By Femi Aribisala
I find it astonishing that anyone who knows God would subscribe to a doctrine of predestination. But this is precisely what Paul does in his ep-istles. He maintains God predestines some people to salvation and others to condemnation: “God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” (Rom. 9:18). I beg, most sincerely, to disagree.
God is not capricious or unjust. Abraham asks: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25). Of course, he will. Therefo-re, predestination must be anathema to him. Indeed, Paul soon contradicts his own thes-is.
While insisting God hardens those he wants to harden; he goes on to say in the same epistle: “God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all.” (Rom. 11: 32). But if God wou-ld have mercy on all, why then would he harden anybody? If he wou-ld have mercy on all, it cannot be said at the same time that he would only have mercy on so-me. This kind of contradiction does not come by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (II Tim. 3:16).
Esau and Jacob
Paul fabricates scripture in support of his fla-wed theory. He says while Rebecca was still pregnant, God had already chosen Jacob in preference to Esau: “For the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘The older shall serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.’” (Rom. 9:11-13).
This is not true. Nowhere in the scriptures is it written that God lo-ved Jacob and hated Esau before they were born. In order to give this false impression, Paul combines Moses with Malachi. According to Moses, the Lord said to Rebecca while she was still pregnant: “Two NATIONS are in your womb, two PEOPLES shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.” (Gen. 25:23).
There is absolutely nothing here to suggest God loved Jacob and hated Esau before they were born. But over 1,000 years later, Malachi looks back and reports God as saying: “Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated.” (Mal. 1:2-3). However, it is clear that Malachi’s “Jacob” and “Esau” are not individuals but PEO-PLES. “Esau” refers to the descendants of Esau; while “Jacob” refers to the descendants of Jac-ob. Thus, Malachi calls Esau: “the people against whom the LORD will have indignation forever.” (Mal. 1:4).
Malachi says God has loved the people of Jacob and has hated the people of Esau. The indivi-duals were not loved and hated from the womb as Paul would have us beli-eve. The peoples were loved and hated because God had seen their works for over 1,000 years. Indeed, for a long time, “Esau” was favoured and blessed of the Lord. God even gave Mount Seir to his descendants. (Deut. 2:4-5).
A bankrupt doctrine
Predestination has no place in Jesus’ doctrine. Nowhere does Jesus say God saves by a selection he makes before we are born. Instead, he says salvation is by works: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21). Jesus says to Jewish religious leaders: “A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.
Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, ‘The first.’ Jesus then replied: ‘Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.’” (Matt. 21:28-31).
This means salvation is contingent upon our freewill action. It has nothing to do with predestination. Tax-collectors and harlots will enter the kingdom of God before the pastors because the former repent of their sins while the latter become sinners. What Jesus gives here is a prophecy, which should not be confused with predesti-nation. The prophecy says: “The last (tax-collectors) will be first and the first (pastors) last.” (Matt. 20:16). Adam and Eve were not predestined to eat the forbidden fru-it. They did so of their own free will.
Measure for measure
God is impartial. Jesus says: “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. 5:45). Peter, who learnt at the feet of Jesus, echoes this, affirming that: “God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:34-35). As far as salvation is concerned, Jesus maintains we only receive from God what we deserve. He says in the kingdom of God: “With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Mark 4:24).
Thus, Jesus enjoins us: “Forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in he-aven will forgive you your sins too.”(Mark 11:25). He also says in his beatitud-es: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matt. 5:7). The merciful obtain mercy because they are merciful and not because of predestination.
Paul says some people are created for salvation while others are created for damnation. Anticipating that some would question the injustice here, Paul goes into pre-emptive overdrive. He asks: “Who are you to reply against God?” But Paul is not God. He then asks: “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory?’” (Rom. 9:22-23).
However, if salvation were by gratuitous predestination, Jesus’ ministry would have been a complete waste of ti-me. Jesus says: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:32) But what would be the point if, according to Paul, there are vessels of wrath already prepared beforehand for destruction; and vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory? What is the point of preaching the gospel to Jews if, according to Paul, “all Israel will be saved” in any case? (Rom. 11:26).
Jesus says: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6: 44). This is often used in support of predestination, forgetting that Jesus then says: “I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself.” (John 12:32) Since Christ was lifted up on the cross, this means he draws all men to himself. However, most refuse to be dra-wn.
Paul says: “Whom (God) predestined, the-se He also called; whom He called, these He also justified.” (Rom. 8:30) But Jesus disagrees. He says: “Many are called but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14). Definitely, God would not bother to call those he had predetermined not to choose.
On the contrary, Jesus’ position shows God does not choose anybody beforehand; otherwise he would automatically choose whoever he calls. Judas was called but he was ultimately not chosen. Jesus’ major principle of salvation says: “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:25) The conditionality makes it up to us, and not up to God, whether we are heirs of salvation.
In effect, Paul’s predestination doctrine is a fallacy inclined to make Christians fatalistic and complacent. Beware. This can lead to condemnation.