Doctrine of Predestination
November 20th, 1955 @ 8:15 AM
DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-20-55 8:15 a.m.
Thank you choir, and the wonderful praying people who so largely, unbelievably to me, are attending these 8:30 o’clock services. Now we are to bring our minds with us, as well as our hearts, and especially at this early morning hour, for each one of these services at 8:30 o’clock will be dedicated to a great doctrinal presentation from the Word of God; like the vision that Ezekiel had when he saw the water of life flowing from the altar in the temple in Jerusalem, down the wadi of the Kidron, down to the Dead Sea, and wherever the water went, it brought life. And he sought to cross the stream at ankle-deep, knee-deep, waist-deep, neck-deep—and finally a great river over which no man could cross [Ezekiel 47:1-5]. So in our study of the Word; there will be many times, and one is this morning—there will be many times when the water will be so deep, the depth of the riches of God so unsearchable and unfathomable, until we can just look and adore and worship. But that does not mean that we ought not to look. Let us look. Let us open our minds and our eyes and look upon the marvelous works of God.
I do not say I can understand it all, least of all would I say I could explain it, but I do say we can open the Book and look upon the riches of the wisdom of the counsels of God. Now in the forty-fourth and the forty-sixth chapters of Isaiah, we are going to take our text on this doctrine of foreordination, of predestination. In the forty-fourth chapter of Isaiah, the twenty-fourth verse to the end of the chapter:
Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, and He that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by Myself—
didn’t have anybody helping Me; I did that—
That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;
That confirmeth the word of His servant, and performeth the counsel of His messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:
That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:
That saith of Cyrus, He is My shepherd, and shall perform all My pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.
Do you see anything in that? Well, this is it. When did Cyrus live? And when did Cyrus do all of those things? Cyrus flourished in 550 BC. When did Isaiah say these things? When did Isaiah live? Isaiah lived 750 BC! More than two hundred years before this thing came to pass, Isaiah prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed and desolate, that Judah would be without inhabitants—it would be waste, would be vacuum and sterile and empty. And two hundred years before it happened, Isaiah called the ruler by name who would come and give the decree that Judah should be inhabited and Jerusalem should be rebuilt and the foundations of the temple re-laid [Isaiah 44:28]. That’s our God.
Now, just to turn the page, just to show you how this is interwoven all through the Bible—just turn the page, just one page. In the forty-sixth chapter of Isaiah and beginning at the ninth verse, listen to the Word of the Lord:
For I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure:
Calling unto the ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth My counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
That’s our God! Now that’s what you call foreordination. That’s what you call predestination! That’s Calvinism! And I am a Calvinist. That’s good old Bible doctrine, and I believe the Bible! These things are in God’s hands, and ultimately, finally, He purposed it and executeth all of it!
Now, let’s start. It belongs to the perfection of God to have a purpose, a design. You cannot think of God apart from His purposes, His choices, His decrees, His decisions. You can’t think of God apart from the plan of God anymore than you can think of the sun without its heat and its light.
God does not rule this universe by whim or caprice. He does not do it opportunistically or adventitiously. But God does it by purpose, by plan, and by design. God has a plan. It belongs, I say, to the perfection of God that He have a plan. It belongs to the sovereignty of God that He executes that plan. God sees it through no matter what, no matter when, no matter how, no matter the obstacles, no matter what occasion may arise, no matter what enemy may intervene or may interpose, God carries that plan through!
You can see that beautifully, wonderfully, and openly illustrated in His great plan of redemption, which has taken all the ages to execute. The Lord God said, “And He shall be born of a woman”—not of a man—“of a woman” [Genesis 3:15]. And the Lord God said, “And He shall be of the seed of Abraham” [Genesis 22:18]. And the Lord God said, “And He shall be an Israelite; He shall come of Jacob, of Israel” [Genesis 28:14]. And the Lord God said, “And He shall come of Judah” [Genesis 49:10]. And the Lord God said, “And He shall come of David” [Jeremiah 23:5]. And the Lord God said, “And it will happen over there in that little town of Bethlehem” [Micah 5:2]. And the Lord God said, “And He will be a humble man. He will be meek and lowly [Zechariah 9:9], but He will speak peace to all the nations of the world” [Isaiah 9:7].
