Predestination and God's Desire to Save Everyone

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of The Christian Post or its editors.

How in the world are Christians supposed to reconcile these two seemingly incompatible doctrines, both of which are clearly taught in Scripture:

(1) God predestined people to believe in Jesus.
(2) Christ died for everyone and God wants everyone to be saved.

Given the biblical teaching that many people will not make it into heaven, how are we to come to terms with these teachings? Since many will be eternally lost, is it because God didn't predestine them? Or is it solely because of their unbelief?

Does God really want everyone to go to heaven? And did Christ really die for all? Scripture answers both of these questions with a resounding "yes." But if God truly wants everyone to be saved, won't that eventually happen?

Well, think of it this way. Did God want Adam and Eve to obey Him? And did God want all the angels to obey Him? Or did God want Adam and Eve as well as angels to rebel against Him? Obviously, God didn't want them to rebel against Him in unbelief. At the same time, God didn't make "puppet angels" or "robot humans." Angels and human beings chose to step outside of God's boundaries as they entertained wicked thoughts and evil behavior.

"But I thought God gets everything He wants." Well, think of it this way. God wanted to allow men and angels to obey or disobey. And so that's the way God established things. We can trust Christ to save our soul, or we can go our own way. Just because God wants everyone to believe in His Son doesn't mean everyone will do so. And just because Jesus died on the cross for everyone doesn't mean everyone will accept His death as the payment for their sins.

"So it comes down to those God has predestined, right?" Well, that depends on how you are "applying" the doctrine of predestination. For example, some people are contrite over their sins and are ready to have the Gospel applied to them, while others lack repentance and are in immediate need of the Law. Likewise, the doctrine of predestination is not to be "handed out" indiscriminately.

The doctrine of predestination is there to provide comfort to believers. It is intended to assure us that God is not going to let go of us. But the doctrine of predestination is not in the Bible for unbelievers. In other words, it is not there to suggest to unbelievers that some of them may not be "predestined." Logically, that would seem to make sense in light of the biblical doctrine of predestination. But the Bible is light years ahead of human logic and human reasoning. While Scripture does indeed teach that God predestined His children to be in His family, (see Eph. 1:4,5,11) it doesn't teach "double predestination." There is not a single passage in the Bible which teaches that God predestines some people to spend eternity in hell.

This apparent inconsistency can be compared to the doctrine of the Trinity. Scripture reveals that God is Three Persons in One God. But that doesn't seem logical. How can there be three in one? And yet, this is exactly what the Bible reveals to us about God's nature. If we based every biblical doctrine upon human logic, we would end up with one God and one Person; or three Gods and three Persons. But neither of those logical positions are taught in Scripture. And neither is double predestination.

The apostle Paul wrote, "And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified." (Romans 8:30) At first blush, one might be tempted to think this verse implies that unbelievers are predestined to hell. But that's not at all what this verse or any other verse in the Bible teaches. This passage is aimed at believers to assure Christians of our eternal salvation.

The passages which give instruction to unbelievers are those such as Mark 1:15, where Jesus said, "Repent and believe the good news." Notice what Jesus didn't say: "Repent and believe if you are predestined." The message of Scripture is clear: "God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:4) And "Christ died for sins once for all." (1 Peter 3:18)

There are some Scripture passages that teach Jesus died for the sins of the world. (see Heb. 2:9 and John 3:16) Other passages state He died for the sins of His sheep. (see John 10:15) And still other passages state He died for the world and for His sheep. (see 1 John 2:2) But there is not so much as one verse of Scripture which teaches that Jesus died only for His sheep. Not one. It simply isn't taught in Scripture. Christ died for all, plain and simple. (1 Peter 3:18)

When we get to heaven, it will become clear to us. "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Cor. 12:12) In the meantime, search the Scriptures. And above all, rely upon Christ alone for the salvation of your soul. "All who rely upon observing the law are under a curse." (Gal. 3:10) That is, those who attempt to earn their way into heaven will be tragically disappointed.

Many people wrongly assume there is no way to reconcile predestination with God's desire to save everyone. In reality, these biblical doctrines are actually compatible. And why shouldn't they be? Our Creator is "not a God of disorder but of peace." (1 Cor. 14:33) We are the ones who make things confusing by thinking that human reasoning is capable of keeping up with God's Word.

Remember, Scripture is light years ahead of human reasoning. And when we get to heaven, our knowledge will instantly be light years ahead of where it is right now.

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Neb. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.