God has made this universe to operate a day at a time. And you and I are supposed to live a day at a time. God’s promise is “As thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deut. 33:25). You and I are able to live a day at a time because of the fact that God is in control.
Have you ever walked into a group of people in the middle of a conversation and felt uneasy because you did not know what was going on? Have you ever started to read in the middle of a book? When we walk into the middle of something such as that, we get frustrated because we are not sure what’s going on.
Many people today are not sure what is going on. Change is taking place so rapidly and so radically these days that people are afraid. Some people are even rebellious. Rebellion, after all, is fear turned inside out. Some people become sick or nervous from life’s pressures and then withdraw, using their illness as an excuse. Some people even commit suicide because they cannot take the pressures of life.
For life to be meaningful, we have to know where we came from, why we are here and where we are going. Of course, many people have philosophies that try to give those facts. The Communist talks about economic forces and class struggle. The evolutionist has his solution to the problem in his doctrine of the survival of the fittest. The agnostic says, “Well, we just don’t know; we’re living by chance or by luck. Enjoy today because tomorrow may not come. Do your own thing.” He has a fatalistic philosophy of life. And then we have the people who are superstitious. They study the stars, they consult astrological charts, they might even dabble in the occult. But the Christian doesn’t need any of this because the Christian has his Bible, and the Bible teaches us that God is in control.
What I want to share with you is all wrapped up in the word “predestination.” The minute you mention that word, some people get nervous because right in the middle of predestination is the word “destiny.” It sounds so fatalistic, it sounds so frightening. The Christian is not afraid of life. He is not afraid to live a day at a time because he has his confidence in God and knows that God is in control.
Romans 8:28-30 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
We have in these three verses God’s wonderful plan for His people. We are going to study this word “predestinate” because when you understand it, you will be able to relax and not worry about what is going on around you.
The word “predestinate” is used only six times in the New Testament. It is not always translated that way. It is the Greek word proorizo. You say, “Well, what does that mean?’ Pro means “beforehand,” and orizo means “to mark out.” Our word “horizon” comes from that word. The horizon is that area marked out before us that separates the sky from the land.
Let’s answer three questions about predestination, and in answering these questions, calm our fears and assure our hearts.
What Does Predestination Mean?
Question number one: What does predestination mean? Predestination is God’s eternal plan to make His own children like the Lord Jesus Christ. The English prefix “pre” means beforehand, and “destinate” means destiny. “Predestination” means a destination planned beforehand. Predestination simply affirms that God has an eternal plan for His children. The destiny He has planned for them is that they shall be like the Lord Jesus Christ. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29).
You should note some important facts about predestination. First of all, predestination applies only to the saved. I do not know any place in the Bible where it says that God predestines people to go to hell. I do not find any place in the Word of God where we are told that God predestines people to be lost. Quite the contrary is true. He tells us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.
Does the Bible teach election? It certainly does. “He hath chosen us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). Does this mean that we cannot share the Gospel with everybody? No, it doesn’t. You and I do not know who God’s elect are. Predestination teaches us that God’s elect one day are going to be like the Lord Jesus Christ. There is not a single verse that I know of in Scripture which says that God has predestined people to go to hell.
Two contrasting verses are found in Matthew 25. Verse 34 says, “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand [saved people], Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” In verse 41 we read: “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand [lost people], Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Verse 41 does not say, “Prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.” He did say to the saved that the kingdom had been prepared for them from the foundation of the world.
Predestination comes from the heart of a loving Father. We must never think of predestination as some cold program that God worked out in the distant glories of eternity. Ephesians 1:4, 5 says, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.” How has He predestinated us? In love. Predestination is the wise plan of a loving Father, and He is going to work out His plan.
Something else is true. Predestination is only part of the total plan. Five key factors are mentioned in Romans 8:29,30, and we should look at them in some detail.
How Does Predestination Work?
