Friday DIVE – 10November2023


WELCOME and THANKS for joining us.






A. While the Bible may not have the word “predestination” in it, the concept of predestination is certainly in it … as evidenced by the following passages …

  • Romans 8:29  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
  • Romans 8:30  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
  • Ephesians 1:5  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
  • Ephesians 1:11  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

B.  Clearly, the concept of predestination is something that the Bible speaks to.

C.  Three weeks ago, we started to explore what GCI has written on the subject of predestination by reviewing an article by Mike Feazell, a theologian/Bible scholar at GCI.

D.  Tonight, in our Bible study, we’re going to continue that exploration.


by J. Michael Feazell



God is God; he can do what he, of his own free will, decides to do in accord with who he is.  The Holy Spirit inspired biblical writers to record occasions in which God changed.  The Bible shows us that God created a world for himself in which he can and does abide, work, enjoy himself and rest.  The universe depends on God for every moment of its existence, the Bible tells us, yet God takes pleasure in what he has made and is actively involved in its life and journey.

The “God of the TULIP” has to create what amounts to a grand DVD recording of entirely predetermined outcomes and characters who can’t wrestle with him, can’t talk back to him, challenge him, or, conversely, can’t truly love him, except as he has written it all into the script.  He is in control, but of what?  Of what amounts to an enormous cosmic screenplay.  He has set up the universe and is now letting it play itself out in the way that he determined, and it goes like clockwork.

But the God of the Bible — who in his divine freedom has created a universe that is free, with truly free people — exercises his awesome creativity and genius continually, because, in spite of sinning and rebellious humans, he brings about his purpose for them. He allows choices because he is able to handle all the possible outcomes.

God is neither threatened by, nor overcome by, human free will and the time and chance he built into his universe.  Rather, he works within them to bring about a human redemption that is purified in the midst of authentic relationships. (see Proverbs 16:9;19:21)  He is constantly bringing good out of evil and light out of darkness through his indescribable grace freely demonstrated most supremely in Jesus Christ.

The God of the Bible does not force anyone to trust him.  He doesn’t remove anyone’s freedom to refuse him.  Yet, he is infinitely creative in his means of knocking on the doors of our human castles, inviting, even urging, us to invite him in.  This is the God who became one of us in Jesus Christ.  This is the God who is united with us and in communion with us through Christ.  This is the God who loves us and who calls on us to love one another as he loves us.


Divine freedom

God is free to be who he is.  “I Am Who I Am,” or “I Will Be Who I Will Be,” is who this God says he is (Exodus 3:14).  He is free to create the universe and humanity and interact with them in whatever way pleases him, and what pleases him is to be faithful to and with his creations.

Our freedom to be who we are in Christ is not a freedom that we have simply by virtue of existing.  It is a freedom given to us by God, entrusted to us, and dependent on God’s own freedom to give it to us.  We are free to accept or reject God’s grace only because God holds us in the palm of his hand, not because we have personal sovereignty in and of ourselves.  People can reject God, but in rejecting God they are also rejecting themselves, because their freedom is upheld only by the God they are rejecting.


Immutable and impassible

In our efforts to discuss and describe God, we have no choice but to use analogies and comparisons to created things we know about.  But we must keep in mind that in all our analogies and comparisons, God is not even on the same plane as any of the created things (objects, roles or passions) we might use in describing him.  Even the pronoun “He” is only an analogy; we should not get the idea that God is actually male or female.  (The term “Father” refers to the relationship between the Father and the Son [John 1:14, 18, 34] and the Father and creation [Ephesians 3:14-15]; the Father is infinitely greater than any human concept of “father.”)

God — Father, Son and Spirit — is the source and cause of all being and existence.  He brings everything into being without anything bringing him into being.  He is pure Being, that “Is-ness” from which all other being flows.  All things depend on him for their existence, and he depends on nothing for his existence.

When we say God is “immutable” or “unchangeable,” we do not mean that God cannot change as He, in his eternal, uncreated freedom, chooses to change.  We mean that God cannot be changed by anything outside himself, as though he were a created being.

  • But what about Malachi 3:6: “For I the Lord do not change”?
  • This and other passages about God’s unchangeableness are declarations of God’s faithfulness to his covenant promise.  (“Therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished,” he continues.)  Within that unchanging faithfulness to his beloved people, there are many ups and downs, twists in the tale, disappointments and surprises.  God declares that despite all your trials of faith and doubt, he will not change his mind about loving you and saving you.
  • God’s covenant faithfulness is the theme throughout the Bible.  God made promises to Abraham, and those promises included the salvation of the whole world through the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16, 29).
  • The Bible is the record of God’s faithfulness to those promises.

