The doctrine of predestination will always be accompanied with controversy, disagreement and possibly even the covering of ears, the raising of arm hair and chilling of spines. Let me assure you, however, there is no need for alarm, if we hold to what is clearly revealed in the Scriptures. Here, we find only predestination in the positive, that is, to life. Not if, but when, difficulties arise concerning this unavoidable doctrine, we surely must leave the hidden things to God, embracing only the comforts revealed in his word.
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of his law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)
The questions then arise. What is the doctrine of predestination all about? How does it bring peace and comfort? And how do we talk about it in roughly 800 words?
Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out. (John 11:43-44)
In the seemingly endless debates over the doctrine of predestination within the church, the story of Lazarus silences speculation regarding any human role in salvation. What was dead has been made alive, what was lost has now been recovered. Debates concerning our freedom to choose or to cooperate with God’s call, are confronted with the simple, yet profound illustration of Lazarus, a lifeless body in decay, powerless to save himself beyond the grave, gifted with the breath of life, called by the Word of life.
Surely, a corpse, cannot save itself any more than a person fallen and trapped in a deep, inescapable pit can climb out without the merciful hand of one capable of reaching down to rescue them from certain death. They can only be raised to life by a means outside of themselves. From this pit, full of darkness, one is brought into the light of life, Christ, the light of the world.
In him was life, and the light was the life of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:4-5)
A person living in the darkness of the pit is not inclined to call out for the saving hand above. Sure, they may cry out for help, but as children of darkness they are at enmity with the light. Before belonging to the light that is Christ, and reaching out for him, one must be born again.
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit.” (John 3:5-6)
Rather, according to human nature, people will naturally try and save themselves by looking to what can be felt and comprehended in the confines of this dark world. Blinded and trapped in the darkness of the pit they will try anything in their own strength to overcome the impossible and inevitable. Scratching and crawling to save themselves they will pridefully fight till the end, while never escaping the inescapable. For all they know and have ever known in the absence of Christ is the pit, the darkness, and their inescapable thoughts.
But enough of this darkness! Predestination is, after all, a doctrine of everlasting comfort for children of the light, remember?
For eternally etched on the stone walls of this pit, just waiting for some light to expose them, are comforting words of life concerning the hand from above, ready to reach down into the pit to raise those scrambling to escape death row.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ, in accordance to his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:4-6)
When Jesus explained that we need to be born again of water and the Spirit, he talked about the future of those predestined to walk in his light, made possible by his incarnation, death and resurrection; God come to us. The doctrine of predestination is surely an assurance of the reaching down of Christ, into the dark pit by which he brings life and light to those who have done nothing to earn his amazing gift.
This undeserved, unearned gift, accompanying and assuring Christ’s elect, also brings with it mysteries unsolvable. The finite cannot penetrate the mind of the infinite, that’s for sure. Despite being drawn into the light where much truth is uncovered in the sharpest of clarity, many things remain incomprehensible as though veiled by some mysterious cloak protecting eyes from things yet to be made known and perhaps that never will be, (see Deut. 29:29 above).
While much remains to be said concerning the doctrine of predestination, perhaps the most important thing left to consider and embrace relates is this: We who are in Christ live as his children, no longer in the dark pit so to speak, but rather eternally held securely in his hand. Predestination to life, the gift of God’s grace, should humble our pride and teach us to put God first. Here we learn of the great love of Christ, a love aimed at saving us before we were even born, a love that we are then called to reflect back into the world and into the dark pits that others still find themselves in.
He has ‘saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace has been given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.’ (2 Timothy 1:9)