What is predestination?
Predestination is the doctrine that everything was determined by God from the beginning. The implication of this doctrine is that God predestines people to heaven or hell from the beginning, even before they are born.
Ephesians 1:5 (NIV) he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will
Predestination is an undisputable truth. The disagreement lies in whether God predestines because He foreknew our reaction towards Him or because He acts out of His good pleasure, without anything to do with us. The difference is crucial. If God predetermines because He foreknew, His justice is unquestionable. On the other hand, if He predestines entirely out of His wish, we can argue that God is unfair. It also removes all motivation to evangelize because if God predestines some people to hell, what is the use of witnessing to them; they cannot believe. If God predestines some people to heaven, there is also no need to witness to these people because somehow they will definitely believe.
God’s predestination and His foreknowledge
The Bible clearly states that God’s predestination has something to do with His foreknowledge.
1 Peter 1:12 (NIV) Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Romans 8:2930 (NIV) For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Meaning of “knowledge”
The whole idea of the understanding of God’s predestination can be divided into two main schools of thought. The first, known as Calvinism (after the originator John Calvin) teaches that God predestines men to heaven or hell strictly according to His will, which has nothing to do with what man’s response to Him is going to be even though God, who is omniscient, is well aware of that response. The second school of thought, known as Arminianism (after its originator Arminius), teaches that God predestines man only because He foreknew what man’s response towards Him is going to be.
According to Calvinists, foreknowledge does not refer to God having prior knowledge of a person’s response. Rather it refers to God’s prior relationship with the person. Therefore, those whom God selected are simply those He also had prior relationship with before that person was born. Whoever God chooses to have relationship with is entirely up to His will.
The use of “know” to refer to relationship rather than knowledge is demonstratable from the Bible.
1 Corinthians 8:3 (NIV) But the man who loves God is known by God.
Matthew 7:23 (NIV) Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Amos 3:2 (KJV) You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
This meaning is indeed implied in the verse Rom 8:28 because it talks about God predestining those He foreknew, not because He foreknew.
However, Arminians insist that foreknowledge (or knowledge) can also refer to God having knowledge of what man’s actions are before they come to pass.
Acts 2:23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
Psa 1:6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
1 Pet 1:20 Who (ie Christ) verily was foreordained (same word as “foreknown”) before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
Clearly, in these verses, it is an event or facts which was known and not a person. Even the last verse is not talking about the Father’s prior relationship with the Son but rather that Jesus’ coming to earth was foreknown by the Father long before He actually came.
Objection : If man’s salvation depends on his response, why does the Bible teach that it is not based on anything he has done? Surely He predestines entirely out of His will.
2 Timothy 1:9 (NIV) who has saved us and called us to a holy life not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
This verse simply teaches that God did not choose to save us based on anything good He sees in us but completely out of His mercy. It does not mean that His predestination has nothing to do with whether He knows we will believe or not.
John 5:21 (NIV) For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.
God gives salvation to whoever He pleases. You can interprete this to mean that God predestines people to heaven and hell based on his whims and fancies or you can interprete this to mean that God has decreed that the only way to please Him is through faith and if we believe in Jesus, God is pleased and saves us out of His good pleasure.
The Bible states that God is objective in his dealings. He does not act out of His whims and fancies.
Acts 10:3435 (NIV) Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.
Romans 2:6 (NIV) God “will give to each person according to what he has done.”….11 For God does not show favoritism.
1 Peter 1:17 (NIV) Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
If we teach that God elects entirely based on His good pleasure, without anything to do with the person, then we are saying that God is partial, the very thing He said He is not. The Bible condemns partiality because it is a sin. God has certain favorites but it is because they obeyed Him, and His favorites do not come about because of his whims and fancies. For example, one of God’s favorite was Job and we can understand why. Job was upright and feared God.
God cannot predestine people to hell out of His good pleasure because His wish is that everyone is saved.
2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
1 Timothy 2:34 (KJV) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
Ezekiel 18:23 (NIV) Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
Here is one verse in which we see both God’s sovereignty and His lack of delight in the death of sinners and how He wishes everyone would be saved.
When we say that God is omnipotent, we do not mean that God can do just about anything. God cannot sin. God can do all things only if it is within His character. Likewise, when we say that God is sovereign, we do not mean that God will do anything, but only anything which pleases Him. Predestining people to hell is definitely not one of them.