When we say that God is “impassible” (incapable of feeling), we do not mean that God cannot feel.  We mean, rather, that God cannot be hurt against his will by anything outside himself.  In his divine freedom, God can, and does, of himself, change and feel.  God cannot be acted on against his will, but in his divine freedom, he acts.  When God created the universe, he freely in grace and love became something new — Creator — and he did so in the freedom of his grace and love.  Likewise, when the Son became flesh in the Incarnation, God became something new — human like us and for our sakes.  God did not have to create, nor did he have to become flesh, but he did so in his divine freedom out of the abundance of his grace and love.


In control

In his eternal serenity and tranquility, God is not depressed, confused, worried, or bowled over by human sin, tragedy and disasterHe knows his power and purpose and what he is bringing out of it all.  As Michael Jinkins put it,

God the Creator is intimately, passionately involved in creation continuously from beginning to end and at every nanosecond in between … All things spring continuously from the God who loves them into existence, loves them redemptively throughout their existence and loves them toward God’s final and full purpose. (Invitation to Theology, InterVarsity Press, 2001, p. 90)

The universe is not “on its own.”  “Cause and effect” is not all there isThe universe functions according to general rules laid out by its Creator, but it is not detached from its Creator’s free and gracious will and creatively sustaining presence.   God made things in such a way that they bump and collide their way through what we might call a “randomly ordered” existence.  We are subject to “time and chance,” yet we believe, as Christians, that our loving God uses these very real, and often painful happenstances of “time and chance” to mysteriously and graciously bring us out of darkness into his marvelous light.


Always faithful

The “God” of Plato and Aristotle could not change, because for “God” to change would mean that “God” was not already perfect.  So “God” was called the “unmoved mover.”

But the God of the Bible has no problem with changing whenever he decides to, and he remains perfect and perfectly God all the while.  He haggled with Abraham over the fate of Sodom, agreeing to change his plan under certain conditions (Genesis 18:16-33).

God changed his mind about saving the Israelites when they started worshiping the calf at Mount Sinai, then allowed Moses to talk him out of killing them all and starting the whole plan over with Moses’ children (Exodus 32:7-14).  He accommodated himself to Israel’s desire for a king even though they were making a mistake, and he would still ultimately deliver them from their rebellion (1 Samuel 8; Hosea 11:9; 14:4).  He changed his plan regarding wicked King Ahab’s punishment (1 Kings 21:27-29).

God is sovereign, but God, who is Father, Son and Spirit, is sovereign the way he chooses to be, not the way the greatest human thinkers conclude the ultimate cause of all things must logically be.  God will be who God will be, and he has revealed himself to be, for us and with us, the Father of Jesus Christ, the Sender of the Holy Spirit, the Forgiver of sins, the Lover of souls, our Savior, our Deliverer, our Comforter, our Advocate, our Helper, our Strengthener, our Righteousness, our Peace, our Hope, our Life, our Light, our Friend and many other good and wonderful things.

God is smarter than we are, and our ideas about God aren’t always correct.  God doesn’t behave the way we would expect.  We cannot package him to make him more appealing. We cannot mold him into our imagined idea of what a proper and respectable, board-certified God ought to be like.  God is not an unmoved mover who created a windup world of preprogrammed automatons.  Nor is God “way out there,” merely looking down and watching and judging us as some detached Super-being.

He is the immanent one, that is, God with usHe is here, has been all along, and always will be, simply because he wants to beBecause he loves usBecause he made us real, to be real with him and in him and through him.  Far from some platonic impersonal “other,” this God is always active and involved in his creation.  He gets his hands dirty.  He takes this reeking and sin-infested hovel we have turned the world into, and by the power of the bloody and unjust crucifixion of his own incarnate self, he cleans, redeems, transforms and ushers us and it into the joy of his eternal kingdom.

In Christ Jesus, God brings humanity into union and communion with the essence of who he is.  We are one with him by his action on our behalf, not for our own sakes, but for the sake of Christ, who became for us the perfect human.  If we are in him, we are in union with God, not as Gods, but as humans in union with the God/man, Jesus, who is human and divine for our sakes.  Our continual communion, or fellowship, with him is a continual confirmation of and participation in that grand truth — we are God’s children in Christ.


