In this second of three posts, I discuss a second crucial concept that is prerequisite to understanding God's grace better. There are many others, but these three are most relevant in the conflict between Reformed theology and free-will theology within the Appalachian territories. They are in my experience the most frequent sources of error in the prevalence of free will theology in West Virginia.
· Predestination—According to the previous post, we are sinners. Dead in our sins, deserving condemnation. If we are dead in our trespasses and sins, with no ability to save ourselves, then it stands to reason that no one will be saved, unless God first chooses to save them. Ephesians 1 credits this predestination “to the praise of his glorious grace (vv. 5-6).” Ephesians 2 stresses that because we are depraved, then our salvation can only be because of his gracious initiative (vv. 1-10).
- Note the language in Ephesians 1:3-14 that expressly speaks of God's choosing sinners for salvation- 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, . . .11 In him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
o Some try to get around the idea that God chooses some for salvation and allows the rest to be punished for their sins by suggesting that--
§ Since God knows the future,
§ He knows who will believe and be saved.
§ So God chooses them based upon their choice of him.
o This is called conditional election. It is election based upon the condition of their first choosing salvation.
§ If this were true, then predestination would not be to the praise of his glorious grace.
§ Remember that grace is free. It cannot be based upon something that we have done, or else it would not be grace.
o The Bible specifically states that God does not choose those who will be saved by basing election upon what they will do during their lifetimes.
§ Romans 9:11--11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”[d] 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
o Grace means that God did it, and we did not. It was all of him and none of us. If we do not believe that God chose us before the foundation of the world, then we must believe that we somehow, someway had it within ourselves to choose God. And that is not grace.
o The testimony of Charles Haddon Spurgeon: “When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this. I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths in my own soul—when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man—that I had made progress in Scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, the clue to the truth of God. One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher's sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me,How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind tomake me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, "I ascribe my change wholly to God."”