It is called by many titles, predestination, election, preordination, chosen, etc. Whatever we call it, it implies that God has a master plan and that our destiny is already set. John Calvin taught that with predestination we had very little choice. Everything and everyone were predetermined by God. The elect (Christians) have already been chosen by God and the non-Christians were not chosen by God. But somehow that bothers us!
Election is God’s deciding who gets on the plane bound for heaven. Predestination is his charting the route the plane will take, the schedule, the accommodations both during and after the flight, and each passenger’s safety. With God as the pilot of the plane and the plane itself, all who board the plane make it to heaven. Predestination means God himself makes sure the elect actually board the plane. Their response of faith in Christ is like checking in at the gate with a boarding pass. Those whom God has elected to salvation he also moves to accept his free offer. Many are called, but few are chosen. Yet all who are chosen are predestined to end up in heaven.
We all learn to make adjustments in life, like the doctor who gave his patient just six months to live. When the fellow didn’t pay his bill the doctor gave him another six months. We like the thought that God chose us, that makes us special. However, we have difficulty with a loving God who only selects a few. Why me a sinner, as opposed to this sinner? There are some mighty fine people who will end up in Hell. Why were they not chosen? MAT 22:14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
To believe that God would elect some to go to Hell means also that God predestined some to commit evil. The God who loved us enough to send His one and only Son, cannot be the same God who would choose to make a person a mass murderer. I think we see a lot of this thinking in Paul’s writings because, Paul saw himself was a very evil person whom God had chosen to change.
There are some who believe in a modified election. They believe in a “free will” to choose God and to make one’s own confession of God. However, once we have confessed God we accept God’s plan for our lives. Sometimes it is called “eternal security” or “once saved always saved.” JOH 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. But free will isn’t turn on and turn off.
Salvation is a two way street. In our scripture text, Paul is expressing that two way street. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. God’s love is unconditional. His love is like that of a parent, we may not approve of what our child is doing or how that child may be living, but we love them, simply because they are our child. God doesn’t pick who He will love and who He will not love. Remember Paul’s own words, (1Corinthians 13:4-8) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. Love simply doesn’t give up. There was a boy who did not have much athletic ability. Every time he and his friends would play some game he was always the last to be chosen. One day two new fellows came to play with them and were allowed to be team captains because they were older. The first team captain chose the boy who had always been chosen last before. Why? Because they were brothers, and he loved his brother. So it is with God. He chose us not because of our abilities, but because he loves us.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. We forget sometimes that God is God and not just another person. “…those God foreknew…” God is Omniscient. The Old Testament has an illuminating use of the word to “know.” (Psalms 139:1-4) O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. When the Bible speaks of God knowing a person, it means that he has a purpose, a plan and a task for that person. This is the same God who knew from the very beginning that He would have to send His Son into the world. (Genesis 3:14-15) So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. When Paul uses the term predestined, he means that God made the first move. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19) All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. Paul writes ROM 10:13 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”