Hey Dr. Oakes, I have a question about predestination. I have been running into people that use Romans 9, or Romans 8:28-30. They claim that God chose those who are saved already and we have no free will. The particular verse in Romans 9 was verse 11-18.
I have taught a class on Predestination. I am copying and pasting the notes for this class below. The answer to the false use of Romans 8:28-30 and Romans 9:11-18 is that it is true that God did indeed predestine that Jesus would come and offer forgiveness. Predestination is a biblical doctrine in that God predestined the coming of the Messiah as a saviour of all who would repent of their sins and come to God. However, the doctrine known as Calvinism, which includes the false teaching that God predestined the vast majority of people to go to hell is truly a false doctrine. It dishonors God and denies his love for all people. God has predestined all for salvation, but, unfortunately, most of those who God desires to be saved will abuse the free will he gives us and choose to reject his salvation. God’s sovereign will is always done, but it is his sovereign will that we humans have free will. God loves us so much that he wants us to love him, but, in his love, he gives us a choice of whether or not we will return his love. Like Paul said (but which Calvinism denies) God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
If the outline below is not sufficient, feel free to contact me so that I can make the biblical teaching on predestination more clear.
Hebrews and “Perseverence of the Saints.” Predestination.
First: Hebrews and “falling away”—losing our salvation.
The doctrine of falling away is presented in by far its clearest in the NT in Hebrews.
Scriptures in Hebrews which nail this teaching:
The entire book was written to prevent Christians from losing their salvation.
Warnings against falling away.
Hebrews 3:7-11 They shall never enter my rest.
Hebrews 3:14 We… share in Christ IF we hold firmly till the end….
Hebrews 3:16-4:11 esp. 3:16-4:1
Foreshadow of the Jews in the wilderness.
Let us make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall short of it…
Hebrews 6:4-8 Who is he talking to?
a. been enlightened (NT church “enlightened” = baptized)
• b. tasted the heavenly gift (salvation?)
• c. shared in the Holy Spirit
• d. tasted the goodness of the word
• e. tasted the coming age (saved)
That Hebrews commentary: Two audiences; Christians and Jewish believers who have not yet chosen to be baptized. (circular reasoning)
What happens to these people?
• It is impossible… if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance.
• They are crucifying the Son of God all over again.
• Land that produces thorns… will be burned.
Let us be careful how we use the term “fall away.”
• Crucifying the Son of God all over again.
• Subjecting Jesus to public disgrace
• Trampling the Son of God under foot. (Heb 10:29)
• Insulted the Holy Spirit (Heb 10:29)
• Blasphemed (spoken against) the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:32)
• Committed the unforgivable sin (1 John 5:16, Luke 12:10)
• What is the “unforgivable sin?” To willfully, deliberately continue in sin. (Hebrews 10:26)
• See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (ie. They were pure but
• become defiled)
• He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.
• Hebrews 12:25 If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth (Moses), how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven (Jesus).
Q: Is it true that once one is saved it is without doubt that this person will in fact be in heaven?
Q: What scriptures might one use to support this doctrine that it is literally impossible for a saved person to lose that salvation? Romans 8:37-39 John 10:27-29.
Q: Is a person who believes in this doctrine lost?
Q: Do you believe in Predestination?
We need a discussion of predestination, of Calvinism and of double predestination. TULIP.
The doctrine “once saved, always saved” is the “P” in TULIP.
Perseverence of the Saints.
This doctrine is the last leg in a long series of logical progression of thought which begins with “original sin.”
History of predestination as a Christian doctrine.
1. Augustine of Hippo (354-430). The most influential theologian in Western Christianity throughout the Medieval period and during the Reformation.
Wrote “The City of God.” God is so sovereign that we can have no part whatever to play in our own salvation. Therefore, we are only saved because God chooses us. (as opposed to Pelagius, who acknowledged that a human response leads to our salvation)[Cyprian (AD 200-258)(also of Carthage) also taught an incipient form of predestination in the early fourth century.
300’s AD baptizing babies
Why? Augustine: original sin. Pelagius: That’s not just!
Why? Sovereignty of God.
Result: Salvation has absolutely nothing to do with our response. It has everything to do with God’s sovereign choice. We are only saved because God chooses us.
“Tiny babies are not weighed down by their own sin, but they are being burdened with the sin of another.”
