God’s Five Steps to Salvation
Transcript of a Bible study given by
Jack M. Lane

Today I’d like to speak on the subject of salvation.

We understand that salvation is one of the top reasons we have religions, churches, evangelism, preachers and teachers. Salvation is what religions are all about – at least, that’s what the Christian religions are all about.

That’s why God sent His Son to raise up a church, and to die for us. That’s why the apostles went around preaching and teaching. That’s why we have all these Christian churches around the world. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to make available to people the good news that our Father in heaven offers to all mankind, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, a doorway into eternity!

What I wanted to focus on today is the five steps God takes us through as part of the process of saving us. These aren’t necessarily five things we need to do, (although there are things we need to do). These are five steps God does as He brings us into His kingdom and family.


But let me start by asking a question: Is there anyone here who would rather not be saved? If you were given a choice – either God will save you, or God will not save you – is there anyone here who would prefer to perish, rather than live forever as a resurrected child of God?

No? I didn’t think so.

Next, let me ask you this: Are you absolutely sure, beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt, that your name is in the Book of Life, right now?

Ah, now some of us are experiencing a different response. Of course we’d like to be in the Book of Life, but can we be sure we are?

We know enough about our Bibles to believe that, if God has called us, and has given us His Holy Spirit, and we strive to overcome and endure to the end, and we allow our Father and our Savior to live their lives in us and through us – we shouldn’t have any doubt that we’ll be in the resurrection. It’s a foregone conclusion! We should have the courage to say that we’re saved, now – that we have salvation, now. That’s the language of the Bible – it speaks of salvation in the present tense.

But for some of us, there’s a nagging uncertainty that never goes away: “What if God chooses not to save me?” There are quite a few people who have lingering doubts about whether God even wants to save them.

For some, it’s worded this way: “Look, God is sovereign. You know, He’s the Potter, we’re the clay. He can do anything He wants. Suppose He created me for the express purpose of not saving me, and He wants to destroy me instead. You know, I’ve heard about this – I think it’s in the Bible. If that’s the case, then no matter what I do in this life, it’s already been predetermined that I’ll burn in the Lake of Fire.”

There are people who think these thoughts. Perhaps you’re one of them. And this fear can very easily grow until it becomes a doubt in the back of our minds. There’s a slight tinge of uncertainty in our lives, which the devil can use against us whenever he wants. At critical times in our lives, times of trial and temptation, when we really need to be strong, along comes this nagging suspicion, and we might be tempted to weaken, to not fight the temptation, to give up, then excuse ourselves by saying, “Oh, God wouldn’t want to save me, anyway.”

Believe me, the devil uses this skepticism of God’s love for everything it’s worth. People have given up the fight, and have left the faith, for just this reason!

For others, the great Creator of the universe isn’t big enough to save them. “Why, if you only knew the terrible things I’ve done in my life, you’d see why God wouldn’t want to save me!” And because they can’t forgive themselves, these people are cheating themselves out of our Father’s grace and mercy, His love and forgiveness.

An old idea

There’s an idea that’s been floating around for a long time – many centuries, in fact – that God somehow knew way back in eternity that you and I would be born, and He already decided long ago not to save some of us, or give us His promised gift of eternal life. I’ll tell you right now, that idea is not taught in the Bible!

What is taught in the Bible is that the Creator has placed man on earth for a purpose. That purpose is for every man, woman, and child to ultimately have the opportunity to come into God’s immortal family, to live with Him forever in the most spectacular joy and happiness, even beyond what we can imagine, at a level of existence we can’t even begin to grasp!

Our Father wants to give us this destiny! It’s His greatest desire and joy. That’s what the gospel message is all about. Anyone who tells you otherwise is an enemy, or at the very least he’s deluded by the chief enemy, Satan.

A few years ago I gave a sermon on the subject of predestination. (Click here to read the transcript of that sermon.)  I showed in that message that predestination is indeed biblical, but what many people think is predestination is not biblical. What many people think of when they hear the word “predestination” is really a counterfeit called predestinarianism.

