Does the Bible Teach Predestination?

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Does the Bible Teach Predestination?

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Many religions teach some form of predestination, but is this teaching biblical? There are variations of the doctrine, but among the most common is the idea that God long ago predetermined every detail of every person's life, including whether He would save or condemn that person. However, doesn't this approach deny a fundamental teaching of the Bible—that we have freedom of choice and that God holds us accountable for the choices that we make?

Notice how God has consistently worked with His people down through the ages. God instructed Israel, urging them to make right choices with that knowledge and then holding them accountable for the choices that they made. Deuteronomy 30:19 illustrates how God works. He told Israel, "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live." He didn't predetermine the outcome; they had a choice.

Once God extends His invitation or calling to a person, that person must choose whether to respond, and must choose to continue to be faithful. God does not force His Spirit on anyone.

God works the same way with Christians today. Christ said: "For every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36). This is but one of numerous scriptures that assure us God will have us answer for our actions. Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 show that we are all to appear before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ to be judged according to what we have done. If God had predetermined our judgment, this would make no sense.

Thus we see from the Scriptures that God did not predetermine everyone's course of action or everyone's salvation. God could not justifiably judge anyone for failing to make a right choice, if He predetermined the choice that the person would make.

There are some who will argue: "God is omniscient. Therefore, He knows in advance what choice people will make." Just as a parent has an idea in advance what choices his children will make in a given situation, God has a good idea what people—His children—will do. But having an idea of what choice people would make is far different from predetermining it. Because He grants mankind free choice, He cannot know what individual choices will be until a person actually makes his or her choice.

What does the Bible teach about predestination?

God predetermined that He would call humans to salvation. "Salvation" involves a conversion process, not merely a passing emotional decision to "give one's heart to the Lord." The process begins with God's calling; is followed by repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Spirit and living a life in submission to God's instructions; and concludes when God changes Christians to immortal spirit sons and daughters in His family. 

He predetermined that He would call and choose a select few to salvation before Christ's return (Matthew 22:14; 1 Corinthians 1:26-27).

He also predetermined that He will give everyone a chance at salvation—which means that most will have to be brought back to life to receive not a second chance but their only chance for salvation. 

There were rare instances where God predestined or chose certain individuals for specific responsibilities or even physical inheritances prior to birth—Jacob, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, etc. But those had nothing to do with their salvation.

God didn't predetermine the existence of every person, for that would take all free choice away from the conception of every life from Cain and Abel on down. Nor does it mean that God guarantees everyone He calls to salvation will be in His Kingdom. Once God extends His invitation or calling to a person, that person must choose whether to respond, and must choose to continue to be faithful. God does not force His Spirit on anyone.

Each Christian continues to exercise free choice, making decisions every day to resist temptation and to live by God's way of life. If a Christian makes poor choices or drifts away from God, he or she can lose salvation (Hebrews 6:4-6).