Man’s free will avails him nothing, save to do evil.
Men’s evil wills are prepared by God and predestination. God, in his
timeless wisdom had decided to prepare only the will of a few.
Augustine’s opponent was Pelagius.
“Indeed, Pelagianism as we know it, that consistent body of ideas of momentous consequences, had come into existence, but in the mind of Augustine, not Pelagius.”
Since perfection is possible for man, it is obligatory.
we did not sin in Adam. Rather we sinned like Adam.
Julian of Eclanum
(about Augustine) You think that your Lord is capable of committing a crime
against justice such as is hardly conceivable even among the barbarians.
Julian of Eclanum
“You think that your Lord is capable of committing a crime against justice such as is hardly conceivable even among the barbarians.
“God, therefore, is the first cause, who moves causes both natural and voluntary. And just as by moving natural causes He does not prevent their actions from being natural, so by moving voluntary causes He does not deprive their actions of being voluntary; but rather is He the cause of this very thing in them, for He operates in each thing according to his own nature.”
In other words, Aquinas believed in free will and not a strict monergism.
2. Martin Luther (1483-1546) was an Augustinian monk. Restored the theology of Augustine. A strong believer in predestination.
Skeptical of the canonicity of Hebrews.
More important for predestination in America:
3. Ulrich Zwingli Zurich (1484-1531) was also a predestinationist, as were most of the reformation theologians. Clearly taught double predestination.
“Those individuals who end up damned forever in hell are also eternally determined by God for that fate.”
4. John Calvin Geneva (1509-1564) Institutes of the Christian Religion. Solidified the modern doctrine of predestination. Very strong on the sovereignty of God. God’s sovereignty trumps our ability to choose faith. We can have absolutely no part in our salvation. Period.
Limited atonement (double predestination)
Perseverence of the saints (once saved, always saved).
This whole system is entirely logical if we accept Original Sin.
Reformed theology comes from Zwingli and Calvin. (Presbyterianism, Dutch Reformed, Baptists, Puritans
US Jonathan Edwards late 1700’s very dark, depressing
“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”
“A sinner in the hands of an angry God.”
No assurance of salvation. Salvation has nothing to do with us. FATALISM Church attendance very low.
Cane Ridge Revival Barton Stone rejects predestination.
Huge pendulum swing. Total assurance of salvation. Tulip light.
Modern idea of “once saved always saved” results.
Once you have been saved (pray Jesus into your heart), no matter what happens after that time, you definitely will make it to heaven
Anathema to Augustine, Luther, Calvin, etc.
Doctrine of Predestination:
Three kinds of doctrines:
Essential (salvation issue)
Important (not a salvation issue, but can have a significant effect on our relationship with God)
Not important (an actual biblical teaching or an implied teaching which one can be wrong about with little if any effect on our relationship with God)
Q: Where does predestination fall in this range?
Q: Where does once saved, always saved fall in this range?
What is the problem with this doctrine. Why is it, perhaps, in the first category?
Because, as Julian of Eclanum charged, it makes God the creator of evil.
It undermines the love of God, because love always gives a real choice.
Romans 8:31-39 Nothing can separate us (except we ourselves because we
have free will)
John 10:27-29 No one can snatch them out of my hands…
Romans 9:10-21 (read v. 14-18)
Example of Pharaoh and Judas
Is predestination true? Yes!!!
1. God predestined all of us to be saved (but he does not force anyone)
2. Very rarely God does step in and trumps our freedom of choice for a specific purpose (Pharaoh, Judas). But even in these cases, they could have chosen to repent and to be saved.
But: Deut 30:19-20, Joshua 24:15 Ezek 18:19-20 All of Hebrews.
Note, Augustine countered with Exodus 20:4, but this is a false interpretation.
There are not a lot of passages which explicity teach that we have free will
Assurance of salvation.
Hebrews 2:10-13 So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers…. Here am I, and the children God has given me.
Hebrews 6:9-20. We are confident of better things in your case.
v. 16-20 He confirmed it with an oath. Two unchangeable things….
Two unchangeable things:
God’s Oath (Genesis 22:16-18)
Jesus, your anchor, is behind the veil with the Father
We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place
Let us draw near to God… in full assurance of faith.
For he who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:35-36 Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded…. You will receive what he has promised.
Confidence, Assurance vs concern for falling away.
Both are true. We need to find the balance.