Discourse 69 - Predestination and the chosen.




Predestination and the chosen. / Commentary, Brunhilde Bollmeyer 00, 2004-07-13

The called and chosen and faithful.

Predestination and the chosen. / Commentary, Brunhilde Bollmeyer 01, 2004-08-11

Can believing ("born again") Christians ever be lost?

Does God hear our prayers for the conversion of others? / Commentary, B. Hackbauer 00, 2005-02-09

Is the sovereignty of God under threat? / Book, James I. Packer 00, pp 66 ff

God wants all human beings to be saved. / Commentary, Christian Bollmeyer 00, 2005-04-14

God decides first? / Sermon, Wolfgang Nestvogel 00, CD: Predigten BEG Hannover [BEG Hanover Sermons], 2005-05-22


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Predestination and the chosen / Commentary, B. Bollmeyer 00, 2004-07-13)

In Rev 17,14 we are told that the Lamb will wage war against the kings and will overcome them. This is clear enough to me, but with the Lord there are the called and chosen and faithful. Are these different groups of people, or do the different terms just refer to believing Christians generally? The question of predestination (if it comes up in this connection) is a mystery to me. I would be very grateful if you could give me another answer to this question as well.

Brunhilde Bollmeyer brunhilde.bollmeyer@gmx.de



The reference to “predestination” (the foreordaining of human beings by God to blessedness or damnation) is sometimes used in Christian circles to justify an argument on the basis of which some brothers and sisters finally conclude that there is no need for any kind of explicit conversion, because the “true” believers have in any case been chosen and entered in the book of life (the book of the Lamb) since the beginning of the world, so their identity has long since been established (Eph 1,4; Phil 4,3; Rev 3,5; 13,8; 17,8; 20,12.15; 21,27).

This supposed “certainty” which predestination pretends to offer to Christian brothers and sisters is in reality an absolute illusion. Solely and exclusively the personal conversion of every individual human being to Our Lord Jesus Christ gives us the assurance that we are in the last resort saved. The basis for this mistaken interpretation, in my view, is a completely incorrect understanding of the facts of the case.
One of the commonest arguments advanced in support of the correctness of the doctrine of predestination is to be found in Paul’s statements on this topic in his Epistle to the Ephesians:

According as he has chosen us in him before the world’s foundation.

Eph 1,3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ; 1,4 according as he has chosen us in him before the world’s foundation, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love; 1,5 having marked us out beforehand for adoption through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 1,6 to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has taken us into favor in the Beloved. Eph 1, 3- 6;


Such scriptural assertions - like Eph 1,3-6 in this case - are not to be seen from a human or earthly point of view, but rather exclusively from the eternal point of view of the Almighty. God knew in his omniscience, right from the time of the foundation of the world, about every individual human being who has ever lived and who ever yet will live, how he or she would decide in his or her life - for or against God - and has entered their names accordingly in the book of life.

The implications of this are confirmed by Peter too in his first Epistle, and by Paul himself in his Epistle to the Romans:

Peter, to those who reside as aliens, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.

1Pet 1,1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 1,2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. 1Pet 1, 1- 2;

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.

Rom 8,28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 8,29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Rom 8,28-29;


Advocates of a theory of predestination are indeed perfectly correct in quoting what Paul says in the earlier passage (Eph 1,4-5), when he states that the Father “has chosen us in him before the world’s foundation (…), having marked us out beforehand for adoption through Jesus Christ to himself.” But they go on to infer from this that God has already determined from all eternity which people will be saved and which will not. The logical consequence of this view would be a two-way division of society. The one group will point out - with justification - that this cannot be a God of justice, if he deprives the human individual of any chance of making this decision personally. The other group will claim that their names are in any case already entered in the book of life, and so it makes no difference whether they lead a life well pleasing to God or not, as they are assured of a place in eternity whatever happens. Or as Fritz Wolf puts it in his contribution to Discourse 58, “How can you know if you are saved?”:

“On the one side stood those who in spite of their longing for a life pleasing to God could never be certain that they were saved, and on the other those who imagined they had a sure “passport to heaven” in their pockets, but hardly worried about leading a life pleasing to God at all.”


(See also Discourse 58: “How can you know if you are saved?”)

It is easy enough to recognize that this point of view cannot be correct. And we will see below that it is actually quite wrong.

Let us start with the statements quoted above from the Epistle to the Ephesians. Here Paul says that God has chosen us “in him” before the foundation of the world. It follows that this selection is not just based on an arbitrary decision, but has taken place in Jesus Christ. There is a criterion then that governs this selection - namely, belief in and belonging to Our Lord Jesus Christ. But we can only achieve this faith and this belonging if we experience a completely personal conversion to Jesus Christ.

He who believes in the Son has eternal life.

Jn 3,36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. Jn 3,36;


And this shows that it is not a decision on God’s part, but our decision to follow the Lord that forms the basis of this selection. This decision of ours was known to the omniscient Father even before the foundation of the world, and on that basis he chose us and entered our names in the book of life.

On the other hand Paul indicates in Eph 1,5 that God has “marked us out beforehand for adoption through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” This, now, is quite clearly and definitely a decision of will by the Father. But yet this decision of God’s refers not to the selection as such, but rather to the fact that in his grace he has marked out beforehand those who are chosen (chosen because of their decision to follow Christ) for adoption. And Paul makes the same point again in his Epistle to the Romans, in the passage quoted earlier (Rom 8,29), when he says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (i.e. by way of adoption). So what we must pay attention to in this context is the fact that Paul here already speaks of the chosen. Those human beings, who have been recognized by God in his omniscience, because in their lives they will decide to follow Jesus Christ, are thus also foreordained by the will of the Father to adoption as the children of God.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God.

1Jn 3,1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 3,2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 1Jn 3, 1- 2;


Now the advocates of the view that human beings are foreordained by God to eternal life or eternal damnation sometimes argue that the human individual cannot decide freely, because he does not have free will. Here is how J. Ph. Fijnvandraat puts it in his dissertation “Can believing ("born again") Christians ever be lost?”:

(Note In the relevant texts of Scriptures the term “born again” is to be translated with “recreated” because in the statement of the Lord in Mt 19,28 there is only a rebirth/Regeneration which takes place at the end of the world. With this background and to keep the usage of language, the term “born again” will be used here furthermore.)

(See also Discourse 85: “True and false rebirth.”)


“A person just does not get brought to the place of salvation on the basis of his own supposedly ‘free’ will. The will of man is so sinful and so evil through and through, that no one could ever be saved if God in his grace had not foreordained, called and chosen the person in question.”
(Taken from the website http://www.bibelkreis.ch/themen/glauverl.htm)


In plain language, this suggests that individual human beings do not possess free will, and so are not able to make a free decision for or against God either. To test the correctness of this point of view, we must take a look at some of the scriptural passages where the Lord invites us to believe in him:

Jn 3,36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Jn 3,36;

Jn 11,25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 11,26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" Jn 11,25;

Jn 12,44 And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. Jn 12,44;

Jn 12,46 "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.12,47 "If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. Jn 12,46-47;


In Mr Fijnvandraat’s view, then, here we find the Lord Jesus inviting human beings - who have no freedom of will, no capacity for free and personal decision - to believe in him, and what is more, threatening them that the wrath of God will abide on them if they fail to do so. Is this possible? Surely not! It is just as if we were to tell a blind man not to cross the road when the light is red, and threaten him with punishment if he fails to comply. As we can see, this claim that the individual human being has no free will - on whatever grounds it may be based - is just an attempt to see him as an innocent lamb who cannot be called to account for his actions, and to pass the responsibility to God for all the mistaken decisions this person may have made in his life.

The view that God ordains human beings to eternal life or eternal damnation on the basis of his own will not only contradicts the entire Bible - it is also a conspicuous contradiction of God’s nature as it is presented to us in Scripture. Just as God is a God of absolute love, so he is also the God of absolute righteousness. Love and righteousness are both immanent components of God’s nature.

The LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done.

Dan 9,14 "Therefore the LORD has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice. Dan 9,14;

The LORD is the God of gods who does not show partiality nor take a bribe

Deut 10,17 "For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. 10,18 "He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. Deut 10,17-18;

Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!

Rev 15,3 And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! Rev 15, 3;


Whereas the love of God only finds its complete fulfillment when it is accepted by human beings in reciprocal love, the righteousness of God is a guarantee of the fact that no being in the whole of creation (not even Satan!) will be compelled a priori to do something against his will. Both punishment and reward are always based on decisions of the will that have been made by these creatures in the course of their existence. So the wrath of God, which is prophesied to us in many passages both of the Old and New Testaments, does not show a lack of love either - rather it is the consequence of God’s absolute righteousness, which cannot endure unrighteousness per se, in whatever form and with whatever characteristics it may be found. And this same absolute righteousness of God is also the reason why God does not judge human beings himself, but gives all judgment to the Son, who himself has been a human being and has been tempted like us, and yet resisted all temptations to sin, so that his capacity to act as judge cannot be called in question by anyone.

For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.

Jn 5,21 "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. 5,22 "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 5,23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Jn 5,21-23;

But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

Phil 2,5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 2,6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 2,7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 2,8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phil 2, 5- 8;

Since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.

Hbr 2,17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 2,18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Heb 2,17-18;


To return to the question of predestination, we can see now on the basis of the above analysis that God recognized in his omniscience, at the start of creation, all those human beings who in their lives would come to confess faith in the Father and the Son, and so has entered their names in the book of life.

Together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Phil 4,3 Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life Phil 4, 3;

And another book was opened, which is the book of life.

Rev 20,12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 20,13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 20,14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 20,15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Rev 20,12-15;


In the above passage, Rev 20,12-15, the Last Judgment is described; and we can recognize from Rev 20,12 that there are several “books” involved in the passing of judgment. First the books of deeds, containing the works and deeds that people have committed in their lives, and on the basis of which they will first of all be judged. This specific scriptural passage constitutes the basis of the view of some Christian circles (the Catholic church, for example) that the human individual may be saved through the righteousness of his works. But as we then see in the continuation of the above passage, these books of deeds are only the first phase of the judgment. The book of life is next opened, and anyone whose name is not entered in it will be eternally lost, whatever his works may have been in other respects. The basis for this entry in the book of life is explained by Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians:

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

1Cor 3,11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 3,12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 3,13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 1Cor 3,11-13;

(See also Chapter 13: “The Last Judgment.”)

