Where do we think we stand as regards being predestined for salvation? If we accept that God is omniscient and omnipotent, then the question of whether God “chooses” us for election has two answers. First, you may believe that there is a positive choice made by God: who to save; who not to save.
Alternately, those who allow that our free will operates to save us should consider this: not to choose is to choose. That is, again, given that God knows all and can do anything if that is His will, He knows, from the very beginning of creation, whether our free will will be used to open us up to His saving grace. The mystery remains: since God could change the events that He has foreknowledge of, would he?
Either way, Romans Chapter 8 would seem to make the Calvinist case. Romans 8:28-30 (NIV):
28 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.29 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.30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Seems quite clear. Those whom God would save, are predestined, foreknown by God. Now, from when does God know who would be saved? For an answer, look at Ephesians 1:4-6:
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
Well, there you have it. God has known which of us is destined to be saved, or not, from “before the creation of the world.” Again, if there’s a distinction between God choosing, and knowing how we will choose but doing nothing to change that choice, I’m not sure it matters.
Still open for discussion, of course, is whether God would change His mind as a result of our free will. This gets into paradox territory, since God already, from the beginning, knew (knows?) what we will do, knew everything, what would make Him change His mind? If He were going to change His mind, He’d have done it at the beginning…wouldn’t He? Seems logical, as there should be nothing that happens that He doesn’t know about in advance.
Makes your head hurt if you think about this too much, I say. For now, I just accept that the choice has been made by God, at least by omission; it’s on us to wake up to that choice. So, where does that leave our free will? In the dust of Paul’s epistles? God has chosen, before we were born – “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb”, as the Psalmist reminds us (139:13).
We are operating blind as to free will in the here and now. God may know, but we surely can’t know for certain as to our salvation. The best we can do is use our free will, in the hope that we will be able to open ourselves up to grace. I don’t believe that God would deny salvation to any one of us who are truly open to His grace; I just think that He knows how we will choose, but He Himself chooses to not change what will be.
If God wills otherwise, against our salvation, any and all of our efforts would be in vain. But if God has chosen us for salvation, His call will be irresistable. I’d like to think that it’s a tautology – if we are chosen, of necessity our free will will open us up to His grace.
Once open, we will have His help in standing firm in the gap. Jesus tells us, in Luke’s Chapter 21:14-19, that those who have accepted Christ will persevere:
14…make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend
yourselves.15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries
will be able to resist or contradict.16 You will be betrayed even by parents,
brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.17 All
men will hate you because of me.18 But not a hair of your head will perish.19 By
standing firm you will gain life.
We should always act as though we have been predestined by God to be among the elect. This means be open to grace, which, if we are truly open, will of necessity result in us doing the right thing. And in receiving “words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict”.
Are you saved? Am I? Seems as though it’s been written in the book of life, which is closed to our reading for now. Absent affirmation, let’s all act as if we were saved. And I do not mean pretend acting; I mean by your deeds show you have been chosen.
With faith, it should come naturally. Should; often it is very, very, hard to feel God’s presence in our lives. Many is the day that I’ve had my doubts and find my faith flagging. I suppose that is why it is called faith…