Objection : the word “all” may not really be referring to “all”
Calvinists say that when the Bible teaches that God wishes for all to be saved, it may not actually be referring to everyone. There are verses in the Bible when the word “all” refers to some only.
Mark 1:5 (KJV) And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
Acts 4:21 (NIV) After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.
Luke 21:17 (NIV) All men will hate you because of me.
John 12:32 (NIV) But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
It is true that the word all may be used loosely. But what about other verses which did not even use the word “all”.
2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Ezekiel 18:23 (NIV) Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
Objection : In our experience we know that God determines when, where, and under what circumstances each person is born. Some are placed in Christian lands where they receive all the benefits of the Gospel; others are placed in Muslim lands where even the entry of Christianity is prohibited and the conversion from Islam to Christianity is punishable by death.
Jesus also confined His ministry almost exclusively to the Jews and forbade His disciples to go among the Gentiles until after the Day of Pentacost.
Matthew 10:56 (NIV) These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
Therefore, one race is deliberately excluded from the message of salvation while another is included.
While this fact is without dispute and observable in our daily life, the Bible argues that everyone has the opportunity to know Him, even those who do not have the gospel, like the Gentiles.
Romans 1:1920 (NIV) since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualitieshis eternal power and divine naturehave been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
God says that the creation tells the story of His existence and therefore man has no excuse. Perhaps for those people who have not even heard of Jesus, God might save them based on their acknowledgement of a God. The Bible is silent on this topic.
Romans 2:1415 (NIV) Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.
For those who do not have God’s laws, the Bible also say that they are without excuse because God has actually implanted the law in our hearts so that a person who does wrong things need not have read the Bible before he knows that it is wrong; his conscience would have already told him.
Objection : Even if God shows special favor to some and not to others, it cannot be argued that God is unjust. It must be remembered that those who receive the special favor receive them through grace, while God simply withholds His grace to others, something He was under no obligation to bestow in the first place.
The Bible teaches that God has the right to extend His gifts to whoever He chooses.
Matthew 20:1315 (NIV) “But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
Likewise God says that He chose to extend more blessings to Jacob than Esau, not because of anything they have done, but simply because of His choice.
Romans 9:1016 (NIV) Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or badin order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who callsshe was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 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.” 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.
Firstly, we have to understand that God did not hate Esau, as we understand it in our modern language. The word “hate” is used in the Bible to show that God love Esau less in the sense of showering him with less blessings than Jacob.
Luke 14:26 (NIV) “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sistersyes, even his own lifehe cannot be my disciple.
Here, Jesus is not asking us to hate our parents but rather we have to love our parents less than we love God.
Why is God not unfair by giving more blessings to Jacob than Esau? Well, because neither man deserved anything in the first place; therefore God has the right to give to anyone He pleases. Isn’t that what the parable in Matt 20 teaches?
To defend against the accusation that God is unfair, Paul quotes what God said to Moses in Exod 33:19. If we read the old testament passage, this is the incident after Moses had thrown away the ten commandments that God had given the Israelites because Moses caught the people worshipping a golden calf. Even though the first tablets of ten commandments were destroyed, God called Moses to the mountain and gave him another set. Then He said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” In other words, these people don’t deserve what I am giving to them, but I will do it anyway. And don’t question me on whether I should or should not extend mercy because I will give it to whoever I choose.
Can we carry the doctrine further and say that perhaps God can give the gift of salvation to anyone He chooses. No. Because if God were to do this, He would have to temper with man’s free will, something we know He doesn’t wish to do. (If God did not give man free will, Adam would not have sinned and caused the fall of mankind. If God permitted the Garden of Eden to have the forbidden fruit, obviously it was God’s intention to give man free will to decide.)
The Bible reinterates that anyone who believes will be saved. Therefore, if God wants to give the gift of salvation only to whoever He chooses, He will have to make sure that those He chose will definitely believe while those He did not choose will definitely disobey. There are serious problems in following this arguement.
God would have to cause the non-elect to disbelieve. That would make God the author of sin.
We have to understand that when Paul talks about Jacob and Esau, he was talking about God’s blessings, not God’s salvation. Therefore, it is very inappropriate to use the passage to teach that God chooses people to heaven or hell, not based on man’s response.
Objection : It is possible for man to have free will even though God predestines whether he believes or not.