Take note - here, in the first part of the judgment, it is not a matter of individual actions. The really important thing is a person’s attitude throughout the whole course of his life: what he has thought, what he has believed, what he has wished for, what he has condemned, what he has hoped, what he has wanted, what he has loved and what he has damned. In the Judgment all these immaterial attitudes of the spirit will be tested along with their “materialized” aspect - that which has expressed itself in deeds.

And here there will certainly be people who can point to heaps of good works they have accomplished. While they were alive they were unselfish, they devoted all their energy to helping and supporting others. They were conscious of the needs of the community and made a name for themselves as benefactors. Perhaps they even sacrificed their entire property and devoted their whole lives to helping the poor and needy, as did that “doctor of the jungle”, Albert Schweitzer. But as the latter once admitted in an interview, he was unable to accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God. And so he was deprived of the grounds of faith, the “foundation” as Paul calls it in 1Cor 3,11, quoted above. If he was not converted before his death, then, all his deeds - many as they were - will be burned up like straw in the fire.

As for those who reject the love of God, who have never in their lives made the decision to follow God and his Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, their names have not been written in this book of life from the foundation of the world:

Everyone whose name has not been written in the book of life.

Rev 13,8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. Rev 13, 8;

Whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.

Rev 17,8 "The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. Rev 17, 8;

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life.

Rev 20,15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Rev 20,25;


(See also Discourse 62: “When will the names of the righteous be entered in the book of life?”)

But as we can see from the further scriptural passages cited below, there are also people whose names have indeed been entered in the book of life - so they have at one time chosen God - but in certain circumstances they may be erased from it again.

May they be blotted out of the book of life.

Ps 69,28 May they be blotted out of the book of life And may they not be recorded with the righteous.Ps 69,28;

And I will not erase his name from the book of life.

Rev 3,5 ‘He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. Rev 3, 5;

And if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written.

Ex 32,31 Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, "Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. 32,32 "But now, if You will, forgive their sin-and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!" 32,33 The LORD said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. 32,34 "But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin." 32,35 Then the LORD smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made. Ex 32,31-35;


The passage quoted above (Ex 32,31-35) tells us of the people of Israel. After God had brought them out of Egypt and they had wandered in the wilderness for three months, while God gave them food and water and himself went before them, as a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of cloud by night, they came to Mount Sinai and encamped there. And the Lord told Moses to climb the mountain, to receive his ordinances for the sanctuary and for the people, and the two tablets with the Ten Commandments.

But Moses was away on Mount Sinai with God for 40 days. And the Israelites encamped at the foot of the mountain supposed that something had happened to Moses, and he would not be coming back. And they importuned Aaron, who in Moses’ absence was acting as deputy leader of the people for his brother, to let them make themselves another god. And they melted down all the golden ornaments that they had, and cast the gold to make a calf, which they then danced around and worshiped.

These Israelites were at the time the only people whom God had chosen as his people upon earth (Amos 3,1-2). He had rescued them from Egypt, he had looked after their needs and led them in the wilderness. And yet, after just 40 days, they had lost their confidence in this God and apostasized from their faith. The consequence was that God directed Moses to put to death immediately those three thousand or so who had been directly involved, and because they also refused to enter the Promised Land, the rest of the people of Israel were prevented from entering the Promised Land for 40 years - until such time as the very last of this faithless generation had perished - but were forced to continue their wanderings in the desert. This makes them, as the people of God, the Old Testament prototype of the Christian congregation of the New Testament, so their story can be a lesson to us too, as "born again" Christian believers. This very link is also pointed up by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in Heb 3,4-19:

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.

Hbr 3,4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. 3,5 Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 3,6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house-whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. 3,7 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "Today if you hear His voice 3,8 do nor harden your hearts as when they provoked me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness 3,9 where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw my works for forty years 3,10 "therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know my ways’; 3,11 as I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’" (Ps 95,7-11)

3,12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 3,13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 3,14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, 3,15 while it is said, "Today if you hear His voice do nor harden your hearts as when they provoked me." 3,16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 3,17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 3,18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 3,19 "Today if you hear His voice 3,8 do nor harden your hearts as when they provoked me. Heb 3, 4-19;


In caring for his people and himself going before them upon their path, God showed to the Israelites of that time a providential care and a grace such as have never fallen to the lot of any other people since. So if God’s dealings were based on predestination, then we can be absolutely certain that he would have preordained these very first Israelites, of all people, to remain firm in their faith and so to be saved. But as we can see, they were certainly entered in the book of life - in that they confessed their faith in God, they were believers - but through their own fault they fell away from their faith, and in the last resort decided to reject God. And the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews urges us to take this analogy to heart, as a warning addressed to us, the congregation.

So there is no place for “predestination”, of any kind whatsoever, in the life of Christian faith. On the contrary, as may be seen from the above observations, God does not influence any of a human being’s decisions. Only when these have been realized do the consequences become critical. And so God does not exercise any influence either on a person’s decisions in respect of faith. This must be freely chosen, as a compelled confession of faith would not stand up to eternity. But just as any rational person can get information and advice before taking an important decision, so for this decision too he can find information in the Gospels, and advice in the Bible as a whole.

We can see now, from those aberrations referred to earlier that are to be met with in some circles of believers, that if predestination were the case, conversion could not be a free and independent decision on the part of the individual. Christians would be transformed into puppets, and this would be an injury to the majesty of God. Missionary work and evangelization would become superfluous, as those who have been foreordained by God will come to believe in him in any case, and there would be no chance of converting any of the rest.

In concluding our discussion of this topic, we must point out with the greatest possible emphasis that according to Scripture every human being - every single one - has the possibility, right up to the last second of his life, of sincerely and honestly converting to belief in Jesus Christ, and - provided he has not committed the sin against the Holy Spirit - taking advantage of the redeeming sacrifice of the Lord for our sins. The question or problem that we are faced with here is not whether and up till what point a person can convert to belief in God, but rather whether someone who has plainly taken not the least interest in God for the whole of his life will now be in a position, just five minutes before his death, to make this critical decision in full consciousness and in complete sincerity of heart.

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

1Jn 2,1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2,2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. 1Jn 2, 1- 2;


The called and chosen and faithful.

But let us now come back to the actual question - the question, that is, whether the “called and chosen and faithful” in Rev 17,14 represent different groupings or are just different terms for referring to Christian believers in general.

The standard answer given to this question by many commentators is that these are just general terms used in early Christian times to refer to Christians. Unfortunately this is rarely backed up by a demonstration based on Scripture, so that a Christian who is interested and critical still remains uncertain what to think on this point. So we would like, in what follows, to analyze all three terms in the light of Scripture and provide documentary evidence of their meaning in each case. This will put us in a position to answer this question of objective fact on firm biblical foundations.

Let us take first of all the scriptural passage quoted in the above commentary, along with its context:

The Lamb is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.

Rev 17,12 "The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. 17,13 "These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast. 17,14 "These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful." Rev 17,12-14;


So we have to do here with the war, or battle, between the beast as commander of the hosts of the ten kings, and the Lord Jesus and his heavenly host. We find a parallel passage in Rev 19,11-19:

The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, were following Him on white horses.

Rev 19,11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 19,12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 19,13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

19,14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 19,15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 19,16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, "King of kings, and Lord of lords."

19,17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, "Come, assemble for the great supper of God, 19,18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great." 19,19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.

19,20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. Rev 19,11-20;


This is the battle of Armageddon, in which the Antichrist and his hosts will be annihilated by the Lord Jesus with his heavenly host, after which the Antichrist and the false prophet will be thrown alive into the lake of fire. With reference to the question with which we are concerned, we can definitely assert that it follows that the called and chosen and faithful belong to the heavenly host, and so at this point in time are already to be located in heaven. But let us now consider the terms separately.

(See also Chapter 07: “The Battle of Armageddon.”)

The called

As the name itself indicates, the “called” are those individuals who have followed a call. Paul confirms this in 2Tim 1,9:

Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose.

2Tim 1,8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 1,9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity. 2Tim 1, 8- 9;


But let us now take a look at what the Lord Jesus himself says about those who are called, in his parable about the laborers in the vineyard:

So the last shall be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.

Mt 20,1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 20,2 "When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.

20,3 "And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; 20,4 and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. 20,5 "Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing.

20,6 "And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ 20,7 "They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’

20,8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ 20,9 "When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. 20,10 "When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius.

20,11 "When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, 20,12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ 20,13 "But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 20,14 ‘Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 20,15 ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’

20,16 "So the last shall be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen." Mt 20, 1-16;


Before we come to consider the verse Mt 20,16, we will just give a quick explanation of the parable for the benefit of readers who may not be so familiar with the Bible. The “landowner” is God, and the “vineyard” is the world. The laborers are those people who have followed the call of the landowner to work in his vineyard. Thus they are the “called”.

To arrive at a better understanding of this parable, let us now look at it in the context of the passage that immediately precedes it. In Mt 19,16-22 the Lord has told the disciples about the rich young man, and has then made it clear to them, by way of illustration, that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. The disciples were quite appalled by this, and asked the Lord who then could possibly be saved.

And Peter now gives expression to their concern, in asking the Lord:

Behold, we have forsaken all and followed Thee. What shall we have therefore?

Mt 19, 27 Then Peter answered and said unto Him, "Behold, we have forsaken all and followed Thee. What shall we have therefore?" Mt 19,27;


We can see from this that the Lord told the following parable of the laborers in the vineyard as an answer to the question of the disciples voiced here by Peter, “What shall we have therefore?” The apostles were Jews and had abandoned their faith in the law of Moses in order to follow the Lord. And now the Lord tells them that it is such a hard matter to enter the kingdom of heaven. And this awakened in the disciples the anxiety that on the one hand their following the Lord might not be enough to save them, while on the other hand they could not return to the faith of Moses either.