Predestinarianism is the idea that God knows all things, past, present, and future, and that He knows every little detail about you and me, and every little detail of the future, and the final outcome of all things, in the minutest detail. And the outcome of all of our futures has already been determined eons ago – and there’s nothing anyone can do about it!

It concerns me that there are people who think that predestinarianism is the way things really are. It’s not the way things are! It’s a misunderstanding of our Father’s plan and the way He does things.

Today, I’m going to show you some of the mechanics of how our Father saves us. Unfortunately, in order to drive home what biblical predestination is, I have to spend some time showing you what it isn’t! I need to contrast what the Bible says with what this false doctrine says.

Two assumptions

Predestinarianism carries with it two major assumptions, which are not found in scripture. The first assumption is this: God has known from way back in eternity that you and I – and every other person who’s ever lived – would be born, what our names would be, what color our hair would be, the date we were born, the date we will die, our political persuasion, our favorite food, every word we ever speak, every thought we ever think, who we’ll marry, who our kids will be – in short, God knew all along every little detail about every person, everywhere, throughout all time.

This is the first major assumption of predestinarians. The second is like unto it, that God has known all along whether or not each one of us, and every other person throughout history, is going to be saved. This assumption implies that, no matter what we’ve been told, no matter what we’ve read in scripture, some of us won’t make it, no matter how much we think we will! It teaches that God has already decreed that some of us will be lost, no matter how we’ve lived our lives, and that God called some of us only so He could destroy us.

I think it’s a terrible thing to tell people that we can spend all our lives being overcomers and conquerors, but if our fate is already sealed and it was decided long ago that we will lose in the end, then it doesn’t matter how hard we try to live godly lives – we’ll be cast into the Lake of Fire anyway! And God knows who’s going to make it, and we don’t. And He’s not telling!

I’ve spoken with a number of people over the years who have voiced just this concern! It has always been a surprise to me when people confide that this is how they feel, deep down inside. The doubt is there. Doubt leads to skepticism, and to unbelief. It leads to mistrust, and to not believing the message of the gospel. And it causes people to lose hope.

There’s a hymn we have sung: “Our hope is built on nothing less / Than Jesus Christ and righteousness.” When people lose hope, they lose focus, and they lose faith. Some have given up and returned to the world, where it’s very easy to lose righteousness!

That’s why I wanted to briefly look at these two ideas today, predestination and predestinarianism. And I’d like to share with you “God’s Five Steps to Salvation.” We’ll see that predestination is merely one step among several steps our Father uses to call us to repentance, and to bring us into His church, His ekklesia, to become His children.

Let’s look at the scripture that defines how and where predestination fits into the plan of salvation. It’s found in Romans chapter 8.

Romans 8:29-30

If you like, you can mark right in the margin of your Bible, at these verses, “God’s Five Steps to Salvation,” so you can find it again easily. This is really an important key to how God calls us and saves us.

Romans 8:29-30, quoting first from the King James Version (KJV): “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

This is where we get the word “predestination,” from the old King James word, “predestinate.”

We can understand it a little better in the New King James (NKJV): “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. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

This outlines the series of steps our Father goes through as He brings us to salvation. Let’s look at each of these steps in turn.

Point #1

“For whom He foreknew.…” “Foreknew” comes from a Greek word [proginosko {prog-in-oce’-ko}, Strong’s #4267; the King James Version translates the word as “foreknow,” “foreordain,” “know,” “know before”] which means to have knowledge beforehand, or to know ahead of time. Our Father knew us ahead of the time He called us. This is where predestinarians jump the track. They ask, “Well, when did He foreknow us? I think He foreknew us from clear back into eternity!”

