Predestined For Salvation? Or For Something Else?

(Part of the "Predestination vs. Free-Will" series.  And I covered this in the previous post in this series, but it deserves its own post too.)

1 Peter 1:1-2:  “To God’s elect . . . 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.” 


Let's look again at this verse (because it is a verse that predestination hinges on), but let’s dig even deeper.  

As I sought to understand 1 Peter 1:1-2 more accurately, I learned that the Revised Standard Version of this verse says this:  “. . . To the exiles of the dispersion . . . chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for the sprinkling of his blood . . .” 



The NIV's "elect" is simply translated "exiles of the dispersion" in the RSV.

Maybe you won’t see it this way, but to me it sounds like Peter is not writing to the “elect,” as in “those predestined by God for salvation,” as Calvinists would view it  But it sounds like he is writing to those Christians of the day who have been scattered under the persecution they were experiencing, to “dispersed exiles.”

Calvinists make so much of the word "elect," but it might not be what they think it is!  And this might not be a "predestined to go to heaven" passage at all.  





I covered this in the previous predestination post, but let's look at the other ways to read this passage than "God predestined certain people for salvation."

One way to read it is "God knows who will choose Him (they are foreknown by Him), and all true believers are destined to grow in obedience to Christ.  We chose a path that is destined to bring us closer and closer to Jesus."


Another way to read it is that it's simply talking about the dispersed Jews of that day, the exiles, saying that the scattered Christians of that day were chosen, by God foreknowing them as His own, to be obedient to Christ and covered by His blood.  This is basically the same thing as the one above, except it's specific to the exiles of that day.


But the point is that it's not "prechosen for salvation," but it's "God foreknows who His people are, those who willingly believe in and obey Him.  And He chooses us and destines us (true believers who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior) for obedience to Jesus and for being covered by His blood."




[For further confirmation, read the Revised Standard Version of Ephesians 1:11-12.  The NIV version starts out with "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined ..."  And this is often used to say conclusively that it's predestination, that God predestines us to be believers.  




But let's look at the RSV version:   "In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory."

This goes right along with what I've been saying.  We are not destined - specifically pre-chosen - to be saved.  But we who are believers are destined to live for His glory.  The path of a believer has been predestined, but who becomes a believer has not.
]


God predestined the destination of the path of a true believer.  But it's our decision to get on that path or not.  And God predestined Jesus's sacrificial death as the means of salvation, because He knew from the very beginning that mankind would choose to fall, that we would become separated from Him, and that we would need a way to get back into fellowship with Him because we couldn't do it ourselves, as fallen people.  And so He preplanned Jesus's death, knowing when in history to put it and knowing who to use to accomplish it (not causing the people to be wicked and to crucify Jesus, but using their self-chosen wickedness and working it into His plans).  Jesus's blood was shed for the forgiveness of all sins, but eternal forgiveness (salvation) is only acquired by those accept it.  

God has done it all, put all the pieces in place.  He's predestined the means of salvation, the path of salvation, the sacrifice for our sins, the fact that He will have an eternal family with Him in heaven, the destination of those who believe (where the path of a true believer takes them), etc.  But our role - our one responsibility - is to decide between accepting it or rejecting it.  Following Him in His plans, or rebelling against Him.

It's like someone having planned everything out for a vacation and having paid for it all.  And they are asking you to come with them.  And all you have to do is say "yes" or "no."  You can go with them on the preplanned, prepaid vacation, or you can refuse to go.  The choice is yours.  And you will have to face the consequence of your choice.  If you say "yes," you will acquire all the things the Lord has planned for those who believe - forgiveness, salvation, eternal life with Him, etc..  But if you say "no," you will miss out on the vacation, eternity with the Lord.  Saying "no" or even simply refusing to make a decision means naturally missing out on the vacation.

This is how salvation works.  This is how to mesh a biblical view of predestination with mankind's free-will and responsibility to make a decision.

And it is very different from the Calvinist view that God alone predestines who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, and there's nothing you can do about it.


[Calvinists believe that "accepting Jesus in your heart" is works, that it's man working for their salvation, trying to earn it.  And since we can't do anything to work for or earn our salvation because salvation is by faith alone, then it must mean that we can't accept Jesus.  That God has to "force" faith on certain people.  

Find me one verse that says "accepting or receiving Jesus is forbidden because it's working for your salvation."  This is purely man-made reasoning.  Illogical reasoning.

"Accepting" all the work that someone else did on your behalf is not trying to work for it or earn it.  It's simply agreeing to accept what they are offering.

"Oh, but 'accepting Jesus' is not in the Bible anywhere," Calvinists say.

Oh, yes it is, if you consider what the concordance says about "believing" and "receiving."

Consider "receive" in these verses:

Romans 1:5:  "Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship ..."

Romans 5:11:  "through whom we have received reconciliation ..."

Romans 5:17:  "... how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ."

Romans 8:15:  "... but you received the spirit of Sonship." 

This could almost sound like we received something from God, through no effort or response on our own.  That we simply did nothing, and God dropped these things into our laps.

It could sound that way ... until you look up "receive" in the concordance.  "Receive" in these passages isn't passive.  It's not "God gave it to me with no effort on my part."  It's actually active, done by us.  It's reaching out and grabbing ahold of what is offered to us, taking it unto ourselves.  It is "accepting" what is offered.  Accepting Jesus's sacrifice on our behalf.  Accepting forgiveness, grace, salvation, etc.  These things are offered to all people, but we have to receive - accept - them.