The Lord God unfolded that plan through all of the centuries and the millennium. That’s our God! And no matter what interposes, the Lord’s purpose carries through. Satan tried to intervene, over Bethlehem did he raised the bloody sword to no effect or no avail [Matthew 2:14-18]. In Nazareth, he stirred up the hearts of the townspeople to cast the Savior over the brow of the hill on which their town was built, but He walked through their midst [Luke 4:28-30]. In the temple, they sought to kill Him by stoning Him, stoning Him [John 8:59]. In Gethsemane—there are many of your fine scholars who think that the great battle in Gethsemane was between Satan and Jesus, when Satan tried to kill the Lord, to murder Him there, that He might not go to the cross and be our Savior [Matthew 26:47-50]. On the cross He died [Matthew 27:32-50], but He was raised triumphant [Matthew 28:1-7], and out of death came victory and life [1 Corinthians 15:54-57]. This is our God! He carries through those infinitely wise and benevolent purposes. And everything that happens fits into that infinite plan of an all-wise God.
Why a lamb at the Passover? [Exodus 12:1-13]. Why a lamb? Centuries and millenniums later, we learn why the lamb [John 1:29]. But it was a lamb back there. Why was it on Mt. Moriah that the temple was built? Why did God say to David, “Buy Araunah’s threshing floor, and there make an altar and a sacrifice” [2 Samuel 24:18-21], and there the temple was built? [2 Chronicles 3:1]. It was because centuries before that, on that very place, Abraham had offered up his son, Isaac [Genesis 22:1-13]. And why did God choose that for the offering up of Isaac? Because that was to be the place where God’s Son was to be presented to the people and there made an offering for our sins [Matthew 21:1-13]. Rahab was told to hang a scarlet line up in the window that might be the saving of her and her house [Joshua 2:18-21]. Why a scarlet line? That’s our God! Everything fits into the great, infinite picture, as the Lord works out His will in the world.
Now, just to save us time—and you won’t have opportunity to turn to them, because I have copied them down. Just to save us time, may I read to you just some of the passages from God’s Book that so clearly speak of this thing of the foreordination, this thing of the predestination, this thing of the predetermining purposes of God?
- Romans 8:28: “Called according to His purpose.”
- Ephesians 1:11: “Foreordained according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will.”
- Ephesians 3:11: “According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Isaiah 14:26-27: “This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched upon all nations. For Jehovah of hosts hath purposed … and His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?”
- Daniel 4:35: “He that doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand.”
- Psalms 119:89: “For ever, O God, Thy word is settled, is established, is fixed in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: Thou hast established the earth, and it abideth. They abide this day according to Thine ordinances, Thy decrees” [Psalm 119:89-91].
- Job 14:1-5: “Man that is born of woman is but a few days, and full of trouble. His days are determined.” I have so many days to live, and God has numbered them. There is a time and a place known to God when the brittle thread of my life shall be cut off. “His days are determined. The number of His months are with Thee.” God knows them. He knows the exact moment when each one of us shall die. “The number of our months are with Thee, Thou hast appointed our bounds that we cannot pass.” No man can go beyond that day and that hour that God hath determined in which a man shall live.
- Acts 2:23: “Being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God; even the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay.”
- Acts 4:27-28: “Of a truth in this city, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel foreordained to come to pass.”
- Revelation 17:17: “For God did put in their hearts to do His will, and to come to one mind, and to give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God should be fulfilled!”
All of these things, says the Lord God Almighty, are according to the foreordained and predetermined and infinite counsels of God, who lives and reigns in heaven [Psalm 11:4, 47:7-8]. Now that thing, I see all around me, and I don’t see anything else but that all around me: the pre- and fore-determined counsels, and wisdom, and sovereignty, and executed purposes of Almighty God. I see it in the origin of things. I see it in the origin of all living things.
