What is "Election" and "Predestination?"
One of the "elect" angels
What is the Bible talking about when it uses the terms "election" and "predestination?" Although some Christians use these terms interchangeably, they are actually two different concepts and I will cover them separately.
In summary, election means a person has been chosen for a special service. Predestination means God has predetermined that those who become Christians will have certain attributes, such as being "conformed to the likeness of His Son." Neither of these terms (election and predestination) have anything to do with salvation.
When the Bible says a person is "elected," it means he has been chosen for something special. As you will soon see, when a person is elected, he is not chosen for salvation, but is chosen to do some special service. The Bible talks about five groups that have been elected to do a specific service. They are:
Election is talking about service, not salvation. In fact, it couldn’t be talking about salvation because Jesus didn’t need to be saved, nor did the angels. Besides, not all of the Israelites were true believers. Therefore, when the nation of Israel was elected, they obviously were not elected (or chosen) for salvation. According to Article 17, (Canons of Dort) God’s election is the same in the New Testament as it was in the Old Testament. Therefore, if the election of the Nation of Israel is talking about salvation, all of the present day Jews should be believers. This, of course, is not the case.
Predestination simply means something has been predetermined to take place in the future. Although most Christians think of it in connection with the Bible, this concept is also found in the secular world. For example, anyone who becomes a policeman is predestined to have certain attributes (such as the authority to arrest people). Even Aldous Huxley uses the concept in his book Brave New World. As you can see, the word predestination does not need to have some mystical or divine implication.
Just as man can predetermine certain things to take place in the future, so can God. So, what kind of things did God predestine to take place in the future? Did He predetermine to arbitrarily send people to Heaven and Hell? No. God has predetermined that those who become believers will obtain certain attributes. For example, God has predetermined everyone who becomes a believer will "be conformed to the likeness of his Son" (Romans 8:29, 30) and will be "holy and blameless in His sight" (Ephesians 1:4,5). Predestination talks about what will take place after a person becomes a Christian.
The recent terrorist attacks on the United States provide us a good example of this. Many of us assume the U.S. Constitution protects everyone residing in the United States. This is not true; only American citizens are protected by the Constitution. A foreigner living in our country does not have the same legal guarantees we take for granted. This is the reason why interrogation techniques are different for many of the terrorist suspects.
It’s kind of like being a Roman citizen 2,000 years ago. A Roman citizen (in the Roman empire) had to be treated differently from everyone else. They enjoyed many legal privileges that made life much easier and safer. This is the reason why people would pay enormous amounts of money in order to purchase their Roman citizenship.
Fortunately, American citizenship is much cheaper. Once a person becomes an American citizen, he is immediately entitled to many privileges, including being protected by the Constitution. Therefore, we can say it is predetermined (or predestined) that anyone who becomes an American citizen will be protected by the Constitution. This predestination has nothing to do with their becoming American citizens; it has everything to do with what happens after they become citizens. Likewise, predestination in the Bible has nothing to do with a person becoming a Christian; it has everything to do with what happens to a person after he becomes a Christian.
I want to be as honest and objective about this issue as much as possible. There are some verses dealing with predestination that could be interpreted either way. A person could point to these verses and say, "Here is proof God has predetermined certain people to be saved." Other people, however, can say with just as much authority, "These verses are describing what God has predetermined will happen to anyone who becomes a believer." Since the Bible clearly and overwhelmingly teaches that God is inviting everyone to accept His pardon, I have to conclude these confusing verses do not teach selective salvation.
Other Chapters in this Section
PART 3: Problems with Selective Salvation
Copyright © 1987 -2004 Michael Bronson | Site Design by Imagination 2 Reality