Predestination and Election are hardly topics spoken about in the Indian Church. After having come to Christ for 7 years, I have not heard a single sermon on Predestination. The topic is a taboo, apparently portraying God as unjust at best or “worse than the Devil”, as John Wesley put it, at worst. So, much of Bible’s teaching on Predestination is either totally ignored or carefully misinterpreted.
One of the proof-text of the free-will theory (or Arminianism) is Romans 8:29. This is how it reads: For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (ESV). The passage is interpreted this way: God looked into the future; saw who is going to receive his salvation by faith and who is not; predestined unto glory those who he knew (or foreknew) will receive his salvation by faith and left others to their doom for their lack of it. Therefore in the final analysis, the crucial element which decides one’s personal destiny is one’s own ability to exercise faith. This, God, foresaw and made it a basis for election.
Let’s grant this thesis for a moment. If the ability to exercise of one’s own faith in the Gospel is the ultimate basis for predestination, then that faith must have been remarkable indeed. I say this because this faith must have distinguished itself from the faith of those mentioned in the parable of the sower – even they “heard the word and immediately received it with joy.” (Mat 13:20). And remember, faith comes from hearing (Rom 10:17). So they exercised some sort of faith. But yet they ultimately turned out to be reprobates because their faith was not genuine. Even Simon the Sorcerer (who later turned out to be reprobate, which can be inferred both from the Biblical account and Church History) is said to have initially believed (Acts 8:13). Therefore, if this thesis is true, the faith of those who were predestined must have had a greater quality and thus merited predestination from God. This is sure grounds for boasting. Is it not? However, Romans 8:29 does not give any such impression. And Bible says we have nothing to boast (Rom 4:2; 1 C0 1:29; Eph 2:9) regarding our salvation.
Also, if this thesis is true, then this “remarkable faith” itself must become also the basis of preservation of salvation. What good is my faith if, once I exercise it, I still need more grace to maintain it? Isn’t it not the same as that of Simon the Sorcerer and the ones who receive the word with great joy in the beginning in the Parable of Sowers (Mat 13:21)? Again it must be granted, if this thesis is true, and if it needs to be consistent, God must have not only looked at whether one exercises faith or not, but also whether the faith he exercises is of such a genuine quality that it propels him to remain faithful throughout his earthly life. However, Biblical evidence stands against this as well. All of us need grace to live our lives faithfully before God (Php 1:6; Jude 1:24; 2Ti 1:12 ; 1Co 15:10) which proves that our faith had no meritorious quality whatsoever before God. Faith is merely a instrument through which we are justified (Eph 2:8-10; by grace through faith)
The foreknowledge in Romans 8:29 is not about God ascertaining whether one will exercise faith or not but rather about God simply knowing that person. It has its roots in the Old Testament “where the word ‘know’ emphasizes God’s special choice of, or covenantal affection for, his people” (Gen. 18:19; Jer. 1:5; Amos 3:2; quotes from ESV Study Bible Notes). He simply knew his people just as Jesus said : “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
Our Predestination is grounded in God’s sovereign choice and not on our faith. Paul’s words in Rom 9 sums it up well : For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills (Rom 9:15-18, ESV). Amen.