In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard the Lord is referring first to the Mosaic Jews of the Old Testament. They are the laborers who have been working in the vineyard from the first hour of the morning and have had to endure “the burden and the scorching heat of the day”. The laborers who were sent by the landowner to the vineyard towards the close of the day are to be understood as the apostles, and in an extended sense all those who up to the present time, and up to the end of time, have worked and will work to spread the Gospel throughout the world. And the Lord gives his assurance that these servants will not receive any lesser reward than those who preceded them in Israel in spreading the word of God. Quite on the contrary, for as we are told in verse 20,16: “So the last shall be first, and the first last.” And then comes the Lord’s explanation: “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

And this same statement of the Lord’s is repeated in the parable of the wedding feast:

For many are called, but few are chosen.

Mt 22,1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 22,2 "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. 22,3 "And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.

22,4 "Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast."‘

22,5 "But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 22,6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 22,7 "But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.

22,8 "Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 22,9 ‘Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’

22,10 "Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. 22,11 "But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 22,12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. 22,13 "Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 22,14 "For many are called, but few are chosen." Mt 22, 1-14;


Here too we have to do with Mosaic Judaism. The king is God, and his son whose wedding is being prepared is the Son of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ. The slaves whom the king sends out to summon to the wedding those guests who were originally invited are the prophets of Israel of the Old Testament, who repeatedly called the people of Israel to return to their God. The invited guests are the people of God of Israel.

But these wedding guests took no interest in the invitation, and continued in their perverse courses. More than that, they took the slaves and killed them, as many prophets in the course of the centuries had been maltreated and killed by the kings and rulers of Israel - right up to and including John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus himself.

When the king saw that the invited guests were unworthy of the invitation, he commanded his slaves to go out and invite everyone who they could find. This is the situation we are in now, since the time when the Lord was rejected by the Jews and crucified by the Romans. From that time on, and right through to the end of the world, God will send out his slaves (Christians, now) to invite all people to the feast, both the bad and the good.

But when the king now looked over the wedding guests, he saw a man who was not dressed in wedding clothes. This man is then cast out by the servants into outer darkness. And in conclusion we find the same formula as before: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” So if the Lord draws the same final conclusion about the called and the chosen in both of the parables with which we are concerned here, these parables must include the criteria which will make it possible for us to explain these terms.

In both parables we find people who have been called. In the one case the laborers are called to work in the vineyard, in the other the wedding guests are invited to the wedding. And on both occasions it is God who has called these people. In the first parable the Jews of the Old Testament are warned that they should not think better of themselves than of the Christians. This is because these same Christians will actually be the chosen - those who at the end of time, after the resurrection and Rapture on the Second Coming of the Lord, will be the first in heaven - while the Jews will continue to live on earth for the duration of the Millennial Kingdom and will only get to heaven after the General Resurrection and the Last Judgment.

(See also Discourse 38: “What awaits Christians and Jews on the Second Coming of the Lord?”)

In the second parable the bad are invited as well as the good. This confirms that in the New Testament God is sending out his call to all human beings without exception. But not all human beings respond to this call. The ungodly and the worshipers of idols ignore God’s invitation. In the light of the above analysis, however, we can assume that all the wedding guests in the wedding hall had actually been “called”, and so had accepted the invitation. But then one of the guests is found to be without wedding clothes, and while all the others are allowed to remain - having been chosen by the king - this man is cast out. From this we can conclude that the first group are both called and chosen, whereas the man without wedding clothes is certainly called - he has after all responded to God’s call - but through his own fault he has failed to be chosen, because he did not have the proper wedding clothes.

The chosen.

The difference between the chosen and those who are not chosen, then, is to be seen in the wedding clothes. Just on the literal level of interpretation, there are conclusions we can draw. A wedding guest who does not wear a proper wedding outfit is insulting the bride and groom. He is making a demonstration of the fact that he does not respect the bridal couple and their family - perhaps he is even showing his contempt for them. And he is also informing the wedding guests that in their decision to put on wedding clothes in his opinion they are doing an honor to the king and his son that is more than the latter deserve. From this we may conclude that these people who are not chosen are those who have admittedly followed the call - accepted the invitation - and so are likewise to be counted among the called, but in truth their interests lie quite elsewhere.

If we now move from the literal to the symbolic level of interpretation, where the king stands for God and the king’s son for Jesus Christ, then these new wedding guests represent Christendom. Leaving aside the fact that we here have a further proof that we as the congregation are not the bride - who is not mentioned at all in any of these parables of the Lord’s - but rather the chosen wedding guests, we can recognize in the ones who are not chosen those surface believers who both among the Jews (as the scribes) and in Christianity (as the Catholic Church for instance) do not do the will of God, but instead have led millions of people astray and still continue to do so.

(See also Discourse 15: “Who is the bride of the Lamb?”)

Who for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.

Lk 20,46 "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 20,47 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation." Lk 20,46-47;

Matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement.

Col 2,20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 2,21 "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" 2,22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)-in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 2,23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. Col 2,20-23;


The verse just quoted (Col 2,21), incidentally, can be applied today to the teachings of the Catholic church: “Do not handle (meat on Friday), do not taste (the wine at the Lord’s Supper), do not touch (women if you are a priest).” And the “commandments and teachings of men” that Paul condemns in Col 2,22 are still to be found today in the Talmud of the Jews and in the catechism of the Catholic church. The Talmud is the most important Jewish collection of interpretations of the Torah (the five books of Moses). It is a documentation of the oral traditions handed down by the Jews, and consists of two books, the Gemara and the Mishnah. The Gemara contains all the additional commentaries on Scripture. In a similar way the Catholic church has formulated its so-called “tradition” and its additional commentaries on the Bible in the catechism.

The faithful.

This term has an identical semantic content both in the literal and in the symbolic sense. These are those believers who stand by their decision once they have made it, under whatever circumstances, however unpleasant.

Conclusion

The parable of the laborers in the vineyard is about Jews and Christians. Both have followed the call of God, so both are among the called. But while the Jews were the first, the Christians are the last to have followed this call. And yet the Christians who were last will nonetheless be the first to receive the wages that are the same for both classes, namely eternal life, and after resurrection and Rapture, on the Second Coming of the Lord, they will be the first to be with God in heaven. Jewish believers, as the first to be called by God, will be the last to enter God’s eternity, only after the Millennium, the General Resurrection and the Last Judgment.

In the parable of the wedding feast, after the invitation has been disregarded by the Jews, from this point on we only have to do with Christians. They too are all called, but not all of them are chosen. Anyone who has no wedding clothes - one, that is, who has failed to take advantage of the redeeming sacrifice of the Lord Jesus - will not be chosen by the king, but will be cast out instead.

So to give an answer to the question put by Ms Bollmeyer at the outset of this Discourse with reference to Rev 17,14 (“But with the Lord there are the called and the chosen and the faithful. Are these different groups of people, or do the different terms just refer to believing Christians generally?”), in the light of the above analysis we can draw the following conclusions:

-  This group of individuals is found with the Lord in heaven, as we are told in Rev 17,13 and 19,14.

-  As the Lord tells us in Mt 22,13-14, all those who are chosen have certainly been called, but as we have seen, there may be those who are called who are not chosen - those who have not been obedient to the will of God.

-  Since those who have not been chosen are not to be found in heaven, the “called” cannot be a group of persons in its own right.

-  If the “faithful” were a group of persons in its own right, this would mean that the other two groups were not faithful.

-  But it is unthinkable - as far as the “chosen” are concerned, at least - that they should not have been faithful.

-  So the “faithful” cannot be a group of persons in its own right either.

-  So only the “chosen” are left, as a real group of persons, who are further described by the additional attributes “called” and “faithful”.


So, on earth “called” are all individuals who are ready to follow God's call to believe in him.

Be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you.

2Ptr 1,10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 2Pet 1,10;


The elect or chosen are those “called”, who took advantage of the redeeming sacrifice of his Son, Our  Lord Jesus Christ - without which there is no salvation - for the forgiveness of their sins.

They will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.

Mt 24,24 "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 24,25 "Behold, I have told you in advance. Mt 24,24-25;


The faithful, finally, are those among the elect, who withstood all seductions and temptations in this world and held fast in their faith firm until the end.

If we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.

Hbr 3,5 Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 3.6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house – whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. Heb 3, 5- 6;

For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.

Hbr 3,12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 3,13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 3,14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. Heb 3,12-14;


Plainly, the conventional interpretation - that we have to do with “general terms used in early Christian times to refer to Christians” - has here been confirmed, in this case though on the basis of thorough biblical demonstration.



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Predestination and the chosen. / Commentary, B. Bollmeyer 01, 2004-08-11)

Your remarks are as always highly comprehensive and fully grounded in the Bible. All the same, some questions in my view are still left open, or new questions come up. May I just mention to you a number of scriptural passages which I still cannot get my head around? In Ex 33,19 God says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” Paul quotes this verse in Rom 9,15. Then too, Jn 6,44.65, 15,16.19 and 17,2.6.9.24 seem to speak rather of activity on God’s part, or am I overlooking something? Your reference to the possibility of a person’s being blotted out of the book of life suggests to me questions as to how we can be certain that we are saved. Your commentary has brought it home to me all the more what a privilege it is to know this mighty God, and to have the right to call him Father.

Brunhilde Bollmeyer brunhilde.bollmeyer@gmx.de



We can by all means analyze this question in the light of the scriptural passages to which you refer. Seeing that Rom 9.15 and Ex 33,19 would call for a rather extensive exposition, let us here consider the passages mentioned that occur in the Gospel of John.

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.

Jn 6,44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. Jn 6,44;

For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.

Jn 6,63 "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 6,64 "But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 6,65 And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." Jn 6,63-65;

You did not choose Me but I chose you.