Question number two: How does predestination work? According to Romans 8:29 predestination begins with foreknowledge: “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.” Foreknowledge does not simply mean “to know beforehand.” There are those who teach that God knew beforehand who would believe; therefore, He predestinated them to be saved. That’s backward. If God only foresees future events, then what makes these events certain? An event must be made certain before it can be known as certain, and only God can make events certain.
To foreknow means to choose beforehand, to set your love upon someone. This is all by God’s grace. God in His grace sets His love upon, He sets His heart upon, certain ones who are going to be saved. That is where it all begins-with God’s gracious foreknowledge.
Either salvation is by grace, totally from the loving heart of God, or there is no salvation at all.
God sets His love upon, He sets His heart upon, certain ones. These certain ones are predestinated, then, to be conformed to the image of Christ. Of course, this involved the death of Christ, and even that was predestined. Acts 4:27,28 says, “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” The death of Christ was not an accident; it was predestined by a loving Father.
Predestination simply means that one day you are going to be like Jesus Christ. It begins with foreknowledge, and it involves being called by the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:30 says, “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called.” This calling comes through human agency.
Don’t ever get the idea that because God has elected some and these whom He has elected are predestined to go to heaven, that Christians should do nothing. “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thess. 2:13,14). Those whom God elects and foreknows, He predestines, and those whom He predestines, He calls. That is why we have a ministry of sharing the Word of God. That is why we witness and pray.
Those who are called and who respond to that call are justified-declared righteous. Those whom He justifies, He also glorifies. Again notice the past tense of that verb: “And whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).
This is God’s total plan. What begins with foreknowledge ends with glory. Predestination simply declares that God’s people are going to make it-they will one day be conformed to the image of Christ.
What Does Predestination Mean Today?
Now our third question: What does predestination mean to us today as believers? Please keep in mind that Paul wrote Romans to ordinary people, common people, not theologians, not philosophers. The theologians wrestle with some of these things, but Paul did not write Romans to theologians. He wrote for common people, and he knew they could understand it if they would just open their heart to the Spirit.
Salvation Is Bigger Than We Think
What does predestination mean to us today? First of all, it means that salvation is much bigger than what we think. Your salvation is not a minor incident; it is part of an eternal plan. God is so gracious that, from all eternity, He has planned that we shall be conformed to the image of His Son. Don’t ever allow salvation to become a minor thing.
It is a big thing, far bigger than we realize. It is a part of a great eternal plan.
God Is Bigger Than Our Trials
Second, predestination means that God is much bigger than our trials and our troubles. Notice Romans 8:31: “What shall we then say to these things?” What things? The facts that we are foreknown, predestined, called, justified and already glorified. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” In the rest of Romans 8 Paul spelled out so beautifully that God is bigger than all of our sufferings and trials.
You may hurt today. Things may be falling apart today. But I want you to know that if you are saved, you are a part of something eternal and big and wonderful and glorious. God is bigger than any trouble you may go through.
No Christian Will Be Lost
Third, it means that no true Christian will ever be lost. There can be no separation from God. God started this great salvation, and God is going to see it to completion. God knew what was happening long before these things ever took place. I cannot believe that any true Christian can ever be lost because he is a part of a great eternal plan.
God’s plan of salvation was secure from all eternity. The Lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world (see Rev. 13:8). God is not caught by surprise. God is not depending on your strength or mine. “Whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). God is so sure that we are going to heaven, He has already glorified us. All we are waiting for is the revelation of that glory.
We Live by Faith
This leads us to a fourth application: We have to live by faith, not by sight. God knows what He is doing. Jacob was walking by sight when he said, “All these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36). Really, everything was working for him. So walk by faith, not by sight, and let God have His way.
We Must Obey God
Finally, we must obey God and share in His purpose. He is working out His beautiful plan in your life, so don’t be afraid, and don’t be alarmed, God has everything all taken care of. Just trust Him, obey Him and walk with Him. Pray and believe, and one of these days, with all of God’s people, you will end up in heaven-glorified!
©Warren W. Wiersbe, Key Words of the Christian Life (Lincoln: Back to the Bible, 1982), 112-120.