  • lewis
    Hi Maxwe11 and BrianKinney, Maxwe11 you make a good point that "Yes, God gave man dominion over all things but only insomuch that we accept our Christhood, our freedom, our true I-dentity in His image and not the false personal i-dentity." God does give us dominion and freedom but, like you said, we must "accept" His calling and consciously strive to take on the character traits of God and strive to make that our true identity. God does the calling and then sets the choice in front of us to make (I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; (Deuteronomy 30:19 NKJV)). God chooses certain people at certain times and ensures that His overall plan happens. Sometimes He changes His mind (Exodus 4:10-16; Exodus 32:7-14; Jonah 3:10) and is surprised by our actions (Jeremiah 19:5). He tested Abraham to see what his character was like (Genesis 22:12) because He needed to know if He could trust Abraham to follow Him. If there is no free will then there is no judgment. If there is no judgment then there is no right or wrong. If there is no right or wrong then there is no need for salvation. But we do need salvation because we have chosen to sin. If this was not a choice then there would be no consequence for what we do. But there are consequences for our sins (For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NKJV)). BrianKinney, that passage from Romans you mentioned shows that God chooses whoever He decides to choose for the job that He wants to be done. He can cause things to happen or prevent them from happening to cause His plan to move forward. We see that God loved Jacob and chose him to accomplish His will. However, Jacob still made choices that were against God's law and did things not the way God would have had him do them, like the way he went about receiving the birthright. God intended this blessing for Jacob. God used the poor choices of Jacob to accomplish His own will and to carry out His plan. I hope this helps answer some of your questions.
  • Larry Walker
    Most of mainstream Christianity has accepted the Greek philosophers' concept of God--that He is omniscient, omnipresent and unchangeable. God is omnipresent by means of His Spirit (Psalm 139:7-10). However, to suggest that He is omniscient and unchangeable as per the Greek concept implies that He cannot cannot continue to expand His knowledge or change His oourse of action--assertions which are unbiblical and contradictory to His plan of free moral agency. The Bible condemns this "wisdom of the world" and its inability to know God (1 Corinthians 1:18-23). The Openness of God by Clark Pinnock, et al presents a biblically documented rebuttal to this errant philosophical theology and presents a biblically based concept of the "hands on" God of history that has long been understood in the Hebraic culture. I have read the book and recommend it for enlightening and inspiring reading. The word "predestine" simply means to determine or decide something in advance of doing it. Ephesians 1:13-14 explains that God determined His plan of salvation in advance of actually carrying it out. We who are God's people today are part of that group of people that he determined in advance to call. But that doesn't mean that our individual calling was determined from the beginning. The UCG answer re. predestination explains that clearly. The Greek concept is incorrect, not because I said so, but because the apostle Paul said so.
  • BrianKinney
    If predestination is not biblical, how should I read Ephesians 1:3-14 where Paul talks about salvation? - "3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory." And how should I read Romans 9:6-29 where Paul talks about God's sovereign choice... "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." I don't mean to pick a fight, I'm actually really struggling with this stuff. Thank you for your help.
  • Maxwe11
    Everything, all the workings of the world down to the minutest of details are predetermined by the unfathomable omniscience of God. There are innumerable factors involved that make up the 'plan' and we simply cannot formulate a mathematical equation for this, 'for the ways of god are foolishness to man'. I am the Alpha & Omega, the beginning & end and therefore He knows the outcome of every situation. A leaf doesn't fall from the tree without the foreknowing volition of the Almighty. Your very thoughts are known even before the slightest ripple of a thought-wave and modern science has proven this. Your coming here to type a response was all mapped out... and God knew this, otherwise He couldn't be omniscient. He was with at the time of your physical birth, and will be with you when you discard the body. The above article is flawed. We cannot 'choose' our parents, our race, our gender, children, money etc. Fact - the choices we think we personally make are purely mechanical & limited, and even so, if we are to accept the statements in the first paragraph, then we must also accept that even these mechanical thoughts are predetermined. Let us not misconstrue what the prophets meant by free-will. It is that you should be empty of your personal self & let the 'will' of God be 'free' to express itself. "I of myself am nothing, thy will be done Father, not mine" - Jesus Yes, God gave man dominion over all things but only insomuch that we accept our Christhood, our freedom, our true I-dentity in His image and not the false personal i-dentity. In the garden of Eden we all ate of the tree of knowledge of duality & died to God. Know that even Satan was part of the greater plan and that even he couldn't budge but took his orders from upstairs. All this talk of free agency and freedom of choice to choose righteousness or resist temptation, when God already knows what you're going to do beforehand. All this is from the viewpoint of the personality. Give up this false identity and be as your Father is in heaven, perfection... to which nothing can be added, from which nothing -- taken away. Be in the world but not of it.
  • Asong Ngaihte
    Yes, I do feel that God Pre-determined our lives too. Our lives were all seen and forseen by God, who is omniscient..! I do understand that God gave us Free will, and also chosen certain people for certain reasons. He gave us the Choice, conscience: That all our lives were of our WILL and not Pre-determined. On second thought, God being Omniscient, our maker, life/soul giver. Wouldn't he knows our future, all these choices that were going to make or the choices that were not going to make or that even all these choices or thoughts comming to us. I understand that he doesn't interfere with free will. Interfere or not, He is the giver of the definition of FREE WILL, i bet he knows what our Free will would be. Isn't that means the choices of our free will is already acknowledge by him or limited by him. Doesn't that means its Pre-determined?
  • Ivan Veller