Jn 15,16 "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. Jn 15,16;

But because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.

Jn 15,19 "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Jn 15,19;

Even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.

Jn 17,1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 17,2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. 17,3 "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. Jn 17, 1- 3;

I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world.

Jn 17,6 "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 17,7 "Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 17,8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. 17,9 "I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; Jn 17, 6- 9;

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me.

Jn 17,24 "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. Jn 17,24;


In these passages the Lord is speaking both to and about of the disciples. But as we know from many of the Lord’s other discourses, such passages also have implications - and in a special sense - for all believers in following ages, including us in the present day. And we can now draw the following definite conclusions on the basis of these statements:

-  It is not we who have chosen the Lord Jesus, but the Lord Jesus who has chosen us (Jn 15,16.19).

-  But no one can come to the Lord unless the Father who sent him draws him (Jn 6,44.65).

-  So it is the Father who has given the Son those who are his (Jn 17,2.6.9.24).

This demonstrates that the Lord Jesus has selected his faithful, admittedly, but this choice has not been made at his own discretion: rather, these people have been given to him by the Father. And now we find in Jn 6,64, quoted above, an incidental comment which is highly illuminating and has special relevance to this theme. In connection with the question who among the followers of the Lord have been “drawn” by the Father, John gives the following explanation:

For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe.”


So the Lord knew from the beginning who would come to believe in him and who would not. And this knowledge of course came to him from the Father. The Father has given him, after all, those individuals who are to come to believe in him, and the Lord knows them all. So anyone who is not among these does not belong to those whom the Father has given him. They are not chosen. But here we again come up against the question that we discussed at the start. The faithful are chosen by God. Does this choice take place in an arbitrary manner, as it would appear from the two scriptural passages you refer to, or is the decision based on certain preconditions on the part of the individual human being?

I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.

Ex 33,19 And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion." Ex 33,19;

So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

Rom 9,10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 9,11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 9,12 it was said to her, "the older will serve the younger." 9,13 Just as it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." 9,14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 9,15 For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 9,16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 9,17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name may be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." 9,18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. Rom 9,10-18;


Paul’s reference to Jacob and Esau in the above passage (Rom 9,12-13) does really add up to an argument that at first glance would appear to confirm that God is arbitrary in making his decisions. The two children have not yet even been born, when God makes his decision: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” We could very easily get the impression here that God is acting unjustly. Paul is of course perfectly aware of this, so he puts the somewhat rhetorical question in Rom 9,14, “What shall we say then? There is no injustice in God, is there?” And he immediately answers the question himself, with a disclaimer: “May it never be!”

And this same indication of Paul’s here is reflected in countless scriptural statements. God is indeed just. What is more, he is absolute justice, and so is by definition incapable of acting unjustly. Let us take a few biblical passages that demonstrate this:

The LORD is righteous within her (the city); He will do no injustice.

Zeph 3,5 The LORD is righteous within her; He will do no injustice. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He does not fail. But the unjust knows no shame. Zeph 3,5;

For the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done.

Dan 9,14 "Therefore the LORD has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice. Dan 9,14;

The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds.

Ps 145,17 The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds. 145,18 The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. 145,19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them. Ps 145,17-19;

To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

Ps 92,13 Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. 92,14 They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green, 92,15 To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. Ps 92,13-15;

O LORD God of Israel, You are righteous!

Ezra 9,15 "O LORD God of Israel, You are righteous, for we have been left an escaped remnant, as it is this day; behold, we are before You in our guilt, for no one can stand before You because of this." Ezra 9,15;


And in the assertion we find in Rom 9,18, “He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires,” we now have a basis for the analogous understanding of the statement quoted earlier (Ex 33,19). In neither passage do we find the expression of an authoritarian and arbitrary will that may not be contradicted - rather, we are given an indication that the decisions of God are based on his absolute justice, so that no objection against them can ever be justified.

So it is not the “unfathomable nature of the will of God”, as some think, that constitutes the basis of this realization: rather it is the knowledge and the unreserved confidence that the will of God is wholly foreign to injustice, and cannot possibly have anything to do with it. To take the examples referred to above: was Pharaoh actually a man who feared God? Or did Esau, for that matter, have a character pleasing to God? They both belonged to that class of persons who have set themselves against God. Or to put it the other way around, is it conceivable that God would have mercy on an unrepentant mass murderer like Adolf Hitler, unless he were to be converted, while that apostle whom the Lord loved more than all the other disciples, John, were to be rejected, just because God says, “I have mercy on whom I desire, and harden whom I desire”? Could we imagine such a thing? Could such an absolutely righteous God act in such a way?

Now a person might say at this point - But if I love and trust God, then I can simply have confidence that his decisions are righteous. Yes, that is quite correct. But on the other hand, the righteousness of God cannot be a mystery, otherwise it could not be recognized as such. So this justice of God’s must be based, necessarily and in all cases, on two criteria: on the one hand the attitude of the individual, which is to be assessed, and on the other, God as Judge, who assesses this attitude of the person in the light of his commandments. And this judgment must be made known to the individual in question, and must also be such as he can understand from an objective point of view. Secret or inexplicable judgments would spring not from righteousness, but rather from arbitrary authority. This would be the kind of attitude which we can observe in corrupt and tyrannical rulers.

If God were to act in such a way, he would hardly have let his only Son die on the Cross. He would have found a different kind of “solution”. But God’s absolute justice - which called for an appropriate victim, by way of compensation, for the countless sins of the whole of humanity - made this impossible, even if this meant that God, in his love, had to provide this victim himself. And only those human beings who, in a fully personal way, take advantage of this redeeming sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for their sins can count on attaining the grace of God.

Now we might say at this point - But we are saved by grace, after all, and grace does not call for any kind of performance on our part. That may well be correct in the first instance, even though we must make a distinction here between “performance” before grace is granted, and the attitude - which is also a performance, in a sense - after grace, that is to say, the attitude of conversion. But what is being overlooked here is the fact that the only reason why we do not have to supply any performance as a precondition is that it has already been done for us. Our Lord and Redeemer has died for us and in our place, and in this way has laid the grounds and foundation for the grace of God to be given us. All human beings who take advantage of this sacrifice may partake of the grace of God. All others must either be righteous - must be themselves without sin, that is to say - or they are irrevocably lost.

Here we might point to the people of Israel in an attempt to show that God acts in an arbitrary manner, and without being influenced by human attitudes. Although Israel is the people chosen by God, anyone who is familiar with the Bible knows how little the Israelites in the past - and right up to the present day! - valued this privilege. It is unbelievable how deeply sunk in sin this people sometimes was. And yet we know that at the end of time Israel will again be God’s chosen people on earth, as it once was. Is this not a demonstration that no performance is required as a precondition of election?

But here too the interpretation falls short. Let us just ask ourselves - Why is Israel chosen at all? Is this just a “whim” on God’s part? Is there no rational explanation for it? In much the same way as with the Christians, it is often overlooked by the Jews as well that there is a reason for God’s love of Israel. And this reason is to be seen in the first human being to whom our God revealed himself after the Flood: Abraham. He rejected all the gods of his fathers in order to serve this one God who had spoken to him, and to serve him faithfully. This was what induced God to conclude a covenant with him and through him with his son Isaac, the ancestor of the Jews - and also with his first son Ishmael, the ancestor of the Arabs. As we can see, the love of God is not without conditions either. A love without conditions would be in contradiction of God’s righteousness, as righteousness excludes unconditionality.

On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I have given this land.

Gen 15,18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: Gen 15,18;


Coming back now to Paul’s example of Esau and Jacob in Rom 9,13, with a view to resolving this apparent paradox, let us refer once more to the scriptural passages cited at the beginning of this Discourse:

Peter, to those who reside as aliens, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.

1Pet 1,1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 1,2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. 3Jn 1, 1- 2;

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.

Rom 8,28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 8,29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Rom 8,28-29;


On the basis of John’s statement quoted earlier (Jn 6,64) -

“For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him”.


- and of the Lord’s confirmation that it is the Father who has given him everything, we can recognize that it is God who in view of his omniscience has known, since the foundation of the world, how every individual human being that has ever lived and ever will live is going to decide in his life, either for or against God. And this was the case with Pharaoh, with Esau and Jacob, with Judas Iscariot, and undoubtedly too with every single one of us.

So to make the point once again: there is no such thing as predestination (in the sense of people’s being foreordained by God to blessedness or damnation). This would be in complete contradiction of the absolute righteousness of God. And even if in his transcendence the Almighty can hardly be grasped by us human beings, in his righteousness God does indeed allow us to catch a glimpse of his nature.

Can believing ("born again") Christians ever be lost?

Your concluding remark, in your commentary quoted above -

“Your references to the possibility of a person’s being blotted out of the book of life suggests to me questions as to how we can be certain that we saved” -


refers to that problem which I indicated at the start of this Discourse, when I observed that the doctrine of predestination pretends to offer a kind of “security” that does not appear to exist. This school of thought assumes, after all, that the fate of human beings has been foreordained by God - the chosen to eternal life, the others to eternal damnation. Given the premise of God’s infallibility, it follows from this point of view that human beings can do nothing in their lives to alter this predetermined decree. Those who are foreordained to eternal life - the chosen - will be righteous, those who are foreordained to damnation will be ungodly. And as a further consequence, the logical conclusion suggests itself that the chosen will in the course of their lives come to have faith “automatically” as it were, and that this group of individuals cannot then possibly fall away any more - otherwise God’s infallibility would be called in question.

So it is not unnatural that an assurance of salvation that rests on the circumstance that we have been chosen by God without any action on our part, without any possibility of decision on the part of the individual, should lead to the assumption - on the basis of a kind of elitist thinking - that it is no longer possible for such people to be excluded from those God has chosen, or to fall away from the faith. And this makes it all the easier to understand that scriptural passages like Ex 32,33 and Ps 69,29, where God himself speaks of the way in which the personal attitude of the believer can result in his name’s being blotted out from the book of life, with consequent loss of his pre-election, should call forth feelings of uncertainty in these brothers and sisters, seeing that this position is, after all, in absolute opposition to the idea of predestination, the idea that human beings are preordained by God.

