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NOTE: If you see a few paragraphs dealing with foreknowledge that you have read in another blog post, do not think this is a repeating, as the next section will deal with the ‘once saved, always saved’ mindset.
Are some chosen (predestined) to eternal salvation and others to eternal condemnation? The 16th-century Reformer John Calvin wrote: “We define predestination as the eternal design of God, whereby he determined what he wanted to do with each man. For he did not create them all in the same condition but foreordains some to everlasting life and others to eternal damnation.” Does God really ordain each of us individually ahead of time as to what our actions and our final destiny are going to be? What does the Bible really teach?
We know that God can foretell the future. He describes himself as “declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Isaiah 46:10) There are many examples of God having used his foreknowledge to foretell events before they were to take place in the Scriptures. In many cases, this was centuries before they were to take place. (Daniel 8:20, 21; Micah 5:2)And they came true just as he had prophesied. God had chosen the Israelite nation and Christians before the founding of the earth as his chosen ones. In ancient times Israel became the typical holy nation, for to it, Jehovah said: “And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel. For you are a holy people to Jehovah your God: Jehovah your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth.” (Ex. 19:6; Deut. 7:6) When we look at the Greek New Testament, it speaks of predestination or foreordination relative to those who will receive eternal life and those who will receive eternal destruction.
The words generally translated as “foreknow,” “foreknowledge,” and “foreordain” (i.e., predestine) are found in the Greek New Testament; the same basic views are conveyed in the Hebrew Scriptures. God indeed has the power of predestination and the faculty of foreknowledge. However, we need to understand foreknowledge and foreordination as they relate to God, grasping certain aspects. There are certain situations and events that take place because God has foreordained that they will (no creature in the universe can hinder these things), but it is not the case that every event must take place as it does because God has predetermined it; removing all free will. What God foreknows is because of the infallibility of his power of perception into the future, as though it were a timeline (more on this later). However, as we will see, this in no way violates our free will. In most cases, predestination has to do with groups like the Israelites and events, like the Exodus from Egypt, without foreordaining the specific individuals who will be involved in these groups or events. On the other hand, God’s foreknowledge is not limited to groups and events, as he can see the future of every living creature.
God knows in advance what choice people will freely make. The free decisions of human beings determine what foreknowledge God has of them, as opposed to the reverse. The foreknowledge does not determine the free decision; it is the free decisions that determine the foreknowledge. Judas Iscariot betraying Jesus does not happen because God foreknows it, but God foreknows the event because it will happen. The event is logically prior to the foreknowledge, so he foreknows it because it will happen, even though the foreknowledge is chronologically before the event. We can see foreknowledge in this as the foreshadowing of something. When you see the shadow of someone coming around the corner of the building, you see his or her shadow on the ground before you see the person. You know that person is about to come around the corner because of their shadow, but the shadow does not determine the person; the person determines the shadow. God’s foreknowledge is like the foreshadowing of a future event. By seeing this foreshadowing, you know the events will happen, But the shadow does not determine the reality; the reality determines the shadow. Therefore, we should think of God’s foreknowledge as the foreshadowing of things to come. Therefore, just because God will know something will happen, this does not prejudice or remove the freedom of that happening. Thus, those who believe that God’s foreknowledge removes the freedom of the person are mistaken. They posit a constraint upon human choices, which is really quite unintelligible.
God can step into the timeline and tweak anything to create a different outcome if he chooses to do so, which will then alter many future events because it will create a ripple effect in the timeline. If God were to alter anything that was already going to happen, making different choices outside of what was already going to occur in the present, it would have a ripple effect on future events. Let us use Willian Tyndale, which I believe God did step in to the timeline to protect Tyndale from the Catholic Church that was hunting him down for translating the Bible from the original languages of Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT) into English. Let us say that God did step in to alter things, allowing Tyndale to survive to the point of bringing us the first printed translation in 1526; it would have had an impact on all English translations that lay ahead in the future: the Coverdale translation of 1535, the Matthew’s Bible of 1537, The Great Bible of 1539, Cranmer’s Bible of 1540, the Geneva Bible of 1560, and, of course, the King James Version of 1611, and all others down to the Revised Version of 1881, the 1801 American Standard Version, the 1952 Revised Standard Version, the 1960-1995 New American Standard Bible, the 2001 English Standard Version, and 2022 Updated American Standard Version. Think of the impact of the English translations had the Catholic Church executed Tyndale in 1523.