An illustration proposed by Calvinists. A man wishes to construct a building. He decides on a plan. Then he hires carpenters, masons, plumbers, etc to do the work. These men are not forced to do the work. No compulsary inducements of any kind is used. The man work freely, yet the do in detail what the owner plans for them to do.
This illustration does not explain how free will can exist if God directly intervenes in man’s decision. The workers are free to work but are they free to build the house in any way they want. Obviously not. They still have to follow the plan. Whatever freedom they have is at best limited. It is like a robber who threatened a man with “money or life”. Can we say that the man is free to decide because he can choose to have money or life? Obviously he wants both but is not free to choose that. So why say man is free to do anything he wants but if it is God’s will, he has no choice but to disbelieve.
Objection : The Bible teaches that God caused man to sin. Even the evil that men do have been predestined by God.
Acts 4:2728 (NIV) Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
2 Samuel 16:1011 (NIV) But the king said, “What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’” 11 David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to.
Exodus 14:17 (NIV) I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.
2 Thessalonians 2:11 (NIV) For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie
John 12:3940 (NIV) For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 40 “He (ie God) has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turnand I would heal them.”
Matthew 11:25 (NIV) At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.
God is spoken off in the Bible as doing evil. This is in accordance with Hebrew thought that everything God allows can be said to be done by Him. However, other verses will make it clear that it is actually Satan or the person himself who has done evil. While the Bible speaks of God hardening hearts, it also says that it is Satan or the individual who does it.
2 Corinthians 4:34 (NIV) And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Acts 7:42 (NIV) But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: “‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?
John 8:4344 (NIV) Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
The next two verses show that what Satan does is directly attributed to God because God allowed it.
2 Samuel 24:1 (KJV) And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah…..10 (KJV) And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.
1 Chronicles 21:1 (KJV) And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
The story of Job can be used as an illustration. Who was it that caused Job to suffer? It was Satan who directly inflicted Job. However, it can also be said that God caused it because without His permission, Satan could never have inflicted Job.
Objection : God is not sovereign if man can decide to reject His will
But God is still sovereign because His will is for man to decide freely and that has not been violated.
Objection : Man is totally unable to be saved on his own, therefore if He is saved, it is because God chose to intervene. Likewise, those who are not saved are because God chose not to intervene.
Romans 3:1012 (NIV) As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Matthew 11:27 (NIV) “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
John 6:65 (NIV) He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
It is true that man is totally unable to save himself. That is why Jesus had to come down and die for us. But that concept does to extend to mean that man cannot even decide for himself to trust Jesus to save him and this had to be left to God. True, God helps us in our faith but the initiation comes from us. Similarly, God will help us to lead a holy life only after we have exerted some effort on our own.
Mark 9:24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV) But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Jesus intervened and helped him with his unbelief but that was only because he was willing to try to believe. To those that refuse to believe, Jesus condemned them openly. God doesn’t reveal to those who do not seek Him in the same way He does not reveal His will to whoever has no intention of doing it. God doesn’t intervene in a person’s life if he chooses not to believe. He does not force His will upon man when it comes to salvation.
Objection : the Bible teaches that even though God predestines people to heaven or hell out of His good pleasure, we cannot question Him, which means that He agrees to the fact.
Romans 9:1723 (NIV) For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. 19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrathprepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory
Calvinists understand verse 19 to be man’s arguement that if God actively hardens the heart of men so that they will not believe, how can man resist? However, I prefer to interprete verse 19 to mean that if God permits men to fall in sin, why does He still blame us? In other words, why does God blame us if it is in fact Himself who has given up on us. Why the second interpretation? As we have examined above, any Jew at that time would understood the percularity of the Hebrew language to mean that God only permits Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened instead of actually hardening it Himself, which would make God the cause of Pharaoh’s sin.
If God is only the permitter and not the causer of Pharaoh’s sin, why does the Jews continue to blame God? Surely it was Pharaoh’s fault. We have to understand that man has not been completely resonable when he questions God. A case will prove the point.
Ezekiel 18:2032 (NIV) The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him. 21 “But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. 22 None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. 23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? 24 “But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die. 25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? 26 If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die. 27 But if a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life. 28 Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust? 30 “Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!