But these Old Testament passages do not just apply to the Israelites of the time - they are also a reality for us Christians, and so it follows that "born again" Christians are also capable of falling away from faith. This is witnessed by such New Testament texts as Mt 10,22, 24,13; Heb 2,1-4, 3,4-6, 4,2.11; Rev 2,7.11.17.26. We find it quite clearly stated in Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians:

The gospel by which you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

1Cor 15,1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 15,2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 1Cor 15, 1- 2;


Paul insists here that we are saved by the Gospel if we hold fast. If we do not hold fast, we would have believed in vain. So there are brothers and sisters who have come to believe, and have thus been "born again", who are here being urged by Paul to hold fast - otherwise they may fall away from the faith. And here too we have an explanation for the third criterion in the statement quoted earlier (Rev 17,14):

and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.

So it is not enough just to be called and chosen - "born again", that is. We must also be faithful, and hold fast to our faith without regard to any unpleasantnesses that may arise. If we do not do this, we will fall away from faith.

The LORD preserves the faithful.

Ps 31,23 O love the LORD, all you His godly ones! The LORD preserves the faithful And fully recompenses the proud doer. 31.24 Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the LORD. Ps 31,23-24;

Do not extinguish the Spirit;

1The 5,18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 5,19 Do not extinguish the Spirit; 5,20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 5,21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 1The 5,18-21;


The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews also indicates that we must hold fast to our initial assurance based on faith right through to the end - guarding ourselves, that is, against the deception of sin - if we are to continue to be partakers of Christ.

For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.

Hbr 3,4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. 3,5 Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 3,6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house-whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. 3,7 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "Today if you hear His voice 3,8 do nor harden your hearts as when they provoked me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness 3,9 where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw my works for forty years 3,10 "therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know my ways’; 3,11 as I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’" (Ps 95,7-11)

3,12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 3,13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 3,14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, Heb 3, 4-14;

For if they are again overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

2Ptr 2,20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 2,21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 2Pet 2,20-21;

For in the case of those who have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.

Hbr 6,4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 6,5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6,6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. Heb 6, 4- 6;


Finally what is stated above in Heb 6,4 - “those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit” - is a convincing demonstration, for any serious biblical commentator, that we have to do here with believers - and what is more, quite plainly these are believers who have been "born again". No subtle casuistry is going to be able to get around that fact. One who has once been enlightened and has tasted of the heavenly gift cannot be an unbeliever, or a Christian in name only - without any doubt he must be a "born again" Christian.

And yet it is such a person who is referred to in Heb 6,6, where we are told that he has fallen away and is lost forever. His name, then, was written in the book of life, and through his own fault it was again erased. All these scriptural passages that we have been considering warn us - as "born again" believers - to avoid complacent attitudes and the deception of sin, and urge us to hold fast firmly in our faith and not to fall away. From this we can now draw three conclusions:

1. The assertion that a person who has been "born again" cannot any longer fall away from faith and be lost is not scriptural and is therefore untrue.

2. If "born again" believers have once fallen away from faith, they can no longer be moved to repentance and conversion. They are lost for ever.

3. But this also proves that the reason for this falling away cannot be just any ordinary sin that might be forgiven: either such people have deliberately committed the sin against the Holy Spirit, or they have absolutely refused to have anything to do with sorrow or repentance.


The doctrine of predestination, which claims that the eternal salvation of the "born again" Christian is an unshakable fact, has thus been clearly refuted on the basis of the above argument, and so must be rejected from the biblical point of view. God has not saved people in advance or damned them in advance just by his own will - rather he has known them in advance, and on this basis preordained their fates.

And precisely this suggests the other approach to a solution to this problem - namely, the view that God in his omniscience already knew, from the time of the foundation of the world, how each individual would decide in his life, either for or against God. And on the basis of this decision on the part of every single individual during his lifetime, God has “foreknown” (as Paul writes in Rom 8,29) those people who would follow his call and so choose him, and has entered their names in the book of life. Thus it is a process that is entirely dependent on the decision of each individual in his or her life which issues in its necessary consequence at the time of the Last Judgment.

(See also Disciurse 83: “Is the omniscience of God a contradiction of human free will?”)


And yet we should not overlook the fact that even with this interpretation we still have problems with the two scriptural passages referred to. If this entry in the book of life is made through the omniscience of God, and thereafter believers can still be blotted out from the book through their own fault, then we might feel that this casts doubt on God’s omniscience. Against this, though, it must be said that these people do after all fulfill the conditions for entry in the book of life: at a particular time in their lives they have - like the Israelites in the time of Moses - followed God’s call and consciously chosen God. Thus, as seen by the eyes of God’s righteousness, they acquired just as much of a right to be entered in the book of life as the man without wedding clothes in the parable of the wedding feast had to be counted among the guests, just by accepting the invitation. The fact that they have then deliberately reversed this decision, by sinning against the Holy Spirit or by rejecting the redeeming sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for their sins, has shown that though they are called they are not chosen, and so have had to be erased from the book of life. In this they have taken advantage of that freedom and responsibility which the Almighty thought fit to grant us since the time of Adam and Eve, who likewise had a free choice to believe in either God or Satan.

(See also Chapter 12: “The Resurrection - Christ in the realm of the dead.”)



Conclusion

The advocates of predestination (meaning by this the preordination by God of human beings to eternal life or eternal damnation) repeatedly quote Paul’s statements in the Epistle to the Romans in support of their view that God has already divided the whole of humanity into the “good” and the “bad”, so that the individual no longer has any possibility of free decision. Just to demonstrate that the very book in question also makes it perfectly plain to the believer that no one can be saved who does not take responsibility for himself and decide of his own free will, we will just cite here a few relevant passages:

If you confess Jesus as Lord, and believe that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Rom 10,8 But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart"-that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 10.9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; Rom 10, 8- 9;


It does not say here, “If God has foreordained you to salvation, you will be saved”! Rather, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord... you will be saved.” So it is not preordination by God, in any shape or form, that leads human beings to salvation: it is rather necessary that the individual should himself do something, in order to be saved - namely, believe and confess. Those who do not believe and confess will be lost for ever. Not because God has condemned them, but because it was their own will, their own decision, not to accept the offered grace of God.

Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Rom 10,11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed." 10,12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 10,13 for "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." Rom 10,11-13;


Here again Paul does not say, “Whoever has been foreordained by God will be saved” - instead he says, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” And this “whoever” is intended to refer to all human beings who have ever lived and who ever yet will live. They can only be saved, then, if they do something for their part - namely, call on the name of the Lord. But at this very point we must repeatedly point out that, while we human beings must make our own contribution to our salvation through an act of choice, we could not do anything of the kind if God had not already taken the first step towards us. He sent his Son, so that his Son died for our sins and through this redeeming sacrifice opened the way for our salvation. It only remains for us now to accept this offer on God’s part. But this is something we have to do, otherwise we cannot be saved.

In chapters 10 and 11 of the Epistle to the Romans Paul is reacting to information that has clearly been passed on to him - namely, that there were brothers and sisters in the Christian congregation in Rome who took the view that the Israelites (the “natural branches”) had lost their place in God’s plan of salvation through their rejection and crucifixion of the Son of God, so that now the Christian congregation was to be seen as the “new Israel”. All promises and prophecies which related to Israel would thus now apply exclusively to the congregation.

The elitist attitude of spirit in the Roman Christians of the time is similar to that we find in the advocates of predestination today. In both cases people have the effrontery to interpret God’s righteousness in such a way that the grace and goodness of God fall only to their lot, while the remainder of humanity - the Jews in that earlier period, today all those who have not been “preordained” - will be irrevocably lost. What Paul replied to the Romans on this subject is still as relevant today, and the advocates of predestination should take it to heart:

To you God’s kindness if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

Rom 11,19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in. 11,20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 11,21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. 11,22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. Rom 11,19-22;


With this warning to the Christian faithful in Rome - “Otherwise you too will be cut off” - Paul confirms, first, that there is no such thing as predestination - in the sense of an irrevocable preordaining by God - and then, too, that the claim frequently made in this connection, that the eternal salvation of the chosen is an unshakable fact, is without substance. Such “securities” are foreign to the Christian faith of the Bible. And when Paul writes in Rom 8,35-39, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus”, this is an exact delineation of the true situation: nothing and no one can separate us from Christ and the love of God, only we ourselves are in a position to let go of God’s hand, give way to the deception of sin and fall away from the faith. And this is what Paul warns us against in the above passage.

The absolute righteousness of God is a guarantee that every human being will have entire freedom of decision - whether he accepts or rejects God, whether after his conversion he contemns the goodness of God and returns to unbelief, or whether, after initial rejection, he then comes after all to believe in God. With God humanity is neither saved nor damned in advance. Without exception, all human beings will be judged in accordance with their own deeds and decisions.

For there is no partiality with God. .

Rom 2,9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 2,10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 2,11 For there is no partiality with God. Rom 2, 9-11;br






(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Does God hear our prayers for the conversion of others? / Commentary, B. Hackbauer 00, 2005-02-09))

I am a regular visitor to your website, and I congratulate you on the logical cogency and closeness to Scripture of your remarks. (…) In Discourse 69, on Predestination, I happened to come upon this statement of yours:

“And so God does not exercise any influence either on a person’s decisions in respect of faith. This must be freely chosen, as a compelled confession of faith would not stand up to eternity.”

(…) While I certainly understand your reasons for taking this line, in terms of the reality of Christian living I have problems with it. You have pointed out on other occasions that we must also pray for the conversion of our fellow human beings. If now we ask God, on the one hand, to bring our neighbors to the Christian faith, but on the other you think that God “does not exercise any influence on a person’s decisions in respect of faith”, how then is it possible for our prayers to be heard? (…)

Bruno Hackbauer b.hackbauer@bluewin.ch



First of all I must thank you for your kind words - I am delighted if the logical cogency and closeness to Scripture of my work has helped you to a better understanding of Scripture.