In another blog post, we said that those who believe that God’s foreknowledge removes a person’s freedom are mistaken. They posit a constraint upon human choices, which is really quite unintelligible. How so? Those who God chose must persevere if they are to receive the reward of eternal life. In fact, Jesus said, “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 24:13) Why are we told this, if the ones chosen thousands of years ago were final? “God created man in his own image.” (Genesis 1:27) When creating man, free will was imperative if he was to love and honor God, serving him faithfully. God did not create robots with every moment predetermined beforehand. Our free-willed love is how God can refute Satan’s false accusations. God says: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad, that I may return a word to my reproacher.” (Proverbs 27:11) That is, ‘that I may reply to him who reproaches me.’
If God’s foreknowledge does determine our free decisions, those chosen by God would note freely love God; their love for their Creator could never be genuine. This is why Satan called man’s love for God into question in the Book of Job. Also, the Bible says that God is impartial, but how can that be so if foreknowledge determines those who are chosen for salvation irrespective of their individual merits? In addition, if these ones are receiving such privileged and favored positions, while others are fated to eternal punishment, how could anyone expect genuine and heartfelt feelings of appreciation and thankfulness in the “elect,” or “chosen ones”? – Genesis 1:27; Job 1:8; Acts 10:34-35.
The greatest difficulty is the Great Commission that Jesus Christ gave to his “elect” or “chosen ones.” He said, “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) Why, this would be pointless work because some are supposedly predestined to eternal salvation, and others to eternal condemnation. Jesus later said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them … teaching them …” Why if some are supposedly predestined to eternal salvation and others to eternal condemnation. Jesus said before his ascension back to heaven, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” If God’s foreknowledge does determine their free decisions, the preaching work essentially pointless? Persuading, persuading, and persuasion, as well as explaining, proving, and defending, are used in regards to Paul’s preaching work many times. Notice the meaning of persuasion and how it is meaningless when the outcome is already predetermined.
Persuasion: (Gr. πεισμονή peismonē, πείθω peithō) The Greek word literally means to 1.) persuade, convince (Matt. 27:20; Ac 12:20; 18:4; 19:8, 26; 23:28; 26:28). It means “to be assured of” or “to be convinced and certain of the truth of something.” Through the art of persuasion, one can cause another to adopt a certain position, view, belief, or course of action. Someone convinces or persuades another by bringing about a change of mind by means of sound, logical reasoning. Someone convinces or persuades another to adopt a new belief and to act on that belief. It also means to 2.) trust, rely (Lu 11:22; 2 Cor. 1:9); 3.) be assured (1 John 3:19); 4.) obey (Heb. 13:17); 5.) be a follower, be a disciple (Ac 5:36, 37); 6.) be certain, be sure (Heb. 13:18).
Predestine? Paul told the Christians in Rome, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30, ESV, CSB, LEB, NASB, similar) How should we understand the term “predestined” used by Paul? The Greek word (προορίζω proorizō) has the sense of predetermining, which means to determine something ahead of time or before its occurrence, decide beforehand, predestine (Ac 4:28; Ro 8:29, 30; 1Co 2:7; Eph 1:5, 11) Paul’s words here cannot be used as a dogmatic argument for individual predetermined predestination. If we are going to understand this in context, we must look at the last two verses Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can separate the believer from God’s love. This does not mean that a believer cannot choose to abandon the love of God.
Jude 5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 Now I want to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
Matthew 24:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Here, Jesus clearly states that a person’s salvation is not guaranteed at the moment that they accept him, have faith in him, and dedicate their lives to him.
Philippians 2:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
Paul, here was writing to born-again Christians, “the saints” or “holy ones” at Philippi, for Philippians 1:1 state, “Paul and Timothy, servants pledged to Christ Jesus, to all the holy ones in Christ Jesus that are in Philippi …” Paul in 2:12 is urging them not to be overly confident, as their final salvation was not assured as Jesus had stated, only those who survived to the end. (Matthew 24:13) True, God is at work in us, enabling us to carry out his will and purposes, but we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit by, as Paul said, working out our salvation.
Hebrews 6:4-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then [after that] have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put him to public shame.
Fall Away, Forsake, or Turn Away: (Gr. parapiptō) The sense of parapiptō is to fall away or forsake the truth.–Heb. 6:6.
Renew, Restore, or Bring Back: (Gr. anakainizō) The sense of anakainizō is to cause change to a previous state, to start anew.–Heb. 6:6.
