There may not be any greater controversy in the Christian world than the subject of predestination. For the Calvinist, the reality of predestination is that God has foreordained the destiny of all. The Westminster Confession of Faith states: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.”1

The doctrine of predestination is not difficult if we let the Scriptures be our sole guide, putting aside whatever theological formulations one might hold. In a Sunday school class I taught, I mentioned that I would clarify the issue of predestination, not election as that is a separate doctrine, from the Scriptures in only 10 – 15 minutes. Later I receive the following email from a couple in the class: “Thank u, Mark, for clarifying in about 5-10 minutes on Sunday what we’ve been confused about for 30 plus years: predestination! Jonathan and I found what you said very helpful and like….duh….well that’s clear. Yep….that’s what the text says! How have we never heard this!?!”

Predestination, proorizo (bold in the verses) in the Greek, is used only six times in the New Testament. Two of the uses are not germane to our consideration as they have to do with God “predestinating” Jesus to come, Acts 4:28, and God’s plan of the gospel, the hidden wisdom, being revealed at a certain time, 1 Corinthians 2:7. The other four verses are the only times predestination is used in regard to believers.


“Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,” Ephesians 1:5.

Notice from the first four verses of Ephesians chapter one that believers are being addressed. People that are already saved. Verse 5 says we are predestined to adoption as sons. We are predestined not to be sons but as sons. We already are sons and as sons we are predestined. We are predestined to adoption (It is important to study predestination and adoption together as both are closely united. Please read my article on Adoption: A Biblical Understanding. The context of this chapter where the people being addressed – “us” – is believers. This verse speaks of God predestinating children of God, believers, to adoption.

The context of Ephesians chapter one continues when we come to verse 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.” The context of “predestined” in this verse (see verse 10 also) is that believers’ final destiny is already established along with an inheritance. The text here is speaking of what God had planned, predestined, for those that are believers, in the future. The focus is on God’s predestined promises for His children, not unsaved people.


     “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 8:29.

     This verse is a close parallel to Ephesians 1:5. Notice those “whom He foreknew,” obviously speaking of believers, God has “predestined” to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Certainly, God “foreknew” those who would accept Jesus and become children of God. Thus, His children will have a body like His and be like Him. Our body will be perfect like His, our thoughts will be perfect like His, etc. This is the final stage of a believer’s salvation when we are glorified.

Predestined, here, speaks of God’s determination that His children will be like Jesus. This verse pointedly, and clearly, speaks of God’s plan for His children. The thought of God’s “predestined” plan for His children continues in the next verse. “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified,” Romans 8:30.

God has “predestined” believers to be conformed to the image of Jesus. This is the context. Thus, axiomatically, He has called them, justified them, and will glorify them. This verse does not teach that we are “predestined” to be saved. It teaches believers, His children, are “predestined” to be glorified one day and God has called, justified, and glorified them. It would be wrong to equate “called” with predestination. There are plenty of verses that say God has “called” all men and yet not all respond. There are passages where men resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit. They were “called” but didn’t respond positively.        

Predestination, when it applies to people, has to do with believers being one day glorified. It has nothing to do with unbelievers being predestined to be saved. Yet, this is what many believe. A study of the above verses would argue against this belief. Predestine(d) or predestinate should always be used in the way the Bible uses it, speaking of believers and their ultimate destiny which is heaven and their glorification.

Predestination, as used in the Bible, is one of the strongest arguments for a believer’s eternal security. Once you are a child of God, that will never change.

End Notes

  1. It is recognized that some Calvinists reject the statement that God has predestined people to hell, referring to this belief as double predestination. Their argument is based on preterition which says that God elects some people to salvation and leaves the rest of humanity in their fallen condition. Reformed theologians postulate a positive predestination, God has elected some to be saved, but deny a negative predestination, God has predestinated some to hell, as being foreign to the Word of God.