In order to answer your question, I must again go into the key point of the argument of Discourse 69. The fact that our decision to believe is a wholly personal one is confirmed by the many injunctions to believe addressed to us by the Lord. Here is just one example from the Gospel of John, where the Lord three times in succession emphasizes the necessity of belief:

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed.

Jn 3,14 "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 3,15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

3,16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

3,17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 3,18 "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Jn 3,14-18;


Now if God urges every human being to be converted, it is clear that this is not something that a third person can do for you. At the same time it follows from this that of course God is not taking away our responsibility in this situation. The whole of creation - from the whole universe right down to the tiniest microorganism - is given to us, that we may recognize the working of God in creation and choose to believe in him. But in this connection we must also take into account the righteousness of God. God’s decisions are based on his absolute righteousness. And so we can’t clock up the “merits” of some relation, so that this person’s brother, sister, father or mother may “be brought to believe”. Every individual stands before God entirely on his own to be judged, and must himself render an account for the decisions made in his lifetime.

The thoroughly justified conclusion drawn in your commentary - if God “'does not exercise any influence on a person’s decisions in respect of faith', how is it possible for our prayers to be heard?” - is however not so entirely hopeless as it appears at first sight. If we are really interested in the conversion of specific individuals, we shouldn’t fall into the “watering can method” of the official churches, who allow five minutes at Mass for “the third world”, five minutes for “the poor” and so on, and then suppose that they have done their bit, now the ball is in God’s court and they can forget all about the problem.

We must plan activities for those people whom we would like to convert to the faith. Here, on our human level, we have every possibility of evangelization, of fulfilling our mission to convert our fellow human beings and bring them to faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ. But here too it is an absolute prerequisite that this conversion must in the last resort be voluntary, and based on the individual’s own decision. And this also suggests to us a point of departure for our prayers. We cannot ask God to make a conversion happen, but we can ask the Lord to give us and others the strength and persistence that are required, and to add his Spirit to our words and deeds, so that all those who are willing to believe may actually come to believe in him.



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Is the sovereignty of God under threat? / Book, James I. Packer 00, pp 66 ff*))

(…) everything indeed happens under the direct governance of God, God has already fixed the future on the basis of what he has resolved, and has decided who he is going to save and who he is not going to save. What are the implications of this for our duty of spreading the gospel?

This is a question that concerns many believing Christians today. Some believe in the sovereignty of God in the unrestricted and uncompromising way in which it is presented - in our view at least - in the Bible. They wonder now whether there is a way in which they can or should testify to this belief of theirs through changing the methods of evangelization which have been handed down to them by a generation whose convictions in matters of faith were different. These methods, they say, were thought up by people who do not believe in the absolute sovereignty of God in matters of salvation, as we do; perhaps just for that reason it is inappropriate to go on using them?

*) This extract has been taken from the book by James I. Packer, “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God” [German title “Prädestination und Verantwortung”], published by Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, Great Britain and TVG - Theologische Verlagsgemeinschaft R. Brockhaus [R. Brockhaus Theological Publishing Company], Brunnen.

James I. Packer / http://www.regent-college.edu/academics/anglicanstudies/professors.html



Rev Dr James I. Packer is a professor of theology (Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology) at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, Director of the Regent College Anglican Studies Program and one of the editors of the journal “Christianity Today”.

Seeing that we here have to do with an author who is not just an ordained minister of the Anglican Church, but also a theology professor and Director of the Anglican Studies Program at Regent College in Vancouver, we will be better able to evaluate his statements if we cast some light on the areas in which he occupies a position of leadership, and so may be influencing or even prescribing the principles of thought and action for others.

Just in our day the Anglican Church attracted attention worldwide when both the Anglican Bishops of the USA and those of the West Canadian diocese New Westminster ruled that a church blessing was permissible for same-sex couples. A recent conference of 300 African Anglican Bishops held in Lagos took issue with this decision. Their concluding statement criticized their American and Canadian colleagues in the bishopric in the sharpest terms:

“(…) that a small, economically privileged group of people has tried to undermine the Christian faith. Moreover the group is trying to impose its new false teaching on the extended community of the faithful.”


And so it is not so surprising either that recently a self-admitted homosexual has been consecrated a Bishop in the USA. In the Anglican Church, the 56-year-old Gene Robinson has been raised by the Episcopalian Church of the US State of New Hampshire to the office and dignity of a Bishop. This man was married for over ten years, to a woman from whom he separated some years ago, and has a grown-up daughter. Such men who have abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts, also figure in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:

They burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts.

Rom 1,22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 1,23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 1,24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 1,25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 1,26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 1,27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. Rom 1,22-27;


Significantly Paul also says of these people that

Professing to be wise, they became fools. (…) For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.”


(See also Discourse 59: “What does the Bible say exactly about the position of the woman in the church?”)

Now it is a question whether these are the principles of belief which James Parker imparts to up-and-coming Anglican theologians and ministers at Regent College. At all events, in the extract quoted above he does express his opinion that the traditional convictions and beliefs of an earlier generation should no longer be applied and that their methods of evangelization require to be modified.

As one of the editors of the journal “Christianity Today”, on the other hand, he also exercises power and influence in this capacity and so is in a position to shape and prescribe the principles on which this journal is based. So it is extremely revealing when we find the opinion expressed in an article in this journal that the Bible is a collection of fables and the revelations it contains are to be seen as “trip-to-heaven literature” (J. Nelson Kraybill, president of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana, in “Apocalypse Now” / Christianity Today).

(See also Discourse 23: “Commentary on the Manual for Hermeneutics.”)

So much, then, for Dr Packer’s background and those institutions in which he exercises a leadership role. But let us now return to the extract from his book quoted earlier. Even if we can, and must, criticize many of the statements he makes, one point by and large we must allow to his credit: in his formulation

God has already fixed the future on the basis of what he has resolved, and has decided who he is going to save and who he is not going to save


he gives clear and unmistakable evidence of the view of this Anglican school that it is in no way incumbent on human beings to decide for or against God in their lives - on the contrary, God has already “fixed” everything on the basis of his sovereign authority, and has decided which human beings will be saved and which damned.

Seeing that we have already quoted and explained in the present Discourse all those scriptural passages which take specific issue with this view and prove the very contrary, let us here just briefly go into the question why it is that people can form the idea of a God who acts in this way in the first place.

James Packer’s book repeatedly refers to the sovereignty of God. He seems to think that anyone who does not share his own point of view is denying God’s sovereignty. This, of course, is just as incorrect as is the view he takes of the preordination of the individual to eternal life or eternal damnation. The reason why mistaken assessments of this kind arise at all is to be found in a fundamental conceptual error with reference to the sovereignty of God. :

No one can cast any doubt - in any respect whatsoever - on the absolute dominion of God in this universe. Seeing that all the hairs on the head of each and every one of us have been numbered by God, all our actions and wishes are subject to this one and the same almighty God.

So in Noah’s time, for instance, God would have been able to annihilate the whole of godless humanity with a single blow. And did he? No, he preserved eight people - Noah with his three sons and their wives - through the Flood, and so by his grace granted humanity the chance of a new beginning.

When the people of Israel apostasized and worshiped the golden calf on the mountain of Sinai, the Almighty might have abandoned them. And did he? No - even if he allowed this sinful generation to die out while still in the desert, their descendants were then able, by the grace of God, to enter the Promised Land at the end of forty years.
 
And lastly, in his sovereign authority and absolute righteousness God could have allowed all humanity to perish in their own sins. And did he? No, in his love and his grace he sent his own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to offer a redeeming sacrifice for humanity, whereby our sins are covered and we are saved from the wrath of God.

Now Dr Packer may be supposed to have overlooked these points when he refers in his remarks above to the “sovereignty of God in the unrestricted and uncompromising way in which it is presented... in the Bible”. And here we can now recognize the actual background to attitudes of this kind: the sovereignty of God is being compared to and confused with that of earthly rulers. Clearly such people find it impossible to imagine a sovereign who would not exercise power in an unrestricted and uncompromising way. While this may well be an accurate picture in what concerns the overwhelming majority of earthly rulers, when it comes to our Father in heaven this is certainly not the case - as can be demonstrated on the plain evidence of Scripture.

For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.

Jn 5,21 "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. 5,22 "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 5,23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Jn 5,21-23;


Just as God in his sovereignty does not judge in person, but has given all judgment to the Son, God has also, and indeed for this very reason, left each individual free to decide whether to accept or to refuse his Son and his redeeming sacrifice. As has already been amply shown in this Discourse and in the light of Scripture, precisely this is the key message of the New Testament:

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Mk 16,15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16,16 "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. Mt 16,15-16;


In his sovereignty, love and grace God has determined that every human being who believes in his Son shall be saved.


One who refuses this offer of the love and grace of God, or thinks that he no longer needs to make a decision in this matter because “God has already fixed the future on the basis of what he has resolved, and has decided who he is going to save and who he is not going to save” - this person indeed falls under the sovereignty of God in its unrestricted and uncompromising form and will be eternally damned.

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1Tim 2,3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 2,4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2,5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 2,6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 1Tim 2, 3- 6;


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(God wants all human beings to be saved. / Commentary ChB 00 2005-04-14)

There have been many attempts to stress the sovereignty of God, and based on that to develop theories about various different ‘calls’ - ‘general’ calls or ‘irresistible’ ones. But I can find nothing of this kind in the Bible apart from the injunction that we should not harden our hearts when we hear the voice of God. I find some passages in which God hardens human hearts (Rom 9:18) or where he even sends a deluding influence (2 Thess 2:11) so that people believe what is false (but what kind of people are they, in point of fact? 2 Thess 2:10 gives us the answer: “because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”). But I find many more passages where it is stated that human beings have hardened their hearts or have been stiff-necked. It seems to me rather to be the case that when people persist in turning away from God, then he too at some point just leaves them alone (in the sense of leaving them to their freely chosen judgment as a consequence of their rejection), after which his call just bounces off their hearts. Without wanting to cast any doubt on the sovereignty of God, it seems to me at all events quite unsafe to conclude that human beings are without any will of their own and are to be seen as puppets, as is the case in Calvinism.

