The Inevitable Question
“In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (vv. 4b–6).- Ephesians 1:3–14
As our study of the Old Testament Wisdom Literature has progressed, we have seen many passages in which God’s sovereignty is emphasized. From the Preacher’s teaching that there is a specific time for everything under heaven (Eccl. 3:1–8) to the statement that the Lord’s plans alone will stand (Prov. 19:21), the Wisdom Literature clearly teaches that our Creator is in full control of everything that happens in His creation. Of course, we cannot really consider the sovereignty of God in Scripture without looking at the doctrine of predestination, that is, the Lord’s foreordaining of whatsoever comes to pass. To help us get a better grasp of this doctrine, we are now taking a short break from our studies in the Wisdom Literature so that we may look at the doctrine of predestination with the help of Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Predestination.
Martin Luther called predestination the “heart of the church,” and it is not too difficult to understand why. Although the idea of predestination gets a “bad rap” in many circles today, it does go to the heart of biblical teaching on the key matter of salvation. We see in today’s passage, for example, Paul’s teaching that believers have been predestined for salvation in Christ (Eph. 1:3–10). The Apostle’s statement is not the only mention we find of predestination in Scripture. In fact, the doctrine is taught from the opening pages of Genesis to the closing chapters of Revelation. It is so central to the Bible that every Christian has some doctrine of predestination. It is not that Calvinists believe in predestination and Arminians do not or that Presbyterians affirm predestination while Methodists deny it. No, all theological traditions from Roman Catholicism to Lutheranism to Anglicanism to Presbyterianism and more have set teaching in regard to predestination. The difference between Christians on predestination is not that some believers have a doctrine of predestination and others do not. Instead, the difference has to do with the basis of predestination (God’s simple foreknowledge or His eternal decree), whether predestination extends to the salvation of individuals, and so forth.
The Reformed tradition has long confessed that the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination is taught in Scripture and provides profound comfort and demonstrates our utter dependence on the grace of God. Over the next few days, we will explore these themes in more detail.
The Reformed tradition has maintained the importance of the doctrine of predestination, but it has also cautioned us to speak about this matter with great care. People are apt to mischaracterize the doctrine of predestination, and even professed Calvinists often fail to understand the depths of it. Let us take care when we study the biblical doctrine of predestination, and let us also remember that God wants us to know what He has said on the matter.
Passages for Further Study
2 Chronicles 6:6
2 Thessalonians 2:13