But if, as they teach, our Father knows all things, and He has always known all things, that means He knew each individual who would ever live, even from before creation week, and He saw the entirety of the future, clear on into future eternity, ever since clear back in past eternity! Therefore, He already knows who will succeed and who will fail, and our lives are just a matter of acting out a pre-ordained script, and the outcome is already decided. He knows what our ultimate outcome will be, but we don’t. We’re just a puppet on some kind of a cosmic string.

I don’t find that idea taught in the scriptures. I know where it comes from, but I don’t want to get into that today. I’ll just say, I don’t find that kind of deity when I look into the scriptures.

The opposing viewpoint (the one I favor) is that, yes, God knows all there is to know, up to the moment, but He doesn’t know (or He chooses not to know) who is going to answer the call, who will remain faithful until the end, and who will end up turning away and becoming an enemy. There is nothing in scripture to indicate He knows what our final decision will be. Instead, the scriptures show He’s very interested in the outcome, because our destiny hinges on the choices we make!

We can choose to obey or disobey at any time during our lives. We can fall away. We can put our hand to the plow and look back (Luke 9:62). But I don’t see any evidence that our Father already knows what your personal decision will be. These are things our Father may not be able to know – or at least He chooses not to know – ahead of time.

As part of our Father’s plan, we human beings have been given free moral agency, which allows us to choose whether or not we will obey Him. We’re not locked into our behavior, and we’re not locked into a pre-determined success or failure. The idea that we have free moral agency – that we can have a direct impact on whether or not we will be saved – is much more consistent with what the scriptures teach. In fact, it is what the scriptures teach.

Proof text #1

There are a couple scriptures I’d like to look at briefly, scriptures that people use to defend predestinarianism. Let’s look at these scriptures and see what they really mean. The first one is in Isaiah chapter 57.

God says, in Isaiah 57:15 (NKJV): “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy….” The KJV and the NKJV both use this terminology: He “inhabits eternity.” Some have understood this phrase to mean that God already exists, in all of time, all at the same time; that He is at one moment in all of time – past, present and future – simultaneously. Therefore, He is already at the end of time, even while He is here right now. And that’s how He knows who will be with Him for eternity. This is a real stretch of the imagination, but people will read all that into this verse!

But let’s give the scripture a fair shake. Here’s Isaiah 57:15 in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV): “For thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

God says He inhabits eternity. That doesn’t necessarily mean He is somehow “outside of time,” as some people have said. Actually, the Hebrew words here might be better translated to read that He “dwells forever,” or “abides in perpetuity.” Notice these other translations:

The New International Version (NIV) reads this way: “For this is what the high and lofty One says – he who lives for ever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'"

The New American Standard Version (NASV) is very similar: “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.’“

This verse isn’t trying to show anything about how God and time relate to each other. All it’s saying is that He’s eternal, and we’re not. He’s high and exalted, He lives forever, yet He dwells with those who are lowly, and He revives their heart and spirit. That’s it! That’s all it’s saying there.

Proof text #2

Let’s look at the other scripture, Isaiah 46:9-10. This is where God says He knows the end from the beginning. This is another text people have used to try to show that God sees how everything will end, and He already knows if you’re going to be there. But is that what the passage is really talking about? Let’s see.

Isaiah 46:9-10 (KJV): “Remember the former things of old: 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.”

Taking this scripture out of context, someone could make a case that this means God knows specifically if He’s going to raise you from the dead. And the little voice of doubt in the back of some people’s minds would then suggest that, well, no, He probably won’t.

But if we read this passage in context, looking at the chapters before and after these verses, we’ll see what the topic of conversation is. It isn’t predestinarianism. Throughout this lengthy passage in Isaiah, God is speaking in anger about the idols and false gods the people of Israel were worshipping.

Notice, for example, what God says a few chapters earlier, in Isaiah chapter 41, quoting from the New King James Version:  "'Present your case,' says the LORD. 'Bring forth your strong reasons,' says the King of Jacob.  'Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, That we may consider them, And know the latter end of them; Or declare to us things to come.  Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together.  Indeed you are nothing, And your work is nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination'" (Isaiah 41:21-24, NKJV).

