A few hundred years ago, Calvin emphasised
the idea that there was predestination of our lives. By this he meant
that our freewill decisions have no effect upon our salvation; we are
either predestined to salvation or to rejection. This notion has resurfaced
in several modern ideas:
That there is no point in making a great
effort in Bible study or religion, because if we are to be saved then
we will be anyway.
That there is a being called the devil
who forces us to sin and brings problems into our lives regardless of
our own will. This false notion is discussed in Study 6.
That there is no need to ask for God’s
care in the situations of life, e.g. for safe keeping when travelling,
because everything is predestined anyway. The world has a saying, often
overheard in airport departure lounges, ‘If your number’s
going to come up, it will’.
There are many sound Biblical reasons
for rejecting this kind of philosophy.
It makes a nonsense of the whole concept
of obedience to God. We are continually told in the Bible that we must
keep God’s commands, and by doing so we can give Him pleasure or
displeasure. This concept of commandments is meaningless if God is forcing
us to be obedient. Christ offers salvation “unto all them that obey
him” (Heb. 5:9).
Hebrews 11 shows that God’s intervention
in our lives and ultimate granting of salvation is related to our faith.
The many Biblical examples of praying to God for deliverance in time of
trouble are meaningless if everything is totally predestined. Likewise
the idea of salvation being the result of our faith in Christ is also
Baptism is a pre-requisite for salvation
(Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:3‑5). This is denied by Calvinists. However, salvation
was made possible on account of the work of Christ (2 Tim. 1:10), not
through the abstract concept of predestination. We must consciously choose
to associate ourselves with Him, which we do through baptism. Romans 6:15-17
speaks of us changing masters at baptism, from a life of sin to one of
obedience. “To whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants
ye are”. This language of yielding oneself clearly implies freewill
as opposed to unconditional predestination. The yielding is through obeying
from the heart the doctrines of the Gospel (Rom. 6:17).
There is no point in God speaking forth
His word, if we are ultimately predestined anyway. There is also no point
in preaching; yet the Bible, both in command and by recording examples
of this, shows that it is through the preaching of the word that men and
women come to salvation. “The word of...salvation” (Acts 13:26)
has to go forth to men.
We will be judged according to our works
(Rev. 22:12). Why, if our freewill actions are unimportant in relation
to salvation? Paul said that the Jews judged themselves to be unworthy
of eternal life by their rejection of the word of God (Acts 13:46). They
were judging themselves - God was not preventing them. If we say that
God is predestinating some people to salvation and others to condemnation,
then God is effectively forcing people to be sinners, in the same way
as He supposedly forces people to be righteous. Because of Adam’s
sin, “death passed upon all men, because all have sinned”
(Rom. 5:12). This is why men die, as a punishment for sin (Rom. 6:23),
not because God forced them to be sinners at some point in time before
1 Cor. 10 and many other passages hold
up the example of those in the past who once had a relationship with God,
but then fell away, as being warnings to believers. The fact that it is
possible to ‘fall from grace’ (Gal. 5:4) means that there
cannot be a ‘once saved always saved’ system of salvation
as required by Calvinism. Only by continuing to hold true doctrine can
we be saved (1 Tim. 4:16).
Jesus clearly taught that understanding
God’s word is dependent to some degree upon our freewill effort.
“Whoever reads, let him understand” (Mt. 24:15). Thus we let
ourselves understand the word - we are not forced to. There is a parallel
between this and the oft repeated words of Jesus: “He that has ears
to hear...let him hear”, or understand. Having ears to hear therefore
equates with reading God’s word.
“Whoever wishes” can “take of the water
of life freely” (Rev. 22:17), through responding to the word of life
found in the Gospel. Here surely is freewill rather than predestination
irrespective of our personal desire for salvation. Likewise Acts 2:21:
“Whosoever shall call on (himself) the name of the Lord shall be saved”
through being baptised into that name.