Why do we struggle with the Doctrine of Predestination?
Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him in love. He did this by predestining us to adoption as his legal heirs through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will— to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our offenses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight. - Ephesians 1:3-8 (NET)
“Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about man’s search for God. For me, they might as well talk about the mouse’s search for the cat….God closed in on me…His compulsion is our liberation..” The whole “free will” “predestined” controversy is so misunderstood and so lightly treated. The truth is we are predestined (Paul says so clearly, repeatedly). Until we stop in effect denying that he said it, and start probing the depth of it, we will continue to misunderstand it and continue to under value the gift of salvation we’ve been given, whereby we “freely chose” Christ.”
Why is it that we struggle with this doctrine of predestination?
First, and most likely the key reason: we want to be in charge of our destiny - and not God. This explains our uncomfortable feeling of not being in charge of the salvation that Christ provides. This is the primary sin of mankind from Adam onwards and none of us are exempt from this issue since all have fallen in Adam.
We misunderstand what the gospel is. Many understand that the gospel is your get out of hell free card. This is a reduction of the gospel message. The gospel is the proclamation that the King of the Universe (the King of Glory) has condescended his heavenly throne to join himself to humanity- living among his people, dying a sinner’s death and through his death, defeating the powers of sin, death, and the devil; then raising from the dead opening the way to life for all of those who are and would be in Him; And finally, ascending to the throne at the right hand of the Father to take his proper place as judge of all mankind - establishing the kingdom that will last forever. This is the gospel message.
We misunderstand what salvation is. Following from the misunderstanding that we have about what the gospel is, is a misunderstanding of how one is saved. Many might think that salvation comes through saying the sinner’s prayer or because of a response to an altar call. While this may begin a person’s journey to following the Lord, it is another reduction to suggest that because you say a pray or because you confessed your sin at an altar that you are saved. This incorrectly puts salvation into the hands of man. And while the call of the Lord on your life transitions to an appropriate response of piety, that response doesn’t save you. The Lord does. A prayer and an altar call do not save you- these two things- if one is called by God- may be appropriate responses to his saving work. So, you might ask, how do you know you’re saved? Ask, do you confess that Jesus Christ is Lord?; Do you want to please the Father?; Are you willing to give up everything- lifestyle, family, your life- for the sake of Christ?; Are the fruits of the Spirit beginning to manifest in your life, or do you at least desire them to? - All of those questions among other things will guide you to some assurance. However, the best thing you can do is read the book of 1 John and the Holy Spirit will illuminate the assurance that the Apostle commends to you.
We mistakenly think that God is unjust. Is it unjust for God to pick some for salvation while others are passed over? We forget that the work of God is a mystery and that every good thing comes from God. God’s nature is wholly and completely good, so he would not commit something that is not good. But, in this great mystery of creation, we will never fully understand the choices of an infinite God. This is shorthand for saying, we don’t know why but we do know that God is good.
We mistakenly think that mankind is ontologically good. This is an error. Only redeemed mankind is ontologically good and that’s because we are in Christ and he is in us- and in this way, we partake of the divine nature. The nature of our first-born selves is fallen which precludes “goodness.” Good acts in our first-born selves are good not because they extend from our being, but because God is imminent in the world compelling even the fallen to act according to the Law. Thus, our first-born selves are fallen and, thus, ontologically depraved. The proper destination for such beings is death- eternal separation from that which is good. But God has redeemed us; a new creation begins in those who have been born again. And like how you did not choose to be born the first time, it is not within your ability to choose to be born again. Both births belong to God.
There are many more reasons for the struggle that we have. This is just a sampling of some of the issues that create this struggle. We must remember that God is good and that he is saving human beings from the fate they rightly deserve.
The doctrine of predestination, far from being a confusing struggle, should fill us with a secure hope that our Good God will do what He does in Christ- save the lives of many people. Because if it was up to us or any other human being, no one would be saved. But with God, anything is possible. Thank God that he chooses us and that it is up to him.