If you have been a Calvinist for some time, you have heard the objection “Predestination is a mystery,” or some version of that. Often it is a good-intentioned pious remark, and other times it is intended to blunt discussion on the certainty that God has spoken with clarity of his freedom in saving a people for himself. Recently someone responded to me,
“I’m not a complete fan of Calvinism…because I feel it’s a little too boxy for such a huge, deep spiritual truth [predestination] within a Spiritual realm that we cannot completely comprehend.”
Not sure what is meant by “completely comprehend”? If he means by that we cannot completely comprehend God’s unfathomable love for us rebel sinners that he would elect us unto salvation, then no one is going to disagree with that. But if he means that we cannot have certainty that God has spoken with clarity of his free grace to bestow on undeserved sinners because that truth is too “deep” then I completely disagree since the apostle Paul is absolutely clear in Romans 9 that election does not depend on what we do but on his freedom and wisdom.
Do we claim that since the Trinity is a deep spiritual truth we cannot have certainty that the Bible teaches the Trinity? We can have certainty of the fundamentals of the Trinity: 1) Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father are Divine 2) There is only one God 3) and Equality of the Persons. Certainly we cannot have “complete comprehension” regarding the depths of the intimate relationship between the persons. Certainly we are not privy to the mystery of God incarnate. Yet, we have certainty that this is what the Bible teaches–and believing this is not putting God in a “box.” We can be a “complete fan” of Trinitarianism. And we can be a “complete fan of Calvinism” since it is Calvinism that is faithful to the clarity of Scripture on God’s freedom in salvation.
Has God spoken with clarity on his freedom in the predestination of his people? Absolutely. One cannot read Romans 9 and come away from it thinking, “The reason that I am elected is because of something I did.” To claim that predestination is a “mystery” is to contradict the apostle Paul in Ephesians 1 who says that the mystery of predestination has been made known! It is no longer a mystery! The will of the Father has been revealed:
“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.”(Ephesians 1:9-12)
Somewhat related to this is the question that I am often asked, “Why did God choose someone over some other person?” My simple response is to turn to Ephesians chapter 1 and give them these specific Biblical reasons listed below:
In love he predestined us (v.4,5)
to be holy and blameless in his sight (v.4)
to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ (v.5)
in accordance with his pleasure and will (v.5)
to the praise of his glorious grace (v.6)
in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (v.7)
according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, (v.9)
according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (v.11)
Amazingly though, some are not satisfied with Paul’s answers here. They are not content that the reason that someone is elected is for God’s purpose, will, and special love. They cannot accept that God’s wisdom is perfect and just in his choice of the elect. Sometimes I even get a sense that they want an answer that involves what we have done for God to choose us! They are seeking a man-centered reason for the cause of election–not a God-centered reason as Paul lays out in Ephesians 1. We can be thankful that God has spoken with clarity on predestination, and that it depended on his freedom and mercy, and not on our God-hating rebel wills. If the word “predestination” is not one of the sweetest words to a believer’s ear (as it was for the apostle Paul) then some evaluation is needed of that heart.