Predestination and Election
Question: The Scripture speaks about the necessity of faith in Christ. But how does predestination fit in with the new birth? Some think that faith is not necessary. If a person is predestinated then that person will be saved apart from faith. Does the Scripture teach that?
Answer: No, it doesn't. Faith in Christ is God's requirement for salvation. God's choosing and man's believing are sometimes put together in the same passage, as in 2 Thessalonians 2:13: "God hath from the beginning CHOSEN YOU to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and BELIEF of the truth."
When thinking about predestination, there are two extremes to avoid. One extreme is the view that makes salvation totally dependent on human effort. It sees our security in Christ as being dependent on our "holding out."
The other extreme to avoid is the position that sees some kind of a secret "script" that has been previously written out. We are nothing more than mindless robots without choice whose destiny is fixed and who are going through the motions of life like characters in a play.
Anyone who has seriously read the Scripture will notice that the Bible teaches both the sovereignty of God as well as the responsibility of man. Both are clearly taught and, though these truths sometimes seem to be contradictory, God never explains how they "fit" together. Though we find it difficult to harmonize God's control over all things with the reality of human choice, both do harmonize in the mind of God.
The illustration of the railroad tracks is sometimes used to picture this. One rail represents God's sovereignty over all things. The other rail represents human choice. The train of biblical truth needs both rails. If you remove the rail of human choice, the train totters and crashes into the ditch of fatalism—"whatever will be will be, so what's the use?" But if you remove the rail of divine sovereignty and grace, the train bogs down in the mire of salvation by human merit.
To take the illustration a step farther—if we get down on our hands and knees and put our heads close to the railroad tracks, we will find that both rails converge in the distance. In the same way, we see the twin truths of the mind of God.
Question: What do the words "predestinate" and "elect" mean?
Answer: Both of those words are found in Scripture. "Predestination" refers to God's prior determination of a certain outcome. God has predetermined that all who are saved would be adopted into His family. Ephesians 1:5 says: "Having predestinated us unto the ADOPTION OF CHILDREN." The word also refers to God's predetermination that believers would be conformed to Christ. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate TO BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON."
The word "elect" is similar. It is a word that is frequently applied to Christians. We are never told in the Bible that anyone has been elected to be damned. Acts 13:48 states: "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." The Bible never says: "And as many as were ordained to eternal damnation believed not." "Election" and "predestination" are positive words that speak of God's grace and mercy to undeserving sinners.