God is challenging the apostate nation of Israel to a contest between Himself and their false fortune tellers.  Who besides God can tell what's going to happen, then bring it to pass?  Let's continue God's invitation:

"'I have raised up one from the north, And he shall come; From the rising of the sun he shall call on My name; And he shall come against princes as though mortar, As the potter treads clay.  Who has declared from the beginning, that we may know? And former times, that we may say, "He is righteous"?  Surely there is no one who shows, Surely there is no one who declares, Surely there is no one who hears your words.  The first time I said to Zion, "Look, there they are!" And I will give to Jerusalem one who brings good tidings.  For I looked, and there was no man [who could do these things]; I looked among them, but there was no counselor, Who, when I asked of them, could answer a word.  Indeed they are all worthless; Their works are nothing; Their molded images are wind and confusion'" (Isaiah 41:25-29, NKJV).

Now God enlarges His challenge to include both Israel's false prophets and their false idols!  God will spend the next few chapters comparing Himself and His mighty power to the impotency of Israel's idols.  It makes for entertaining reading!  Some examples follow.

In Isaiah 44:6-9 (NIV), God declares:  “This is what the LORD says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come – yes, let him foretell what will come. Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one. All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.”

God is drawing a contrast between Himself and the pagan idols (along with those who make them and bow down to them)!

Verses 12-19: “The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. ... The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in the form of man, of man in all his glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. It is man’s fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, ‘Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.’ From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, ‘Save me; you are my god.’ They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, ‘Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?’“

God seems a little upset here. But that’s what this extended passage is all about! It’s important to know this.

Isaiah 45:16: “All the makers of idols will be put to shame and disgraced; they will go off into disgrace together.”

Verse 18: “For this is what the LORD says – he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited – he says: ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other.’“

Then in Isaiah 46:1: “Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low; their idols are borne by beasts of burden. The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary.”

Verses 6-10 bring us up to where we came in: “Some pour out gold from their bags and weigh out silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it. They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Though one cries out to it, it does not answer; it cannot save him from his troubles. Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”

God seems pretty upset in these passages. Is He talking about predestinarianism? No, He’s saying He knows the end from the beginning, and Israel’s idols didn’t! Today we might say: “He knows which way is up, and the idols don’t!”  It might be looked on as a colloquialism, or an idiomatic expression: God knows the end from the beginning – the idols don’t!

He says remember the former things from long ago. What former things? How about Moses? How about King David and King Solomon? How about the Ten Commandments? How about the Sabbath day? Israel went into wholesale idolatry and Sabbath-breaking, and it eventually cost them their freedom and their sovereignty as a nation. They ceased being a nation, and went into captivity, and have never been heard from, geopolitically, again!

God knows His own plan, and He knows how to bring it about. The gods of wood and metal the foolish Israelites used to bow down to don’t even have the ability to think! And God was suggesting the Israelites didn’t, either.

You know, we can say that, to a certain extent, we know the end from the beginning, because the prophets have made known from ancient times what is still to come. We know, from scripture, what our Father’s purpose is, and we can remember the former things, because He’s given us His Word, “the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

But to get back to what we were talking about, we must be careful not to take verses out of context, and read meanings into scriptures that aren’t there. An important tool in Bible study is context. Reading entire chapters can tell us more about what God means than just remembering a quick “sound bite.”

Examining these two scriptures in their context and in various translations helps us to see what they were really talking about. It wasn’t predestinarianism.

Point #2

After that lengthy side trip, let’s return now to Romans chapter 8, and look at the second step God uses when calling us to salvation. Point #2, from Romans 8:29: “…whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” “Predestine” comes from a Greek word [proorizo {pro-or-id’-zo}, Strong’s #4309; KJV translates it as “predestinate,” “determine before,” “ordain”] which means to predetermine, or to decide beforehand.

