WCF 3.7-8

The Westminster Confession of Faith

7. God decided, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, by which he extends or withholds mercy as he pleases, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by the rest of mankind and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.

8. The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, so that people, giving attention to the will of God revealed in his Word and yielding their obedience to it, may be assured of their eternal selection based on the certainty of their effectual calling. This doctrine should provide matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and it should produce humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all who sincerely obey the Gospel. (WCF 3.7-8)

These last two sentences sum up the realities that were first put forth in the third chapter of the WCF. God from eternity past was pleased to ordain some to salvation while others He passed over. This wasn’t done in reaction to anything seen in and of the creature through ‘the tunnel of time’, but “according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will” and this is all “to the praise of his glorious justice.” Admittedly, the doctrine of predestination and election is an incredibly difficult teaching. As we’re in linear time and God sits outside of time - and sees all - this might be one of those things where we won’t actually comprehend it’s glorious nature until Kingdom come. And the Biblical writers were very alert to that fact - not everything can or is meant to be understood by us mere creatures - even when they are revealed - and that’s because God is not our invention but our creator (Deut 29:29, Job 38:4-11, Isa 55:8-9). However in saying that, it is the clear teaching of scripture that God is sovereign over all and that includes who is and who is not saved (Rom 9, 2 Tim 2:19-20, 1 Pet 2:8, Jude 4). And so by faith we trust that and ponder the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God, not answer back in protest (Rom 9:20, 11:33).

I struggled with this particular doctrine for many years, because the great commission given to the church is to “Go … and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [Jesus] has commanded [us] (Matt 28:19-20, ESV). So I thought, what’s the point if some are not “chosen”? Well that’s why trusting God’s good purposes in predestination and election is so vital. As we have seen (in chapter 3 of the confession), because of sin our deadness towards God is so deep seated that if God wasn’t to give spiritual ears to hear - everyone would be lost (Isa 6:9-13, Matt 11:15). And so on the one had, election and predestination is hard to comprehend, but on the other, the commission is very simple to understand - go and share the gospel. And so put together, because God is sovereign over salvation, His people will actually hear the gospel, believe it and turn to Christ. Yet if He weren’t sovereign, well it would indeed be a hopeless endeavour.

And this is where the confession gets rather pastoral. The divines warned that though this is a biblical teaching, it is one that needs to be discussed with care. We handle this doctrine wisely because to the tender conscience it might cause despair, yet to the arrogant; laziness. Both are not good results. The doctrine of predestination is a God glorifying teaching that keeps God where He is meant to be in our worship; as the saviour and rescuer of His people. For those of tender conscience, he will no wise cast anyone out who comes unto Him (Jn 6:37-40), nor can you be lost once you are His (Jn 10:28-30). To those who may have been prodding along in the Christian life, it is a good reminder to reflect if you are trusting in Christ and obeying what he has revealed in his word (Rom 11:33, 2 Pet 2:10). At the end of the day, God will be glorified in the midst of His people, because from start to finish it is He who planned and made everything possible for our salvation (Rom 8:28-30).

Published: May 3, 2024

Updated: May 3, 2024