    Hi TRJ46, here are more articles related to this topic:
    • Does predestination mean that God has already predetermined who will be in His Kingdom?
    • In Psalm 139:13-16, it reads "In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed" [which] implies that our lives are predetermined by God? If not, why not?
    • Predestination: Are You Just a Pawn?

    For more, see:

  • Ivan Veller

    Hi Skip,

    What a great discussion topic! Here’s one possibility: “you are a chosen…people for God's possession, so that you may proclaim the [“excellent” (EMTV 2003)] virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, LEB 2010) of Truth.

    One minor note of clarification: The grammatically archaic phrase "for thy sake" (Genesis 3:17b Matthew-Tyndale 1537, 1549; Bishop’s 1568; Geneva 1583 (which places a colon after “sake”); KJV 1611, 1769; Webster 1833; Brenton 1851; RV 1885; ASV 1901) is an older English expression generally rendered "on thy [thine] account" (DBY 1890 [YLT 1898]) or, in more modern English, "because of you" (LITV 1976; ESV 2011) as in most translations. Semantically, the archaic form assumes the reader will place syntactic emphasis on the word 'thy' (as in "I apologize--this is all *my* fault"), rather than on the word 'sake' (as in "Eat your asparagus--this is for your *good*").

    I have a question: What does Timothy mean when he refers to “the elect angels” (1 Timothy 5:21, ESV 2011)?

  • TRJ46

    No. GOD gave us free will; But there are certain peoples, like the Israely Nation,and certain individuals, who are called "my chosen", who, while having free will, have been "set aside" in whose lives The Lord can,at any time and for The Lord's purpose,do GOD's will and not their's. GOD is always fair, so when they are doing The Lord's Will and not their's, are not held accountable. The apostle Paul was bent on destroying the Church of CHRIST and on his way to Damascus he was following his own will, but The Lord overrode Paul's intentions and made him follow GOD's will. The Pharaoh holding Israel captive, after the plagues decided to let them go, but GOD had another plan, so HE "harden Pharaoh's heart" and The Pharaoh went after them.

  • TRJ46

    When I study the bible, it is clear to me, that our Father has predetermined/predestined/chosen, not all, but certainly many of his children; not for a particular moment or purpose in time, but for any time that will serve HIS PURPOSE during that person or people's lifetime. Example: "I have chosen you before the foundations of the world", is a statement uttered by GOD plenty of times in the bible. Israel are HIS chosen people. "I knew you before you were in your mother's womb" has said The Lord. "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated", saith the Lord (before they were even born!).

  • Skip Miller

    Hello TRJ46,

    You are correct. There have been certain individuals chosen by God
    for a specific purpose at a specific time.
    Also, Israel is His chosen people.
    That having been said, where does this leave you & me?

    I am being given an opportunity NOW to respond to an incredible offer.
    But not everyone is being given that opportunity, NOW.

    Predestination is a "doctrine" that limits God's plan.

    The UCG booklet, "What is Your Destiny?" addresses this issue
    and shows the bountiful future available to every human
    at God's proper time.

  • Skip Miller

    Right on! TRJ46

    But I have to ask, "Chosen for what?"

    I'm reading in Genesis right now & I see, (Gen 3: 17)
    "Cursed is the ground FOR your sake."
    Sounds like God cursed the ground to bring about something good.

    My point?
    Unless or until you understand why Israel was "chosen" you can't really talk about predestination.

    It is quite possible that most descendants of Jacob or Esau have no idea for what they have been chosen.

    The good news is that the Truth is better for both.

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