When we compare point 1 and point 2 (foreknowledge and predestination), it should be obvious that predestination and foreknowledge are not the same thing! The predestinarian concept is that God already knows if each one of us will live or die. But here Paul draws a distinction between foreknowledge and predestination!

Paul says God knew us first. He knew us; it doesn’t say He knew our future. Then, after He knew us, He predestined us for something. This pattern conflicts with the idea that God has foreknowledge of our ultimate decision. That’s not the foreknowledge Paul was talking about! In addition to that, Paul shows us that foreknowledge is not the same thing as predestination!

If this verse says we’re predestined, what are we predestined to do? What were we predestined for? Romans 8:29 says that we, the ones our Father foreknew, were “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” It doesn’t say we’ve been predestined from all eternity to live or die, or to make it or not make it. This verse says we have been predestined to look like Jesus the Messiah!

What does He look like? The apostle John wrote, in Revelation 1:12-18: “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone ‘like a son of man,’ dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades [the grave].”

This passage gives an idea of Christ’s resurrected appearance, although there is some figurative language. For instance, the sword coming out of His mouth isn’t literal, but is understood to represent the sharp, two-edged sword of the scriptures (for example, please see Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12).

We also know from scripture that God doesn’t look on the physical appearance of people, but rather He looks on the heart. If our Father looks on the heart, that probably means He is giving us the destiny of having hearts that look like Messiah’s heart! No wonder we’re counseled (in Philippians 2:1-8) to have the mind, or the attitude, of Christ in us, and be like servants; and to bring every thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

This is how we can be conformed to the image of God’s Son. But notice that predestination is not foreknowledge! Those are two different steps in “God’s Five Steps to Salvation.”

Point #3

“Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called.” First He knows us, then He gives us a wonderful destiny, and thirdly He calls us. “Called” is translated from a Greek word [kaleo {kal-eh’-o}, Strong’s #2564; KJV translates it as “call,” “bid,” “be so named,” “named”] which means to call by name, to invite, to bid someone to come somewhere, to give a name to someone, or to be called to bear a name or a title.

There comes a time when God opens our minds, and gives us a hunger and thirst for His Word, and makes us aware that He is there, that He’s interested in us, and that He wants us in His family. We call this phenomenon “being called by God.” This is the third step in “God’s Five Steps to Salvation.”

We already saw how foreknowledge and predestination are not the same thing. Here we see that predestination and being called are not the same thing, either!

We’re cutting it kind of fine here, but you really need to understand this. Foreknowledge, predestination, and being called are three different things! I hope the picture is starting to get a little clearer.

Here’s the series of events so far: First, God knew us. He watched us as we lived our lives, to see what kind of person we were. Then, once He got to know us and decided He wanted us to be in His family, He assigned us this destiny – to be members of His family.

(Of course, all humankind will ultimately be invited into God’s family, later on in His plan. We believe that our Father has invited some people now, ahead of time, to be a kind of firstfruits (James 1:18). The firstfruits are called ahead of the rest, not instead of the rest. Ultimately we’ll all be there! But our Father decides to select some people here, and some there, and give them this destiny ahead of everyone else. That’s one reason we have only this many people here today, and not the entire population of our state. I would love to be telling everyone within 500 miles about this! But it isn’t our Father’s time for that yet. As we can easily see when we look around us, not everyone in the world is interested in the things of God. Our Father has chosen not to call the vast majority of mankind yet. He’ll do that in a future time. For now, He seems to prefer to work with those who answer His call!)

Then, once He assigned us our destiny as His sons, He began to work with us, opening our minds a little at a time, giving us an interest in looking into the Bible, showing us things in the Bible we hadn’t seen before, and causing us to ask questions we’d never even thought to ask before. We refer to this experience as being called by God.

So we have God knowing us ahead of time (foreknowledge), giving us the destiny we have (predestination), and then calling us, or inviting us to join Him on this path, the difficult road leading to the narrow gate.