And likewise, "believe" is about accepting what is told to us.

Ephesians 1:13:  "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promise of the Holy Spirit."

Acts 14:39:  "Through him everyone who believes is justified ..."

Acts 16:31:  "They replied, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved ...'"

In the concordance, "believe" is not about passively sitting there while God shoves thoughts into your head.  It's about being persuaded by something we heard and, consequently, choosing to commit to it, putting our faith in it.  We can only be "persuaded" by something if we have the ability to hear things, to think through them, to make a decision about them.  And believe is about deciding to believe what we are told is true, and to put our faith in it.  It's about "accepting" the truth, and about choosing to believe and trust that Jesus is Lord and Savior.

"Accepting Jesus" is indeed in the Bible.]



Okay, so onto another possible way to read the 1 Peter passage:  

To get even deeper, (hang in there, this is important!) this 1 Peter greeting sounds a lot like Paul’s greeting in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

“But we always ought 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.  He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This could definitely sound like God hand-picked who would believe and who wouldn’t.  And it would sound especially so if the verse simply said, “God chose you to be saved!”  

But in various translations of the Bible, it doesn’t just say “from the beginning God chose you to be saved.”  There are translations that say something like, “God chose you as His first-fruits.”  This "first-fruits" adds a whole new meaning.  They were chosen to be the first to believe in Jesus, simply because their lifetimes coincided with His.  

Maybe all along, it’s not saying that God chooses who to save from the beginning of time (that He elects certain people to go to heaven), but maybe it's saying that He chose that generation (Paul's and Peter's generation) to be the generation that would be the first of the “Jesus believers” - the first believers after Jesus’s death and resurrection, the first generation to have the Holy Spirit to help them grow to be more and more like Christ.

They were a chosen generation, chosen to be the first to see Jesus and have the Holy Spirit.    

And maybe this is the same kind of greeting we see in 1 Peter.  Maybe Peter is saying not that they were chosen for salvation, but that they were chosen to be the generation that saw Jesus’ death and resurrection.  They would be the first believers of history to have Jesus and the Holy Spirit.



This makes it so much clearer to me.  These interpretations above make so much more sense than the Calvinist idea that "chosen/predestined" means God predestines who to save and who not to save.  Their interpretation destroys the Gospel message, God's character, Jesus's sacrifice, God's grace and justness and love, etc.  Because it introduces too many contradictions and illogical, nonsensical conundrums.  It conflicts with the vast majority of what we read in the Bible, of how God acts in the Bible, and what He calls us to do.  (And yet how do they answer these contradictions and conundrums?  "Well, it's what the Bible says, and we don't have to like it or understand it; we just have to accept it."  Yeah, very rational and reliable and scholarly!)

But reading it the way I stated above - that God predestined the path and plan of salvation but that we have to accept it, and that God predestined which generation would be the first to have Jesus and the Holy Spirit - keeps the Bible and God's character intact and consistent.  He created the path and plan and destination, and He paid the price.  We just have to accept it, to believe and receive.  And that's not "working for salvation," like Calvinists say.  It's simply accepting all the work that someone else did on your behalf.


A question for Calvinists:  If you bought a baby tree, and planted that tree, and grew the tree, and watered the tree, and pruned the tree, and cut the tree down when it got big, and sawed it into boards, and used the boards to build a bookcase, and painted the bookcase, and then you offered the bookcase to me as a gift, and I graciously accepted it and said "Thank you" ... would you accuse me of "working" for that bookcase, of trying to "earn it"?


Just wondering.


Telling people that they can't accept Jesus's sacrifice on their behalf is wicked, so very wicked.  Because the very reason that Jesus came and died for us was so that we could accept His sacrifice on our behalf!





(Can you see why I hate Calvinism so much!?!  Why I call it heresy!?!  When you really think about it and what it does to Jesus's sacrifice and God's character and mankind's chance for salvation and the Gospel message, can it really be called anything less than heresy!?!  

And if I may point out to my wonderful Calvinist friends - who are some of the sweetest, most humble, most God-honoring people I know - you and our pastor would call my beliefs "heresy."  And I'm okay with that!  We can still be great friends even if we think each other's theology is heretical and not biblically-accurate.  Because neither of us has tried to force it on the other as "the only way to view the Bible."  It's just our pastor who's been doing this, sowing discord and causing division.  And it's such a shame.  It didn't have to be this way.  But he's forcing it to be this way, which is why we had no choice but to leave our church.)



[Update:  Here's an interesting thing I just found out.  The word "saved" in the 2 Thessalonians passage ("God chose you to be saved") doesn't even refer to "eternal salvation."  According to Strong's concordance, it's referring to being saved from the wrath of God when He pours it out on unrepentant mankind at Jesus's coming, the end times.  (Overall, 2 Thessalonians is an "end times" book anyway.)  So it has nothing to do with God predestining who will inherit eternal salvation and who won't.  It's more about God choosing to spare the Church from His end-times wrath, starting with that generation, the first "Jesus believers."]




All in all, there is far too much against the Calvinism in the Bible.  And even those few verses that seem to teach it can be read in other ways - in ways that uphold the rest of the Bible, the Gospel message, God's character, Jesus's sacrifice, etc..  Unlike Calvinism.

How about instead of altering the rest of the Bible to fit a few "Calvinist" verses, we start looking for better interpretations of those few "Calvinist" verses until they fit with the rest of the Bible.  And when we do this, God's Word will be consistent and make sense and be reliable.  Unlike Calvinism.





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