 continues, “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” The sad reality is that sin is sometimes pleasant, and there will be those who love it more than they crave a relationship with their Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.
Others may not hold back because of unrepented sin, but may be deceived. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 says, “…[the] gospel…is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age [the devil] has blinded, who do not believe…” 2 Timothy 2:24-25 indicates that the deception of the unsaved is demonic: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” We must gently, patiently, and humbly correct those who are deceived in the hope that God will allow them to understand the truth. But what about the doctrine of predestination? Does God predestine some people to hell?
The word “predestination” in never actually mentioned in the Bible, but its verb form “predestined” is. Its use is in a saving, not damning, context, however. Romans 8:28-30 teaches:
“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. 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.” The fascinating thing is that God predestined(to be conformed to the image of Jesus) those whom He foreknew. Is it possible that God predestines those He knows will come to faith?
The Complete Word Study New Testament (Zodhiates) explains: “This foreknowledge and foreordination in the Scripture is always unto salvation and not unto perdition. Therefore, it could be said that the Lord never foreordains anyone to be lost, but those who are saved as a result of their exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ were known ahead of time and thus chosen unto God. The word “knowing” here denotes a previous uniting of oneself with someone. This divine knowledge and divine predestination…is coincident and present in the mind and will of God prior to its manifestation in history, resulting in salvation but not in condemnation. The salvation of every believer is known and determined in the mind of God before its actual accomplishment in a historical setting. Thus…to foreknow corresponds with having been chosen before the foundation of the world…[it] essentially includes a determining on God’s part to fellowship with believers…”
Hebrews 3:15 says, “…Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…” The Bible doesn’t spell everything out in easy sound-bites, but it does provide what we need to be forgiven and reconciled with God. The fact that you’re even reading this indicates that He is reaching out to you in love. So instead of worrying if God wants you to be saved or not, simply respond to Him in obedience and you will be saved!
Thank You that You call everyone You foreknow. Help us respond to Your love and come to You. Amen.