On this text M. R. De Haan in Studies in Hebrews correctly observes,
If that is not a description of true, born-again believers, then language means nothing, and we cannot understand anything in the Word of God anymore. Five marks of the believer are given:
- They were once enlightened.
- They had tasted the heavenly gift.
- They were partakers of the Holy Ghost.
- They had tasted the good Word of God.
- They had knowledge of prophecy.
Hebrews 10:26-27 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
26 For if we [Paul and the born-again Jewish Christians] go on sinning deliberately after receiving the accurate knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
This clearly states that one can lose salvation. Paul says “we,” meaning that he includes himself and the born again Jewish Christians that he is writing to, both needing to remain faithful, which suggests that they have the free will to be unfaithful.
2 Peter 2:20-21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
20 For if, after they [born-agaain believers] have escaped the defilements of the world by the accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.
If the born-again believer who has been made righteous through “the accurate knowledge the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” cannot lose their salvation, why are there so many warnings about their falling away or turning back? Again, many Bible verses show that those who have been saved; are still obligated to endure faithfully. (Matthew 24:13; Hebrews 10:36; 12:2, 3; Revelation 2:10) The Christians in the First-century showed joy when they saw that fellow born-again believers were enduring in their faith. (1 Thessalonians 1:2, 3; 3 John 3-4) So, does it seem logical that God, through the Bible, would emphasize faithful endurance and warn of falling away (leaving the faith, leaving Christ) if those who did not endure and fell away would be saved anyway?
Ephesians 2:8-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not from works, so that no man may boast.
The complete provision for salvation for a born-again Christian is God’s grace. There is no way that any human can gain salvation on their own, regardless of how man good Christian works they may do. Salvation is an undeserved gift from God to all who put faith in the sin-atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Let’s look a little deeper at Ephesians 2:8-9.
For by grace, you have been saved – By an undeserved gift from God. It is not by your Own merit; it is not because we have any claim.
Through faith – Grace bestowed the underserved gift of salvation through faith or with believing into Jesus Christ.
And that not of yourselves – Salvation does not proceed from yourself. The word rendered “that” – τοῦτο touto – is in the neuter gender, and the word “faith” – πίστις pistis – is in the feminine. Therefore, the word “that,” does not refer particularly to faith as being the gift of God but to “the salvation by grace” of which he had been speaking.
It is the gift of God – Salvation by grace is his gift. It is not of merit; it is wholly by favor.
Not from works – The entire provision for salvation is an expression of God’s undeserved kindness. There is no way that a descendant of Adam can gain salvation on his own, no matter how noble his works are. Salvation is a gift from God given to those who put faith in the sin-atoning value of the ransom sacrifice of the Son, Jesus Christ.
James 2:14-26 is no contradiction with Paul here in Ephesians 2:8-9, it is a compliment. James makes it clear that faith is not just some head knowledge alone, but true faith is manifested in producing appropriate actions consistent with what one claims to profess. James here asks the question for his audience to ponder and think about to come to their conclusion as he states, can such faith save him?
Faith does not just begin and end at a mere profession of Christ. Good works in one’s life then must evidence it. These works are not done as a way to earn salvation but rather out of gratitude for a heart that has been changed by the power of Christ that made one a new creation in Christ. Good works are to be done out of the overflow of the heart that the power of God has redeemed through Christ. As he explains in verses 15-26, the answer to James’ question is that faith without works is not true saving faith.
Therefore, the fact that one does not act according to his words proves his words to be dead and false. It is dead in itself to just claim to have faith but have no works. The word that James uses for dead is nekros which means “inactive, inoperative.” (Vine 1996, 148) This believer’s mere lip service to faith without the outward expression of faith through works is inactive. James is making it clear that without works, his faith is dormant and dead and, therefore, proves that he truly does not have faith. Jesus himself said that many would be judged for the supposed claim of faith without works on judgment day with the parable of the sheep and the goats. – Matthew 25:31-46.
For the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:26)
For the body apart from the spirit is dead. The Greek word (πνεῦμα pneuma) is commonly used to denote spirit, wind, breath, and life force. The meaning here is the obvious one, that the body is animated or kept alive by the presence of the (spirit) life force and that when that is withdrawn, hope departs. The body has no life independent of the presence of the spirit. The Greek pneuma represents the life force from God that was given to Adam and Eve, which is introduced into every child thereafter, and animates the human soul or person. As James 2:26 states: “The body apart from the spirit [pneumatos] is dead.”