A clear example of this is found in Jeremiah, chapter 1.  Jeremiah was a remarkable prophet.  He wrote about his calling and commission:  "The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.' 'Ah, Sovereign LORD,' I said, 'I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.'  But the LORD said to me, 'Do not say, "I am only a child."  You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,' declares the LORD.  Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, 'Now, I have put my words in your mouth.  See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant'" (Jeremiah 1:4-10).

What an extraordinary experience.  God knew Jeremiah even before Jeremiah was born!  God had an assignment for Jeremiah, but Jeremiah grew to adulthood without even knowing about the future God had in mind for him, until the day God called Jeremiah to his destiny.  This clearly demonstrates the first three steps we've been examining.

To realize all the more how meaningful Jeremiah's experience was, remember that Jeremiah was one of only three men listed in scripture who were specifically known, called, and given a remarkable destiny before they were born.  The other two men were John the Baptist and Jesus Christ!

Christ as predestinarian

I mentioned the difficult road leading to the narrow gate.  Let’s look at that scripture for a moment.

Matthew 7:13-14 (NRSV): “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Let’s pretend for a moment. Let’s have a moment of madness and say that Messiah was a predestinarian. How might He have phrased this differently?

He might have said, “Just try and enter through the narrow gate! For the gate is wide and the road easy that leads to destruction, and nobody gets off that road – it’s been fixed in stone for millions of years. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and nobody finds it. My Father takes some of you there, whether you want to go or not, and He pushes you through! But don’t think for a second that you’ll be one of those who gets to go through. Only my Father knows. He’s known all along, and He’s not telling!”

That sounds pretty silly, doesn’t it? It sounds like a taunt: “Nya, nya, you can’t get there!”

So many things Messiah said would have to be changed if predestinarianism was true. Notice how we’d have to rewrite another passage, just a few verses later:

Matthew 7:21-23 states: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’“

To be a predestinarian, Messiah would have had to say it this way: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the ones my Father has already chosen. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘Sure you did, and I watched you do it all; but go away from me, you losers! My Father has not chosen you.’“

The idea is ludicrous. The very next verses don’t even allow for that kind of foolishness.

Look at verses 24-29: “‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell – and great was its fall!’ Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”

Messiah clearly said that taking action or not taking action would have an effect on the outcome! If He had meant anything else, He would have said something else.

For example, He might have said, “Whoever hears my words – no big deal; it won’t make any difference if you act on them or not.” Then the people wouldn’t have been astounded that He taught as one having authority; but rather, they’d be astounded that He taught as one who was a madman!

We know the verse that says, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). This strongly implies that we have the freedom of choice. Many people have been called. Many people are being called now. However, if we don’t choose that Way of life, our Father won’t choose us to be in the resurrection!

But if we do choose to respond to the call, where does that leave us? Would God have called us if He knew He wasn’t going to save us? That isn’t even logical, and it certainly doesn’t reflect the loving, merciful Father we find in the Bible.

No, the verse says our Father calls many. The ones He calls have every opportunity to respond to His call. The sad part is, only a few are chosen – not because there’s an angry god who says so, but because only a few of the called are wise enough to listen to the call, and answer it! (By the way, do you feel the call? Is God opening up the scriptures to you more and more?)

The letters to the churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 mention rewards that would come to those who overcome to the end. This implies that rewards are available to those who are in the church, but not everyone in those churches would be eligible for those rewards, and that Christians do have to qualify for their rewards by persevering to the end.

The scriptures make it clear we don’t earn our salvation, but we will be rewarded according to our works. So we see that our salvation will not be finalized, and our reward will not be finalized, until the end!

Point #4

 “Whom He called, these He also justified.” God foreknew us, then He predestined us (or gave us our destiny), then He called us to this Way of life. Now, point #4: “Whom He called, these He also justified.” “Justified” is from a Greek word [dikaioo {dik-ah-yo’-o}, Strong’s #1344; KJV translates this word as “justify,” “be freed,” “be righteous,” “justifier”] which means to render someone righteous, or to declare someone to be righteous, or just, or the way he should be.