Innate matter doesn’t give birth to life. You can look at that dirt, rock, earth, matter forever, and it will never originate life. That comes from the great first mover, God. It comes from the choices of God! In our own living, no dead man could ever spontaneously originate his own resurrection. No infant could ever originate its own beginning. No created thing could ever originate its own creation. These things lie in the counsels and in the choices of Almighty God.
And that same determining character of God is manifest in the continuing generations of all of our lives. What man is there who will stand up and say to me, “Sir, you’re wrong. I chose the day and the age in which I was born. I didn’t choose to be born back there in the 1850s. I didn’t choose to be born in the 1490s. I chose to be born in the twentieth century,” some fellow, some fellow.
Who is the man who stands up and says to me, “I chose my parents. I did this. I did that. I wanted this mother and this father. I did that,” some man, some man. What fellow is there that stands up and he says, “And I chose my sex. I didn’t want to be a man. I wanted to be a woman. I didn’t want to be a woman. I chose to be a man?” Somebody you. Show me a man to stand up who could even say, “I chose the color of my eyes. I chose the stature that I have, how high I should grow. I chose the color of my hair.” You didn’t do anything except just come along as God allowed it, that’s all, that’s all! That’s our God! He chooses, He decrees, and He executes these great designs and these choices!
Now I say, I see it everywhere; not only in individuals, I see it in nations. God chooses nations. God does it. God chose the Greek people and the Greek culture and language that made possible the universal dissemination of the message of Christ. God chose the Roman nation and the Pax Romana that made possible the dissemination of the worldwide preaching of the gospel of Christ.
God chose the Jew. And what the Jew is and what he has done and what he has in the future is according to the pre- and foreordained knowledge and counsels of Almighty God. The Lord says, “And out of Judah shall He come who shall reign, and the scepter shall not depart from His hand” [Genesis 49:10]. That’s our God.
And the Lord God said to Judah and to the Jewish nation, and he will be here till I come again. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, this genos, this race, this kind shall not pass away until all these things be fulfilled” [Matthew 24:34].
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans, Paul says, “And so,” when God grafts back in the fallen tabernacle of Israel, when God pulls back to Himself these people [Romans 11:23], then says Paul, “then all Israel will be saved” [Romans 11:26]. And in Amos, God says, “And I will gather them from the four winds of the earth, the four corners of the earth [Isaiah 11:12]. And I will plant them back in their own land and in their own country. And they shall never be pulled up again” [Amos 9:14-15].
Where’s your Hittite, and your Girgashites, and your Hivites, and your Canaanites, and your Moabites, and your Ammonites, and all your other “ites?” They’ve all gone out. But the Israelite is still here. And he’ll be here until the end of time. Why? Because God said so! [Matthew 24:34]. The Lord chose it, and the Lord executes His decrees [Ezekiel 12:28].
Now what about sin? There we fall into a water over our heads. All you can do is just look, just look, and marvel at the counsels and the choices of God. All I know is this, that the Lord God made His angels free, moral creatures like Himself. All I know is that the Lord God made the man and the woman free, moral creatures just like God Himself.
The Lord made two order of beings, the angelic, the seraphic, the celestial [Hebrews 1:5, 13]; and the mundane, the terrestrial, the human [Genesis 1:27]. God made those two orders, and, in this respect, He made them both alike. He gave us free, moral choice [Joshua 24:14-15; Romans 1:19-21]. We can think for ourselves. We can choose for ourselves. We can obey or disobey for ourselves. And one-third of the angels chose to disobey the will and the purpose of God [Revelation 12:4]. And all mankind has followed after the fall and in the error of our first parents, Adam and Eve [Genesis 3:1-6]—and all of that in the knowledge and the foreordained purposes of God. I do not understand it. I cannot enter into it. All I know is that out of it, God has wrought some marvelous and wonderful things, and He has promised them to His children.