So also, faith without works is dead. It is just as essential that faith and that works should be animated by faith as there is that the body and spirit should be united to form a living man. If good works do not result from faith, there is no true faith. No justification does not put a person on the path to salvation. There is no being declared righteous by God. If faith does not generate works, a truly Christian life, it is dead. It has no power, and it is worthless. James was not making some argument against real and genuine faith. In addition, he was not making an argument against its significance in justification. He was arguing against the idea Christians only needed faith alone to be on the path of salvation, and it need not come with good works. James argues that if there is genuine faith, it will always follow that good works are there. Just as you cannot have a body without the breath of life, you cannot have faith without works. It is only faith that can justify and save. But if that faith does not have works, it is not really faith. It is pseudo-faith, so there is no justification, no salvation. If the faith does not result in genuine Christian life, it is like the body without the spirit (breath of life). It is meaningless.
James and Paul are not at odds with each other, as they both agree that the person needs true faith to be justified, declared righteous, and enter the path of salvation. Both James and Paul agree that to have genuine faith; one must have works as well that evidence a holy Christian life. Both believe the opposite of that is true too. If a Christian does not have a holy life, their faith is a mere facade. The entire New Testament makes these things clear. If we do not believe in Jesus Christ, we cannot be justified before God, and if our faith is not genuine, it is impossible to lead a holy life. Claiming that no works are necessary for having faith is like saying a dead body of a living man. It is just ridiculous.
When a person (a soul) dies (beyond clinical death), there is no longer any animating force or “spirit” within any single cell out of the body’s one hundred trillion cells. Many of us have seen the animation video in science classes at school, where the cell is shown to be like a microscopic factory with an enormous amount of work taking place. Therefore, no work is taking place within the lifeless body, as all of the cells animated by the spirit are dead. The body is not good for anything. This is the similarity that James is trying to draw our attention to, as a faith that lacks works is just as lifeless, producing no results and of no use as a corpse. The literal eye cannot see faith; however, works demonstrate that faith can be seen. When one is not moved to good works, it is clear that this one has no real faith. Alternatively, any Christian that is motivated to do good works, possesses a genuine faith.
We have spoken about works for many pages now. So, the next question is, what examples of works should be evident in the Christian life? The works are the fruitage of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), the will of the Father (Matt. 7:21-23), and the Great Commission (Matt. 24:14; 28;19-20; Acts 1:8), as well as obeying such things as love your neighbor, helping those who need it if it is within your power, living a holy life, etc.
What about the following Bible verse?
John 6:37, 39 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never cast out. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
This verse does nothing to undo the fact that born-again Christians have free will and can choose to reject Jesus Christ. It only says, Jesus will never cast the born-again believer out and that he will not lose any believers but it does not say that believers are unable to exercise their free will, choosing to leave him.
The argument that some make is that true born-again believers in Christ cannot lose their salvation. Their argument is that if anyone professing Christian rejects Jesus Christ, he simply was not truly a born-again believer in the first place. Their verse to support this is,
1 John 2:19 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, so that they would be revealed that they all are not of us.
This is not dealing with born-again believers as to whether they can lose their salvation or not; it is dealing with the antichrist.
1 John 2:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV
18 Little children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; whereby we know that it is the last hour.
The context for 1 John 2;19 is 1 John 2:8, which talks about the antichrist, not whether true believers can or cannot lose their salvation. It is not about whether believers were really believers at all; it is about the antichrist.
 M. R. De Haan, Studies in Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996), 104–105.
 Antichrist: (ἀντίχριστος antichristos) The term “Antichrist,” occurs in the NT five times. From those five times, we gather this entity is “against” (i.e., denies Christ) or “instead of” (i.e., false Christs) Jesus Christ. Many antichrists began back in the apostle John’s day and will continue up unto Jesus’ second coming. (1 John 2:18) The antichrist is referred to as a number of individuals taken together, i.e., collectively. (2 John 1;7) Persons who deny Jesus Christ are the antichrist. (1 John 2:22) All who deny the divinity of Jesus Christ as the One and Only Son of God is the antichrist. (1 John 2:22; John 10:36; Lu 9:35) Some antichrists are apostates who left the faith and are now in opposition to the truth. (1 John 2:18-19) Those who oppose the true followers of Jesus are the antichrist. (John 15:20-21) Antichrists are individuals or nations opposing Jesus or trying to supplant his kingly authority. – Ps. 2:2; Matt. 24:24; Rev. 17:3, 12-14; 19:11-21.