This is an awesome question and thank you for asking it. This is a debate that really causes a lot of friction. I may not have the answer to every question, let me be up front and honest with that. However, I believe that there is an answer, even if it’s not the one we want. So, as a Calvinist, allow me to give you my reasons for believing that.
First of all, I want to start off in Ephesians 1: 3-14 which states, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
Why do I believe in the doctrine of predestination? Because it is so clearly in the Bible. Paul describes in Ephesians that we were predestined to Christ by God before the foundations of the earth were even laid. That we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to God’s purpose, and according to the counsel of His will. The word of God does not really mince words on this, it clearly states it to us, yet does not fully explain it…which is confusing, isn’t it? More on that in a bit.
Next, in Titus 1: 1-4, “ Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;
To Titus, my true child in a common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
Here in Titus we see Paul’s reference to the elect of God and their knowledge of the truth, which was promised before the ages began. Again, this is another very clearly written passage that is an introduction to the letter Paul was writing to Titus. It refers to the idea that there are those who are elect in the location that Titus is ministering in. So, we see some good proof here that this idea of election and predestination is actually quite real.
Next, in Romans 8: 29-30, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Here we see Paul again telling us about the predestination of those whom He foreknew. Preceded by the verse telling us that “For those who love God, all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” This gives us some comfort in the idea that even though we do not fully understand this, God is using it for good.
Next we are going to go to Romans 9,
“I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”
And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”
Paul describes a lot here. He states that not all those descended of Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring. He says that the it is not because of flesh that any are children of God, but those of the promise that are counted as offspring. We also see a description of the children of Rebekah, Jacob and Esau, who even though they had done neither right or wrong, God said of them that the older would serve the younger. Why? In order that God’s purpose of election might continue, that it might not be of works, but of Him who calls.
This is pretty deeply described here. God has a purpose in His election, and some are elected, while others are not.
Then Paul goes into an intense discussion about God’s justice. He confronts the justice of God, presumably because this idea had already been misunderstood by some back then. Is God unjust because of this? By no means! Paul here states that on those whom God has mercy, He has mercy. Those On whom He has compassion, He has compassion, just as He told Moses He did in Exodus 33.
He also outlines this idea through a description of the dealings with Pharaoh ending at the statement that God has mercy on whom He wills, and He hardens those whom He wills. Again, this is to the will and counsel of God.
Then Paul confronts the argument from people, well how can God be just then? For none can resist His will. Which Paul instantly answers with the statement, “Well, who are you O man? To answer back to God? Will what is molded say to the molder ‘why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay to make some vessels for honorable use, and others for dishonorable use?” And Paul then switches to a different perspective that perhaps God has demonstrated His wrath through such dishonorable vessels, in order that He might demonstrate how glorious His mercy is to those whom He has saved. Even some of whom are not Israelites, but gentiles as well.
One of the things that we confront in the idea of election and predestination, is the idea of God’s true power and sovereignty. Especially for people who live in countries that have an election and voting system, such as the US, it is difficult to understand the idea of God’s sovereign choice. But, when we come to God and His power, we are not discussing a democracy, this is the confusion I think we can get into at times. The kingdom of God is a Monarchy, THE Monarchy. Ruled undeniably by THE Monarch, the King of Kings, the true and Sovereign God of all things. If in the counsel of His will, He decided that some are elect, and others are not, what knowledge do we have to contend His Sovereign will with?
One thing is ultimately true in all this…whether one who is elected receives mercy, or one who is not elected does not, neither receives an unjust judgement. God is sovereign and good, just and holy, merciful to His children and wrathful to those lost in sin. But He is, above all, perfect in all He is and does.
So, how do you reconcile this idea?? Well…who knows? How are we to even begin to comprehend the true power and sovereignty of God? Some things are, quite truthfully, beyond our abilities. This is where faith becomes such a large part of it all for us. We have to accept that God’s will, and His counsel, are not things we can truly comprehend on some levels. One day, we will have the answers to these questions, but for now it is for us to trust in Christ…or not. All we have is what is clearly given to us in the Scriptures, which are absolutely true, and free from error. It is the word of God for us, and it is completely sufficient for our time here on earth.
Will there be those who desperately want to go to heaven, and who desperately want to seek Christ who will have no chance of getting there or knowing Him? Absolutely not…can we explain this? Absolutely not. How it is all reconciled and justly dealt is not within our grasp of understanding. But if you are drawn to Christ, and you seek to know Him and be saved, then the Holy Spirit has begun it’s work in you. You do not have to question whether you are elected or not, the fact that you are called to seek to understand Him and know Him answers that question.
I hope that this helps to provide some understanding on this and if you have any other questions please ask them. This is a very difficult thing to understand and I could type out an answer that is probably a book’s length, yet still not get through it all. But I hope that this gives you some answers to your questions and will be glad to answer any other questions that you have. May God grant you wisdom and understanding as you seek the truth that only He can truly give through His word, and the work of His Holy Spirit. God bless you and thank you.