These people accused God of being unjust even though He did no wrong. Likewise, God did no wrong in permitting man’s heart to be hardened. Yet man may find fault with Him in this area.
Objection : Doesn’t the Bible say that some people are created specially for destruction while others are created to enjoy everlasting life?
Prov 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil (ie judgement).
2 Peter 2:12 (NIV) But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.
Romans 9:2223 (NIV) What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrathprepared for destruction?
These verses do not teach that God created these people and predestines that they go to hell. Rather, it teaches that God created these people even though He knows that they will disbelieve and eventually perish in hell. If God predestines people to hell, it precludes a sincere offer of salvation by faith to all who are not elected.
John 3:16 (NIV) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Time and again, the Bible teaches us the inappropriateness of man questioning God. When Job questioned God on the cause of his suffering, God did not bother to answer him at all but instead asked Job a series of questions that reminded Job of his sovereignty.
Job questions God.
Job 3:11 (NIV) “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?
Job 3:2021 (NIV) “Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, 21 to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure,
Job 38:16 (NIV) Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: 2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone
Job finally sees the inappropriateness of questioning God and repents.
Job 42:16 (NIV) Then Job replied to the LORD: 2 “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Paul taught the same thing in his letter to the Romans.
Romans 9:2021 (NIV) But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
Therefore, Paul is not saying that God predestines people to hell out of His good pleasure. Paul is saying that if even if God were to predestine people to hell, who are we to question. By telling us it inappropriate to question God, Paul is not agreeing that their accusation is true but rather whatever it is, it is wrong to question God. There is a similar example in the Bible.
John 21:2123 (NIV) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
Jesus is not saying that He wants the man to remain alive until His second coming. (Obviously the man died before that.) But Jesus is saying that if He wants to do that, what is it with us. Who are we to question Him?
Objection : Only those who were chosen by God could believe
2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NIV) But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
Acts 13:48 (NIV) When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
Acts 18:27 (NIV) When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed.
Acts 11:18 (NIV) When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
The sequence is like this. God foresees who will believe and who will disbelieve Him. Those who believe He will predestine for heaven while those who disbelieve will be predestined to hell. When the time comes for these people to believe, it is only those who were predestined for heaven that will believe.
Objection : Christ’s death is only for the elect
John 10:15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Fatherand I lay down my life for the sheep.
John 17:6 (NIV) “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word…..9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.
Acts 20:28 (NIV) Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
Ephesians 5:25 (NIV) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
The church is God only is said to be bought by Christ for two reasons. Firstly, only those who believed managed to appropriate His gift of eternal life. Therefore, in a sense He died only for them. Secondly, when Jesus says that He died for the church, that statement need not be interpreted to mean that He did not die for those who failed to believe and obtain the salvation. Other passages of the Bible teaches that indeed He does.
Hebrews 2:9 (NIV) But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
1 John 2:2 (NIV) He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
John 12:47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
Objection: God caused people to disobey Him in order that He might have mercy on them
Romans 11:32: For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that (Greek “hina“) he may have mercy on them all.
This has been interpreted to mean that God deliberately caused people to disobey Him so that He can then save them. This is not the correct interpretation.
Firstly, it is man who hardened his own heart. The Hebrew language expresses this as God being the one that is hardening his heart. (See above comments on God hardening the heart of Pharaoh).
Secondly, the Greek word “hina” has been mistranslated. A common meaning of “hina” is “so that” and that meaning has been put into this verse. However, that is not the only meaning of the word. The Strong’s Dictionary explains that the word “hina” could be translated as “in order that” (denoting the purpose or the result).
Here are three examples:
Matthew 10:25 It is enough for the disciple that (Greek “hina“) he be as his master… This verse means it is enough that the end result of the disciple is that he is like his master.
Matthew 18:6: But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that (Greek “hina“) a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. This verse says that if the end result of this offender is that a millstone were hanged about his neck and he drowns in the sea, it is still better than the punishment that God would give to him for leading people astray.
Matthew 18:14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that (Greek “hina“) one of these little ones should perish. This verse teaches that it is not God’s will that the end result of these little ones is that they perish.
In these three examples (and there are many more if you search for the word “hina” in the New Testament), the word “hina” could not have been translated as “so that” or “in order that”.
Therefore, what Romans 11:32 is saying is that God allows people to remain in their disobedience if they choose to. The end result is that they can still receive the mercy of God.