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TEXT: Romans 8:29
SUBJECT: Doctrine of Salvation #2: Predestination
This afternoon, as the Lord provides, we will move on in our study of Soteriology or the Doctrine of Salvation. The human experience of salvation begins when a sinner repents and puts his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Until that time, the sinner is lost, as lost and under the wrath of God as anyone else. The salvation experience begins at conversion-and not a second before.
But the plan of salvation was drawn up and guaranteed long before anyone believes, in fact, before anyone or anything exists. The Plan of Salvation is not what sinners must do to find God, but what God did to find sinners. The first thing He did was to choose-choose to save, yes, He did that; choose to save in Christ and by faith, He did that too. But here, I mean something more: The Bible teaches that God chose particular sinners to save, and this is why any sinner is saved, because God chose him!
'Election' is the technical word for His choice. God chooses the Elect, and His choice cannot be frustrated. As the hymn says-
Not one of all the chosen race,
but shall to heaven attain,
Partake on earth the purposed grace,
And then with Jesus reign.
Election is eternal and makes eternal life certain, but it is not, of itself, eternal life. Each of the elect has to be converted in time.
THE BASIC MEANING
This brings us to one of the most misunderstood words in the Bible and theology, predestination. If the idea of predestination is mysterious (which it is) the word itself is not. It simply means 'to plan ahead of time'. Foolish people never make plans and always find themselves caught off-guard by unforeseen circumstances. (This explains why so many people are late to church!)
The Lord is never caught off-guard, because before He does a thing, He plans it. God thinks ahead. That's all predestination really means.
THE THEOLOGICAL MEANINGIn theology, Predestination can be understood in two ways: widely and narrowly. Widely, it means God plans everything from the rise of empires to the fall of a sparrow, and that nothing happens outside of His plan. I very firmly believe this, but it's not the topic for today.
For today, I have in mind the narrower meaning of Predestination. Here it is: God controls everything to guarantee the salvation of His elect.
To be saved, one first has to be. God does not save hypothetical sinners, but real sinners. Thus, long before He saved you, God willed your conception and birth and your life every day thereafter.
In calling him to the prophetic ministry, the Lord assured Jeremiah-
Before I formed you in the womb I
And before you were born I
I appointed you a prophet to the
Jeremiah was not a preacher from the womb-obviously-but he was chosen for that office, and to fill the office, God had to form him in the womb, and I might add, preserve his life till the time of his call and for many years to come.
Paul uses the same kind of language, speaking of God-
Separating him from his mother's womb and calling me by His grace.
If you know his history, you know Paul was anything but 'called' from birth. But he was born and bred and taught and fed and spared and all the rest to put him on that-
Road to Damascus.
What's true of these exceptional men is true for the rest of us as well. Before God called us to Himself, He gave us our lives and preserved them till the time we believed, and ever since.
CONVICTION OF SIN
A second thing you must have to be saved is a conviction of sin and a felt need for God. Everyone is equally guilty and in need of God, but not everyone feels the guilt, many people think they're just fine on their own.
The Elect once felt this way themselves; we're born guilty, but most of us don't feel the guilt and danger we're in until sometime later. Why?
Others are made in the Image of God as much as we are. But, for some reason, we feel a need for the Lord and His grace more keenly than they do.How do we account for this? Is it something inside of us, or something outside of us? The Bible's answer is-
Every good and every perfect gift is from above
And comes down from the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
Not only is God's grace a gift from Heaven, but so is our desire for that grace. By nature, Paul says-
No one seeks after God.
This means, if left to ourselves, we'd project our guilt onto others and try to fill the 'God-shaped hole' in our hearts with everything but God.
But Predestination says, 'We're not left to ourselves'. God wills our salvation, and in time, He provides the conviction and emptiness that must precede it.
A third thing He provides the sinner is His Gospel. Every day, millions of people die without ever hearing the Gospel. But you have heard the Gospel, haven't you? Why did you hear it and not someone else?
We can blame the Church for being lazy and selfish. Or, we can blame governments and cultures for shutting the door to missionaries, jamming Christian radio stations, and so on. And then there's the devil doing all he can to retard the spread of the Gospel.This explains why some haven't heard the Gospel, what it doesn't explain is why others have-why you have! Once again, the answer is God; American culture is no better than the culture of North Korea or Saudi Arabia, but God has opened the doors for His Gospel here in a way He hasn't in most other places.
Why is that? Only He knows the full answer to that, but here's part of it: He wanted to save you.
REPENTANCE AND FAITHMoving from the realm of nature to the realm of special grace, to be saved you have to repent of your sins and believe the Gospel. Many, many people have been convicted of their sins and heard the Gospel, often and clearly, but never responded. They swallowed their guilt or blamed others for it; they slept through the sermon and laughed at their friends and thought 'That's good for you, but not for me'. And then they died and went to Hell!
Why didn't that happen to you? Because God gave you the gifts of repentance and faith! Repentance and faith are our duties, but-at the same time-they are the gifts of God. Acts says the brethren in Achaia-
Believed through grace.
And when the first church heard of the conversion of Cornelius and his house, they praised God for-
Granting repentance to the Gentiles.
CONVERSION AND PERSEVERENCEThe God who chose you for salvation has also appointed every means necessary to bring it to pass! This is the meaning of Predestination applied to Personal Salvation.
And it doesn't stop with conversion. The Lord also keeps His people saved. He keeps us from the temptations that would otherwise ruin us; He brings us back to faith and obedience through chastisement; He keeps on communicating His Holy Spirit to us. He lets us keep our Bible and our church, our Christian friends, and all the other props of our lives in Christ.
SIN, FOLLY, AND PAIN
One more thing needs to be said here. Every unsaved life is a bad life, but some are worse than others. You may know why you did some of the wicked and foolish things you did (because you were wicked and foolish), but why did God allow you to do them? You think of all the years you wasted, all the potential you lost, and the people you hurt. Why didn't God stop you earlier? Why didn't He save your before you left your wife or hurt your kids or became an alcoholic or went to jail?
Only God knows the whole truth, but here's part of it: Even your sins and follies were in His plan to bring you to glory. He used your follies to show you that you need Wisdom; He used your sin to prove you need a Savior; He let you worship the creature so you'd find how empty that is and turn to the Creator.
The Lord is so wise, powerful, and good that He can work the worst things together for your salvation. This is why Predestination is not the black hole some think it is, but just the opposite: a light in dark places.
WHAT TO DO
All we can do in light of His eternal plan for our eternal good is (a) wonder at it; (b) thank Him for it; (c) trust Him to provide all we need in the future as He has the past; (d) sing His praises to all who will listen; and (e) pray for those who won't.
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