A lot has been said on this subject already, and I do not want to go into it all in detail. But people who see the matter differently have got to explain away such passages as these two following:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”
(Mt 23, 37; Lk 13, 34)

So Jesus weeps over Jerusalem in Lk 19, 41-42 as well, because its inhabitants have not been willing to obey God’s call. Is Jesus here just weeping crocodile tears, because he - and therefore the Father as well - have arranged matters differently from the very beginning in any case? I cannot believe that.

“... who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Tim 2:4)

That’s what it says. So what are we to make of it? Are people going to argue that with God there is a hiatus between the intention and the fulfillment? It seems to me that those biblical commentators who try to draw a subtle distinction here between God’s “wishful hope” (that people should be saved) and his deliberate intent, in the sense of the eternal decree of God in his infinite wisdom that only some few elect shall be saved (as is argued for instance by the MacArthur Study Bible) are getting onto dangerously slippery ground. From a legal point of view, I at any rate would be inclined to classify any kind of “wishful hope” not as a “coming to terms with an eventuality that one approves by implication” or “firmly grounded consequential knowledge”, but without any beating about the bush and quite directly as ‘dolus directus’ (intent), which happens to be the strongest form of deliberate intent known to German law. As against this I would take the position that God cannot be held accountable if people reject him, at their own risk, but he has after all equipped us with this same faculty of decision. The Bible gives eloquent testimony and many examples of this.

Christian Bollmeyer, Hamburg / bollmeyer@debitel.net



I am very grateful to Christian Bollmeyer for this observation, because he also cites two scriptural passages which likewise demonstrate that the Christian faith is not a minority program but rather an offer addressed by God to all human beings so that they may come to the knowledge of the truth and receive eternal life.

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1Tim 2,3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 2,4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2,5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 2,6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 1Tim 2, 3- 6;




(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(God decides first? / Sermon, Wolfgang Nestvogel 00, CD: Predigten BEG Hannover [BEG Hanover Sermons], 2005-05-22)

This is the first blessing that Paul here (Eph 1,4) unpacks before us. He says - God has chosen you. God has predestined you before the foundation of the world. So in answer to the question, Why do we belong to God? (…) How has God’s blessing come into our lives? (…) Why are we permitted to be his children? (…), Paul begins with God’s sovereign decision. He says, God has chosen you; and he says, God has predestined you.

If you want to write a heading over your transcript, you can write: God decides first. (…) God decides before my decision. (…) God, in his sovereign freedom, has selected individual people who should belong to him. (…) God chose quite specific individuals as his children, and that means he chose them to be saved and to go to heaven for ever. (…) Paul says in Eph 1,4, God has chosen you, and in verse 5 he confirms the fact once more with another expression. He says, God has predestined us - these are the very words. So that really excludes any doubt of a misunderstanding, any possibility at all. Paul does not say that God knew about it in advance, he says that God predestined it.

And here of course the question of God’s justice at once comes to mind. Is this really just? Naturally we are then also told in verse 6 that he has freely bestowed on us his grace - in the Beloved. But we have to ask, why us of all people? Why has he not bestowed his grace on everyone? Just how does Paul come to make such a claim? And my dear people, Paul does not just make this assertion here, this is not so to speak a slip of the pen - he writes the same thing in a whole lot of passages. For example in the epistle to the Romans, chapter 8. There Paul says that those whom he had chosen - that is to say, preselected - he also predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son. And then again he says in Rom 8,30: ‘Whom He predestined, these He also called’.


(This extract has been taken from a sermon by Wolfgang Nestvogel of 22. 5. 2005 on Eph 1,1-6 on the CD ‘Predigten BEG-Hannover’ [‘BEG Hanover Sermons’].



Here then is this passage from the epistle to the Ephesians, in the NASB version, as it is applied in the above sermon:

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.

Eph 1,3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 1,4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 1,5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 1,6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Eph 1, 3- 4;


here would be fewer misunderstandings in scriptural exposition if the interpreters would read and consider the text in full, and not just pick out individual verses or even - as happens here - individual words and try to base their sermon on these. So here Wolfgang Nestvogel reduces Paul’s statement in Eph 1,4-5 to the words ‘chose’ and ‘predestined’. He is patently not at all interested in how or why God has selected us. But that, of course, is completely understandable, seeing that he takes the view that God has selected people arbitrarily and for no reason - some to eternal life and the others to eternal damnation. And Mr. Nestvogel himself, and the people listening to him, of course belong to the first group.

So let us take a look at the context in which these two words occur. In Eph 1,4 it is written: ‘Just as he (God) chose us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world’, and in Eph 1,5 Paul continues: ‘He predestined us to adoption as sons (to be his children) through Jesus Christ’. And we see now that in both sentences there appears a condition for this selection or predestination by God:

 - we are selected in Christ and

 - we are predestined through Christ.

This conditio sine qua non is something that the advocates of predestination - preselection by God without any action on the part of human beings - are always happy to leave out of account. To be selected in Christ and predestined through Christ, we have to believe in Christ. And we cannot do this unless we have decided, in our lives, for Christ.

Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.

Jn 11,23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 11,24 Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." 11,25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 11,26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" Jn 11,23-26;


By contrast with Mr. Nestvogel, who says in his sermon that ‘God chose quite specific individuals (…) to be saved and to go to heaven for ever’, the Lord tell us here, in Jn 11,26, that “everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” This applies, then, to all human beings who live and decide for faith in Jesus Christ, and not just to a specific group of ‘the elect’. So we have not come to believe because God has selected us, it is the other way around - God has selected us, because we have decided for faith in his Son. So much for Eph 1,3-6. But then Mr. Nestvogel also refers to the epistle to the Romans, and says:

“There Paul says that those whom he had chosen - that is to say, preselected - he also predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son. And then again he says in Rom 8,30: ‘Whom He predestined, these He also called’.”


Here Luther's version of the Bible is quoted. This is the passage in full:

For those whom He had chosen, He also predestined.

Rom 8,28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 8,29 For those whom He had chosen (picked out), He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Rom 8,28-29;


If we compare this with the Greek text (see Nestle-Aland) and with all other international translations, it is very easy to demonstrate that the translation of Romans chapter 8, verse 29, in Luther’s version of the Bible is completely wrong. The Greek verb that here stands for ‘chosen’ (picked out) is ‘proegno’. ‘Pro’ is a prefix meaning ‘before’. The syllable ‘gno’ comes in the following words for example: gnomo=knower, gnoriso=to recognize, gnoripso=recognizable, gnosis=knowledge. The correct translation of this passage should therefore be ‘whom he foreknew’, and not (as in Luther) ‘whom he had chosen’.

This correct translation is also found in all other German Bibles (Herder, Elberfeld, rev. Elberfeld, Konkordante Wiedergabe [Concordant Rendering], Jewish New Testament), and likewise in the American translations:

Elberfeld:

Rom 8,29 For whom he has foreknown, he has also predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he should be the firstborn among many brethren.

DBY - 1889 Darby Translation:

Rom 8,29 Because whom he has foreknown, he has also predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he should be the firstborn among many brethren.

KJ21 - 21st Century King James Version:

Rom 8,29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

NAS - 1977 New American Standard Version:

Rom 8,29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.

NAS95 - 1995 New American Standard Version:

Rom 8,29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

RSV - 1947 Revised Standard Version:

Rom 8,29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.


It is a similar situation with 1Pet 1,2, which Luther again incorrectly translates as ‘chosen’ (picked out), whereas the Elberfeld rightly has ‘according to God’s foreknowledge’, echoed by ‘according to the foreknowledge of God’ in the American versions.

And with this correction we now find a quite different significance in this statement of Paul’s: God has not predestined those whom he has ‘picked out’, but in his omniscience he has recognized those people beforehand who would confess him in their lives. Because if God in his omniscience has recognized those who would believe in him before the foundation of the world, this ‘recognition’ must of necessity have been preceded by a process of search. And for a process of search you must have a search criterion. And this search criterion was precisely the decision to believe that every individual human being in his or her life is free to take. God in his omniscience has sought, recognized and selected before the beginning of the world those people who would make a decision for him in their lives, and has written their names in the book of life. These people are the property of God, and they are also the ones whom the Father has given to the Son.

Even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.

Jn 17,1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 17,2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. 17,3 "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. Jn 17, 1- 3;

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am.

Jn 17,24 "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. Jn 17,24;


But the actual problem in this doctrine of predestination, now, is this: these people recognize that God in his omniscience has seen all people before the foundation of the world and so made a selection, but the simple corollary that God has then also naturally recognized which individual would make a decision for Christ and which would not, and so based his selection on this, is something that they do not realize or quite simply do not want to admit.

But this is, after all, a massive difference - from an arbitrary, unjust (and so also inconceivable) selection by God, without any action on the part of human beings, to responsibility and a free decision by the individual in his or her life for or against Christ. So God has not, in an act of arbitrary will, chosen just any people for eternal life and predestined the rest of humanity - and of the Christian community (sic!) - to eternal damnation; rather, he has deliberately selected those people who would confess him. This, then, is the correct sequence, as Paul also teaches us in Rom 8,29: God has foreknown us, because we have decided for him and received his Son Jesus Christ and so have become the children of God.

As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.

Jn 1,11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 1,12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. Jn 1,11-12;


Now Mr. Nestvogel says in his sermon above:

“God chose quite specific individuals as his children... (…) God, in his sovereign freedom, has selected individual people who should belong to him. (…) God has predestined you before the foundation of the world.”


The whole of sacred scripture gives us testimony to the eternal righteousness of God, as for example in the two scriptural passages below:

Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness.

Ps 119,142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth. 119,143 Trouble and anguish have come upon me, Yet Your commandments are my delight. 119,144 Your testimonies are righteous forever; Give me understanding that I may live. Ps 119,142-144;

To make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness.

