Nowhere does the Bible teach that God has predestinated some to be saved and some to be lost.
Perhaps no teaching of Scripture has suffered more at the hands of men than has the doctrine of predestination. It has been made to mean many things that are foreign to the teaching of God's Word. As we have already remarked in our studies of election and foreknowledge, we must not go beyond that which God has revealed to us, and we must respect the silence of Scripture as well as that which it declares.
Predestination is mentioned only six times in the Bible, and two of these references are translated by other words in our Authorized (King James) Version. The occurrences of the words are as follows:
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 (Rom. 8:29).
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 (Rom. 8:30).
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (Eph. 1:5).
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 (Eph. 1:11).
For to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined [predestinated] before to be done (Acts 4:28).
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained [predestinated] before the world unto our glory (I Cor. 2:7).
The word "predestination" means to mark out beforehand, to decree beforehand, or to specify beforehand. Thus it has the thought of marking out the destiny. This marking out of the destiny beforehand is exactly the thought that the English word "predestinate" suggests.
It will be observed that none of the above references has to do with the unsaved. One of them (Acts 4:28) refers to our Lord Jesus Christ, whereas the others speak of believers, the saved. Predestination is never mentioned in connection with the unsaved. Nowhere does the Bible teach that God has predestinated some to be saved and some to be lost, some to go to heaven and some to go to hell.
The doctrine of predestination has to do with the bringing to pass of certain things which God has before determined for His own, namely: our being conformed to the image of His Son; our sharing of His (Christ's) glory; our manifestation as the sons of God; and our entrance into the inheritance which Christ has purchased for us.
Therefore the doctrine of predestination does not lessen man's responsibility toward God. Neither does it in any wise detract from the fact that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Nor does it affect God's gracious invitation: "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17).
An excellent illustration of what predestination means is found in Acts 4:28. The apostles had been imprisoned because "they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead" (vs. 2). After the Jewish council had threatened them, they were released:
And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. For of a truth against Thy holy Child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined [predestinated] before to be done (Acts 4:23-28).
God had marked out beforehand the means by which His dear Son would go to the cross, and the fact that "both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together," was simply that they might do "whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel predestinated before to be done." They were but instruments in bringing to pass that which God had decreed and specified beforehand for His Son as the Sin-Bearer. He was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8), "who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God" (I Pet. 1:20, 21).
It is interesting to observe that just as the believer is foreknown, elected, and predestinated, so the Lord Jesus Christ, in His redemptive work, was foreknown (I Pet. 1:20), elected (Matt. 12:18), and predestinated (Acts 4:28).
The Scripture reveals that God has marked out beforehand certain things for those who have believed in His Son. As believers, we are predestinated to these things. They constitute "the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God predestinated before the world unto our glory" (I Cor. 2:7). Before the foundation of the world, God decreed for our glory that believers of this present age would have certain things destined for us, simply because we are in Christ, who is "the wisdom of God" (I Cor. 1:24).
"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" (Rom. 8:29). Here, incidentally, is revealed the very close link between foreknowledge and predestination. God foreknew us as His own children and, therefore, "He also did predestinate us to be conformed to the image of His Son." This is God's eternal purpose for every believer; and though we will not be fully conformed to the image of God's Son until He comes for us, even now our loving Father uses all the varied circumstances and trials of our lives to bring us more and more into conformity with His Son. For, as the preceding verse (Rom. 8:28) assures us, "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."
God's delight is in His Son, and He desires to see Him in us. One day this glorious purpose will be fulfilled, at the time when our Lord Jesus Christ, who is "bringing many sons unto glory" (Heb. 2:10), will come for His own. "For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Phil. 3:20, 21). We shall have immortal bodies of flesh and bones like unto our Lord's own resurrection body, and not subject to pain, sickness, death, or any earthly limitation of time or space. "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (I Cor. 15:49). "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2).
"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" (Rom 8:30). Those whom God foreknew as His own and who, therefore, had a destiny of glory marked out for them, were by the Gospel called unto Him and justified, pronounced righteous in Christ. All who have been thus justified have this destiny of glory assured them by God Himself, for "whom He justified, them He also glorified." Certain glory is predestinated for all the saved, and nothing can change this decree of our God. "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (vs. 31, 32).
So certain is glory for the believer that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, speaking of the glory which the Father gave Him because He "endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb. 12:2), said: "And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are One" (John 17:22).
Regarding the next reference to predestination (Eph. 1:5) observe the close connection between election and predestination. "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: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved" (vs. 4-6). This Scripture, like the others already considered, points to the destiny which God has marked out beforehand for those who have trusted Christ. Already, here and now, we are "holy and without blame before Him," and the reason for this is that "He hath made us accepted in the Beloved," our Lord and Saviour, of whom the Father declared: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). We are therefore "predestinated...unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself."
As believers in Christ we are already adopted into God's family with all the privileges and responsibilities belonging to this exalted position. "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, "Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15). But though this be true, we have not yet received all that belongs with our adoption. Adoption alludes to the son-place or the place as sons, and in our case it means our sharing the glory of God's Son. So, "even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:23). It is for this that God has predestinated us.
"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" (Eph. 1:11). Here is revealed again the destiny of glory which God has marked out for Christians. God has appointed His Son, as the Son of man, the Heir of all things (Heb. 1:2). And we shall inherit with Him: "The Spirit [Himself] beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together" (Rom. 8:16, 17).
"The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (I Pet. 1:3-5).
God then has predestinated that every born-again one shall be conformed to the image of His own dear Son; that we shall be brought into the glory of His Son; and that we shall share all our Lord's inheritance with Him. "Oh how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast laid up for those that fear Thee; which Thou hast wrought for them that trust in Thee before the sons of men!" (Psa. 31:19).
Copied for WholesomeWords.org from Great Doctrines Relating to Salvation by John B. Marchbanks. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1970. Chapter 14.
Selections from Great Doctrines Relating to Salvation