In the past few weeks, we have looked a bit closer at the dreaded doctrine of predestination. The first post gives a quick survey on biblical witness for this doctrine. In the second post, we see that predestination, understood correctly, will not produce Christians who take salvation for granted. The third post convinces us that predestination and evangelism are compatible, that in fact predestination should fuel our evangelism. In the fourth post, we discuss the inevitable question of the fairness of God. This post will conclude our discussion on this topic, but not because there is no more to discuss. Rather, it is because there is so much to discuss that we have to put an end to this series, at least for now. This post looks at some implications of this doctrine to our life.
Firstly, Predestination will produce humble Christians.
Human beings, in our pride, will brag about almost anything that can be credited to us, no matter how puny our contribution might be. We even brag about ourselves when our soccer team wins the world cup when we don’t do anything at all. It’s ironic, but it’s true.
Predestination destroys any opportunity for us to brag about ourselves when it comes to our salvation. When salvation depends on God and God alone, when the ultimate factor to our new birth is only the Spirit alone, then we have no basis to boast whatsoever other than boasting in what God did through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Now, I am not saying that if you are not embracing predestination then you are boasting on your works. Not at all. However, the doctrine of predestination does not provide any ground for boasting whatsoever. On the other hand, if salvation depends on us exercising our free will to turn to Jesus, no matter how small our ‘contribution’ might be toward our salvation, we still have some ground to boast. If we believe that Jesus’ death on the cross applies the same for everyone, then those who are saved must have done something that those who are not saved don’t, regardless how small it might be. Even if Jesus’ death on the cross secure the 99.99% of everyone’s salvation, and we just need to supplement that 0.01% to complete it, we still have the reason to brag over those who don’t believe because we are 0.01% better than others. Therefore, we have the reason to turn to the unsaved and say, “What’s wrong with you? Who don’t you believe? I believe, why won’t you?”
Can Christians who don’t embrace predestination boast in good good works? Yes, they can. We might not like it, we might not agree with it, but they have the ground to do so. On the other hand, can Christians who embrace predestination boast in their good works? Yes, they still can. However, we can emphatically say that they are being inconsistent with their belief. Knowing, understanding, and embracing the reality that God chose us even from the foundation of the world before we even do anything would force us to our knee in humility acknowledging the greatness of God’s mercy.
Secondly, Predestination will produce confident Christians.
The world would not put humility and confidence on the same page. However, our God does. Predestination will produce humble Christians, but by no means it produces timid Christians. In fact, we should be the most confident people in the world. Why? Because we have the sovereign God on our side.
In the doctrine of predestination, because salvation depends on God alone, God is also the one who will guarantee our salvation. Therefore, we have the confidence that we are truly saved when the Spirit gives birth to our new spirit so that we can confess with our mouth and proclaim with our deeds that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that He is the only Way to the Father, the only Truth, and the only Life. When Jesus died on the cross and cried out, “It is finished,” He has paid in full for the sins of His elects. Therefore, we can never supplement that anymore and we are confident that His payment is more than sufficient.
Furthermore, because salvation depends on God alone, we also have the confidence that God will sustain our faith to the end. Salvation and the perseverance of the saints to keep believing in Jesus depend on how strong God’s grip is on our hands, not how strong our grip is on God’s hand. If it depends, ever so slightly, on our work to ‘maintain’ salvation, then I have no doubt that we will run away from God. We are like sheep who have gone astray, who like to go astray. But God is a good shepherd. He is the one who will save us, who will pursue us, who will chase after us when we run away, and bring us back to the pen.
Jesus says in John 10:27-30: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
That is a big source of our confidence. If we truly believe in God who saves and God who keeps us safe, then we will not be tossed back and forth by the lies and deceptions of the evil ones. We will stand firm in our faith knowing that our God who is mighty to save is also mighty to keep us safe.
Thirdly, Predestination will produce fervent Christians.
When we believe that we are saved only by grace, we will be a humble Christian. When we believe that we are saved only by what God has done, we will be a confident Christian. Coupled together, we will be a fervent Christian. We will be fervent in our prayer, in our godly living, and in our evangelism.
Firstly, we will be fervent in our prayer because we know that God is sovereign, and that salvation does not depends on us. Therefore, we will be fervent when it comes to praying for the lost. We will not neglect this solemn duty of asking God for the salvation for the lost, and we will not assume we can see conversion without prayer.
Secondly, we will be fervent in our godly living because we know that our salvation (or the maintenance of our salvation) does not depend on the holiness of our lives. The holiness of our lives is a witness to our salvation. It is the expression of the new life that God gave us. But it is never the determining factor whether or not God should still keep us safe. In fact, if we think that the maintenance of our salvation depends on our godly living, then we will live a godly life with a twisted motivation, a rather selfish one – because we want to still be saved.
On the other hand, because we know that our salvation does not depend on our godly living, we are then free to live a godly life. We don’t have to be anxious whether or not we are good enough for God to keep loving us. The more we are conscious of that, the more we will be inhibited, and the more we will not live a godly life. Knowing that we are already saved will truly free us to trust God, to obey God, and to live a repentant life when we fail in our obedience to God.
Thirdly, we will be fervent in our evangelism (please see the third part for more). If we think that it is us or our proclamation of the gospel who saves people, then we will be overly discouraged when nobody responds to our evangelism. When this happens long enough, we will stop evangelising altogether. Some don’t even dare to begin because they fear being rejected. However, knowing that salvation does not depend on how eloquent our speech is or how great our explanation of the gospel is, we will be fervent in proclaiming the gospel to the lost. We will never be ashamed of the gospel because we know it is God who saves, not our effort. When others have more fruit in their evangelism, we will not envy and we will not be crippled. Rather, we will rejoice and will join the movement too.
Furthermore, in our evangelism, we will focus on God’s message than our method of evangelism. If we believe that salvation depends on us, no matter how slightly it does, then we will focus on our method too. We will have to craft our delivery. At times, there is a temptation to dilute the gospel in order to elicit response from people.
I might add that the success of our evangelism should not be measured by the number of converts. Because if that’s the case, then we must conclude that Jesus is a poor evangelist. At one time, He drove so many people away by His hard teaching, leaving only the twelve with Him. When the Pharisees did not believe in Jesus, Jesus did not panic. Rather, He calmly said in John 10:25-27: “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus then continued preaching the gospel of the kingdom knowing that His sheep will hear His voice and follow Him.
The dreaded doctrine of Predestination will continue to be a point of tension in Christianity. As long as human beings are in sin, we still want to elevate our free will. Some even to the point of trumping over God’s sovereign will. However, our faith is based not on our free will. It should not be, because our free will is not totally free. Our free will is in bondage. Our faith should be based on the objective fact of God’s sovereign will because only His Will is perfect and sovereign. Leaving a matter as important as our salvation to our free will, regardless of how small the part it plays, is a risky business and a dangerous thing. Leaving every matter to God’s will, however, gives us security. This truth shall indeed sets us free.
I will end this series with the fourth stanza of “In Christ Alone”: the grandiosity of God’s grace and His salvation in Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.