Dan 9, 24 "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. Dan 9,24;


How can this God of predestination bring in everlasting righteousness - as stated in this passage from Daniel - at the end of time, if he has already ‘picked out’ ‘quite specific individuals’ before the foundation of the world, in a quite arbitrary and unjust way and without any action on their part - some to eternal life and the others to eternal damnation? Even and all the more if Nestvogel attributes this to the omnipotence of God, and tries to justify it as ‘the sovereign freedom of God’, this would be an omnipotence without justice, and such a ‘God’ could surely only come from below.

Predestination, then, is a false doctrine of salvation, with which the brethren in the congregations are led on the false path. For as John says in the passage quoted earlier: ‘But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God’. So they did not become the children of God, because God picked them out - it is the other way around, God gave them the right to become his children because they have received his Son. The basis for the true selection by God, consequently, is the decision for his Son Jesus Christ. That is the biblical doctrine of salvation. Anyone who makes this decision in his or her life and stands by it firmly until the end is saved and has eternal life. If anyone does not do this, the wrath of God abides on him. And if the advocates of the doctrine of predestination think that they do not need to make this kind of decision for Christ, because they have already been preselected by God without any action on their part, then they find themselves in this very situation, and the wrath of God abides on them.

He who does not believe in the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

Jn 3,36 "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Jn 3,36;

The one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

Mt 10,22 "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. Mt 10,22;

All other statements in Scripture about selection and the elect are to be seen in the light of these criteria: God in his omniscience has sought, recognized and selected people before the foundation of the world. As a result of the fact that the advocates of predestination only focus on the last point, the selection, they miss the first part of this statement of Paul’s and so come to a false doctrine. Then it is not so surprising either if we sometimes find them advancing teachings that are in complete contradiction of the promises in the Bible. So Mr. Nestvogel says in his sermon:

“God, in his sovereign freedom, has selected individual people who should belong to him. (…) God chose quite specific individuals as his children, and that means he chose them to be saved and to go to heaven for ever.”


This restriction of the possibility of salvation to individual people and quite specific individuals is quite plainly an erroneous teaching, and patently in contradiction with the statements of Scripture, as for instance:

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1Tim 2,3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 2,4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2,5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 2,6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. Tim 2, 3- 6;

Even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

Rom 5 18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. Rom 5,18;


So according to Scripture there is no restriction of the assurance of salvation to ‘individual people’ or ‘quite specific individuals’. Consequently the following statement by the speaker as well -

“And the same God who decreed salvation for his elect has in just the same way decreed that the preaching of the Word would be the means that would bring them to salvation”


- is a sermon that cannot save a single person. A sermon can point the way, but the means of salvation is and remains the faith of the individual person in Jesus Christ. Consequently God has not decreed the salvation of individual chosen ones, but he has sent his Son to die on the cross for the sins of the world so as to make possible the salvation of all human beings. Faith in this, and the acceptance of this redeeming sacrifice for our own sins, is in truth the only means of salvation.

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water’.

Jn 7,37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 7,38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’"
7,39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. Jn 7,37-39;

And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

Rev 22,17 The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. Rev 22,17;


The speaker’s next statement, now, is quite close to the truth:

“If a person comes to faith, then he can know: God has chosen me. Even before I sensed or knew anything at all about him. Even before the world was created, before God created the world, he saw me.”


Yes, of course. That is quite right. Only the last sentence needs to be expanded: ‘... he saw me and recognized that in my lifetime I would decide for his Son, and chose me for that reason.’

Or here is another statement:

“And out of the billions and trillions of human beings, God chose those people who would believe in his Son Jesus Christ and be saved.”


That, now, is exactly the confirmation of the view put forward here, and is in contradiction with Mr. Nestvogel’s own statements quoted earlier. For if God selected the people who would believe in his Son Jesus Christ and be saved, then this means, after all, that this selection was not arbitrary or without any action on the part of the persons concerned - it is rather the case that these people have been chosen for the very reason that they have decided for Christ, and God in his omniscience has recognized their decision in advance and chosen them in advance in consequence of that. And so this selection cannot refer to ‘individual people’ and ‘quite specific individuals’ either, but must apply to all human beings who are willing to accept faith in the Son of God.

Now the advocates of predestination also try to present this ‘decision for Christ’ as an act of justification through works, and condemn it on these grounds. The scriptural passage referred to as evidence in this connection is Eph 2,8-9:

For by grace you have been saved through faith.

Eph 2,8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 2,9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2, 8- 9;


As I repeatedly endeavor to point out, one must read the text of a scriptural passage in full, and analyze (reflect on it) on that basis. With the words ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith’, Paul puts the grace of God to us human beings, through the redeeming sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, in the foreground. With ‘faith’ Paul means the possibility God gives the sinner to receive this grace, by actually accepting this redeeming act of the Son of God personally and consequently being justified by God. This however quite plainly implies that this faith is not something that is automatically present in the individual - rather, the individual must first accept this faith explicitly and personally, as for instance a beggar accepts a gift so that it may come into his possession.

Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith for the forgiveness of sins.

Rom 3,22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 3,23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 3,24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 3,25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 3,26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Rom 3,22-26;



But just as the beggar cannot boast of having performed something special in this ‘acceptance’, on the grounds that he has after all taken hold of the gift offered, so the sinner who accepts faith and makes a decision for Jesus Christ cannot ascribe to himself any merit on that account. It is like at a wedding, when the bride says ‘I will’ to the bridegroom. This ‘I will’ is not a performance through which the bridegroom could be purchased, or on the basis of which the bride for the first time merits the love of the bridegroom. But one thing is quite certain: just as the beggar who does not accept a gift does not come to possess it, so the wedding cannot be completed unless the bride gives her assent.

Now of course there are some cultures where the bride and bridegroom are ‘selected’ while they are still children, and are married already in infancy. In these cultural circles people would find it incomprehensible if someone were to ask whether the bride and bridegroom have themselves decided for one another. There such decisions are strictly disapproved of, and everything is determined and anticipated as it comes from the parents. And that now is exactly analogous to the understanding that advocates of predestination have of the way in which they come to faith. They reject any idea of a decision on the part of the individual to believe in Jesus Christ, and assert that God has selected quite specific people - namely themselves - to become believers.

So the consequence of this view can also be plainly recognized. Just as the beggar does not come to possess the gift if he does not accept it, and the bride is not married to the bridegroom unless she gives her consent, so likewise all those who think that they have already been selected by God, and therefore do not have to make any decision of their own for Christ, have failed to accept this offer of God’s for salvation and the forgiveness of their sins. They are in the same situation as a bride who has refused at the wedding to say ‘I will’, but then lives in the belief that she is nonetheless married to the bridegroom. An illusory belief!

Finally, the following interpretation of Rom 8,29 reveals very clearly the difference between the doctrine of predestination and the teachings of the Bible. Mr. Nestvogel says:

“And Paul tells us (…): the reason why you belong to Jesus Christ, why you have been converted, why you have turned away from your old life is that the omnipotent God in his sovereign freedom chose and preordained you to this.”


But when we look at what Paul actually says, we read something quite different:

Rom 8,29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;


Here Paul really says: almighty God has recognized and selected you in advance, because you have decided for Jesus Christ and been converted and with his help have turned away from your old life.

As we can see, the doctrine of predestination inverts cause and effect, and is not shy of ascribing arbitrariness and injustice to the absolutely righteous God, under the guise of ‘sovereign freedom’. So it is not so very surprising either that this false doctrine should bring forth unbelievable fruits in practice. Not long ago, for example, an advocate of this view wrote me that there just are people who are the elect, and the rest are the ‘tares’. And neither the one group nor the other can do anything about their fate. ‘Wheat remains wheat, and tares remain tares’, as he put it.

A doctrine of this kind is perniciously misleading for the congregation, because it lulls the brethren into security in the belief that they have a free ticket for eternity. And what is even worse is that they see all other people as ‘tares’, and so also express themselves against any kind of evangelization. And even more - as the brother quoted above wrote me, he and those who are of his mind think that they no longer need to pray the Lord’s Prayer, the ‘Our Father’. Obviously because it speaks of the forgiveness of sins and deliverance from evil, which they, after all - as the ‘elect’ - no longer need. They think they have been selected by God and so have been saved and have eternal life once and for all.

And here one asks oneself, as a Christian whose faith is founded on the Bible, why it then was that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, had to be crucified and to bring a redeeming sacrifice? Of course he had to do this for our sins, to obtain forgiveness for us from the Father. And therefore we must decide in our lives to accept this redeeming sacrifice too, explicitly and quite personally, in order to be saved and to have eternal life. - Not so the brethren of predestination! These clearly have a special agreement with God. They think that they have been selected and do not have to decide or accept anything more. God has sorted it all out for them.

God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world through His Son.

Acts 17,30 "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 17.31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." Acts 17,30-31;


We live at a time when the true teachings of the Bible are repeatedly called in question by other, more modern doctrines. So in judging the merit of these various doctrines we should bear in mind the words of Paul in his second letter to Timothy:

But wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.

2Tim 4,3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4,4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 2Tim 4, 3- 4;


Here we have on the one side a doctrine which promises the brethren eternal life without any decision of their own, without any struggle of conscience - immediate and everlasting salvation without any possibility of their eternal redemption ever being overturned - because almighty God has supposedly ‘picked them out in his sovereign freedom of decision’. Opposed to this is the other doctrine, which lays responsibility and the free decision of the will to be converted on the human being himself, one which makes eternal life conditional on the individual’s accepting the redeeming sacrifice of the Son of God, and does not admit any kind of irreversible redemption of the individual unless the individual stands firm in the faith until the time of death.

If we now ask, in the light of Paul’s statements quoted above, which of these is likely to be the ‘sound doctrine’ which some people are unwilling to endure, and which the views of those false teachers whom people accumulate for themselves in accordance to their own desires because they tickle their ears, then we can very quickly distinguish between the false and the correct, biblical doctrine.