Free in God’s faithfulness

We must not get the idea that God has to create, or that creation necessarily (that is, automatically, like a fire must necessarily produce heat) flows from him.  God creates entirely in his divine freedom, not because he is a creation machine.  Nor must we get the idea that God creates because he is lonely, or because there was something “missing” in God that compelled him to create.  God is not lonely.  The triune God is complete in every way, including in love, joy and perfection, without the creation.

God does not need the creation.  God does not depend on the creation.  The creation does not add anything to God that God “lacked.”  The creation happened because God freely made it happen in the abundance of his joy and love, not because he had to or needed to, but simply because he wanted to.

So when we talk about God’s covenant faithfulness, we can begin to see how certain our trust in God can be.  God brought the world into being for the sheer joy of it, redeemed humanity because he loved the people he made, and holds all things, all existence, including yours and mine, in the palm of his hand.

We can trust him because we know we exist only because he says so.  If he has gone to all the trouble, while we were still his enemies, to redeem us through the cross (the hard part), how much more certain can we be that he will see our salvation through to the end (the easy part) now that we are his friends (Romans 5:8-11)?

God creates and God redeems because he wants to, not because we asked him to, or got him to, or talked him into it, or convinced him to, or behaved really well.  He did it because he is good, because he is love, because he is who he is.  Your behavior is not going to change who God is, nor who God is toward you.  If it could, he would not be God, because God cannot be changed by any incantations or spells or nice or naughty deeds you can throw at him.

You cannot manipulate God or coerce himYou can only trust him and receive the good things he has given you, or not trust him and refuse the good things he has given youYou have that freedom, a created freedom that reflects and derives from God’s own uncreated divine freedom.  It is freedom to trust him, to commune with him, to love him.  You can turn it into freedom to reject him if you want, but you don’t have to.


Assurance of salvation

Since the blood of Christ covers all sin, and he atoned for the whole world (1 John 2:1-2), then predestination, or election, in the sense of being chosen by God to be his people, applies to everyone through Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10).  It is received and enjoyed only by those who accept it in faith, but it applies to everyone.

Some people are called to faith in Christ and experience his redemption before others do (Ephesians 1:12).  Those called to faith early are a living testament to the grace God has poured out on the world, a grace that will come fully into view at the appearing of Christ (Titus 2:11-14).

It is all done according to the foreknowledge of the God of grace who has been working out in Christ his gracious plan for humanity from the beginning (Matthew 25:34).  When it comes to assurance of salvation, we trust in God who justifies the ungodly, which we areWe are saved by grace alone, not by our works, so our assurance rests in the sure word of the God of free grace.

Here is what, by the testimony of Jesus Christ, we know to be certain: God loves us, and we do not have to fear that we won’t be savedHe saves us in spite of our sins because he is faithful and full of grace.  The only people who will not enjoy his salvation are those who do not want it.

Someone may say that in this treatment of predestination we have oversimplified a complex theological matter, and no doubt we have.  But this we know: God calls on us to trust him.  If you and I are to trust him, we have to know that our relationship with him matters.  We have to know that we are more than cogs in a deterministic machine of human pain, sorrow and tragedy.  We have to know that God loves us, that he loves us so much that he sent his own Son to bail us out of a lifetime of horrible decisions and sin by taking all of it on himself in our place, even though we didn’t deserve such mercy.

Without a doubt, we can trust a God like that.  We can throw in our lot with him and follow him to the ends of the earth, because we owe him our lives now and forever.


Important endnote

1 Please do not take anything I have written here to mean that I think people who hold the TULIP position are in any way “lesser” Christians than those who don’t.  That would be a great mistake.  Christians are people who put their faith in Jesus Christ, pure and simple.  We are not measured by our theologies, but by God’s grace freely given to us in Jesus Christ.  Our faith is in him, not in theology books.  Theology is important, but it is not the root of our salvation.  Jesus is.

Devoted and faithful Christian theologians have struggled throughout the centuries to find adequate words and concepts to inform our faith about how God exercises his sovereignty in the world.  They do not always agree.  Even so, the Christian struggle to understand and talk about God theologically is a worthy pursuitIt reflects our desire as Christians to use the reasoning power God has given us to seek greater understanding of our biblically grounded and personally experienced faith.

Though we may disagree with one another on certain points (none of us has perfect understanding), as believers we are all God’s children, washed in the blood of our Savior, and he calls on us to love one another.  In Christ, we can respect one another’s views, hear the issues that we each raise, in humility form our own conclusions, and still love one another as fellow partakers of the mercies of God.

Author: J. Michael Feazell

















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