Are Predestination and Salvation "To Everyone Who Believes" Compatible?

How can only the chosen and predestined be saved by grace, while "it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes"?


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In Romans 1, Paul identifies the Gospel as “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” This raises a question for some people, and it has to do with God's election. If God is electing, if God is the one who is choosing those who would ultimately be saved and rescued, if it takes God’s elective purpose and work in someone's life in order to respond, then how do we reconcile with that particular passage or even John 3:16? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever would believe in Him would have everlasting life.”

To my mind, (and I do hold sovereign grace, it's my personal conviction) there's no conflict in those verses at all. The verses say that the Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” I agree with that. Jesus says in John 3, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes…” I agree with that, “…would have eternal life.” No contradiction at all.

The question is, how do they get to the point of belief that qualifies them for the things, the salvation, that are described there in John 3 and in Romans 1? That is really the issue. Man is in complete rebellion against God. “There's none righteous, not even one, not any seeking after God” – this is Paul in Romans 3 quoting the Old Testament. So, this is a very deep doctrine in Scripture that human beings by nature, Ephesians 2, are children of wrath because they are born into that circumstance, into a fallen rebellious thing. All are in rebellion. How does one get turned to qualify for the salvation described in those passages?

To believe. That can only be done, I'm convinced, by an act of God. In fact, it seems to me everybody believes that – Armenians and Calvinists. God has got to do something. The difference is whether God goes halfway and then leaves the balance up to the individual free choice in a libertarian freedom sense, or whether God takes a person all the way and leaves the rest in their rebellion to Him. That's another issue. I'm simply making the point here, that given the question that was asked, there really is no conflict with sovereign grace and the fact that whoever believes will have eternal life. It still stands – whoever does believe. 

How is it they come to believe? That's where the grace of God comes into, and those for whom God's elective grace, if you will, is not extended, never come to fulfill the requirement that we see in those passages. Those to whom God’s elective grace is extended do come to fulfill the obligations in those passages. This isn’t to persuade you of sovereign grace vs. some other viewpoint. This is simply to point out that these verses do not mitigate against the notion of sovereign grace. They don't touch on that. The promise still stands whoever it is who actually does believe is going to be the one that receives the gift of grace and salvation that God has promised.

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Greg Koukl