Now may we look at those foreordained things that God hath purposed to come to pass in this fallen state, this world of woe in which we live? The first one is this. God has purposed that we shall triumph. The kingdom of God, the righteous rule of our Savior, and we His children—we shall triumph. We’re not going to lose this battle. We’re going to win it. God hath said so! Satan is not going to be victorious; according to the foreordained purposes of God, we shall win it. “Then cometh the end,” says Paul in the fifteenth [chapter] of 1 Corinthians. “Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and authority and all power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death, is death” [1 Corinthians 15:24-26]. We have a certain victory. God has purposed it. God has ordained it. And God will bring it to pass! We have a full and a final victory!
All right, a second thing, we’re going to be saved. We’re going to be saved! When God saves a man, He saves him forever and forever! We’re going to be saved. We’re going to get there. We’re going to make it. We’re going to arrive. We’re going to be in heaven some of these days. Why? Because God promised it! God said so, and it belongs to the foreordained purposes of God to see to it that we make those golden streets and those pearly gates [Revelation 21:21].
In the tenth chapter of the Book of John, the Savior says, “I know My sheep, and I call them by name [John 10:3]. I know every one of them, everyone of them, everything about them, I know them all. I know them all. And I have given unto them eternal life, and they will never perish. Neither shall anyone pluck them out of My hand—no power, no nothing, no created thing, Satan included, shall be able to pluck them out of My hand” [John 10:27-28]. Listen to Simon Peter as he writes, “Peter, an apostle, to all of these elect according to the foreknowledge of God” [1 Peter 1:1-2]. He knew you before you were born [Ephesians 1:4]. He put your name in the Book of Life before you came into the world [Revelation 17:8]. He said, “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundation of the world” [Matthew 25:34]; elect according to the foreknowledge of God [1 Peter 1:2].
“Blessed be Him who has done that for us and has given us and brought us to an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God, who are kept from falling by the power of God” [1 Peter 1:3-5]. It’s according to the foreordained purposes of the Lord that these that are written in His book who trust in Christ—that they’ll be saved! [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. I don’t care what, what assails them, what terrible obstacles, what darkness, what fear, what valleys—God has ordained our salvation, and we’ll make it [John 6:39]. We’ll be there. When the roll is called, we’ll be standing in the midst of the saints of glory. What are these purposes God has purposed for us as people in this world of woe, here’s another one. Here’s another one. This sovereign purpose of God encourages us, encourages us in all of the turns and vicissitudes and fortunes of life, whatever they are and however they come. Romans 8:28, can we quote that? Can we quote that? “For all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” No matter what it is, when it comes, God makes it work for good to those who love God! That’s His sovereign purpose in our lives and in this world. Romans 8:28, “For all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
Now everybody say that together. “For we know that all things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” That’s our God! That’s our God. I may not be able to understand it. I may sit down there by a bedside and marvel at the permissive will of God in letting one of our saintliest people suffer and suffer and suffer, but God says, “It is according to a design. It’s according to an infinite and an all-wise purpose” [Romans 8:28] And the Lord makes it work together for good when we love Him, when we’re in His will, when we are the elect according to His purposes, when we belong to Him [1 Peter 1:2].
Oh, I’ve got to stop! See you next Sunday morning at 8:30 o’clock. And the Lord bless us when the time goes by just like that. The Lord bless us as we open the Book. And I say, we don’t understand all of these things, but we can look at them and marvel at our Lord, and adore Him for His purposes, and ask Him in mercy to remember us. And that was the last part of my sermon, “to make your calling and election sure” [2 Peter 1:10]. How it would encourage us to plead with the Lord: “Lord, don’t leave me out. Don’t forget me. Remember me. Remember me.” And that’s in the foreordained purposes of God, prayer and the fruit of prayer, an appeal and God’s answer. That’s in the Lord, too.
Now Billy, we’re going to sing our song, and while we sing it, somebody come down here, give his heart to God, “Pastor, today, this day.” Somebody put his life in the church, “Here I come, pastor, and here I am.” While we make this appeal and sing this song, you come down here and stand by me, while all of us stand and sing the song together.