Justification is what happens to us by God’s grace when we respond to His calling, when we repent and are baptized for the remission of sin, and when we determine to walk in the Way. When we do this we stand justified before God. From there we are supposed to go on to perfection, or spiritual maturity, during the course of our lifetimes (Matthew 5:48).

So after we’re predestined, then we’re called, and when we respond God makes us justified to Him.

Point #5

Point #5, the final step in the salvation process, is this: “And whom He justified, these He also glorified.” “Glorified” is from a Greek word [doxazo {dox-ad’-zo}, Strong’s #1392; KJV renders this word as “glorify,” “honour,” “have glory,” “magnify,” “make glorious,” “full of glory”] which means to be praised, celebrated, honored, magnified, adorned, clothed in splendor, having your dignity and worth become manifest and acknowledged. This is the final step in the salvation process.

In one sense, we are glorified to a certain extent now if we seek our Father with our whole hearts and come into line with His great plan. God holds us in honor and esteems us as His dear children, heirs of salvation and celebrated in heaven. However, being glorified in a literal sense is yet future for us. At this time the only truly glorified Son of God is our Savior, the first to be born from the dead (Romans 1:4). (Remember, Romans 8:29 says Jesus would be "the firstborn among many brothers"!) Point #5 refers to the time when we will be glorified in our immortal spirit bodies at the resurrection when Christ comes. This is the final stage in the series of steps God takes to bring us to the resurrection.

Predestination is only one step in this progression of events leading to our ultimate salvation. When we view it in context, we can see certain things: (1) Predestination is not the same thing as foreknowledge, nor is it the same thing as being called; and (2) There is nothing in this passage, or anywhere else in the Bible, that supports the major tenets of predestinarianism.

The progression of events in our lives follows this pattern: Our Father knew us before we knew Him. He got to know us before He revealed Himself to us. Then He gave us our destiny, ahead of time, before we knew Him; that’s why it’s called a pre-destiny. Then He got involved in our lives, and introduced Himself to us – He called us! And when we answered, the courtship began, and we and He got to know each other.

At some point in our relationship with our heavenly Father, we decided we’d like to take Him up on His generous offer, and we came to repentance, and put ourselves under His almighty hand, coming under His reign. We allowed Him to bury us in Messiah’s death, so we could also live through Messiah’s resurrection (Romans 6). At the point of our repentance and baptism, we became justified – we became right for the first time in our lives.

The last step is our glorification in the resurrection, when Messiah returns physically to this planet, in power and glory, at the beginning of the thousand years of peacefulness we so look forward to seeing. In that day, we’ll be able to receive our destiny, our inheritance, our full-born sonship in our Father, through our resurrection from the dead.

The Bible tells us we are destined to be resurrected into the immortal family of God. It’s our destiny! If we have responded to the call from God, and are committed to this Way of life, and if we hold fast and endure to the end, there’s no reason to doubt that we’ll receive the gift of eternal life!

We can’t understand everything about it now. Our minds are too small. A lot of it remains a mystery. But Paul reveals what that mystery is, in Colossians chapter 1. See if you can spot some of the five steps to salvation in this passage.

Colossians 1:24-28 (NIV): “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant [the church’s servant] by the commission God gave me to present to you [the people God called] the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them [to the saints] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles…”.

Notice that: God knew the Gentiles ahead of time, He assigned them their destiny, and then He called them, and brought them to justification!

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is [here’s what the mystery is:] Christ in you, the hope of glory [that’s justification, leading to glorification]. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone [everyone, not just a few, and not everyone but you – everyone!] perfect in Christ.”

We understand from this passage what the mystery is: Christ in us, the hope of glory. And we understand that everyone can be presented, perfect and mature, in Christ.

Ephesians 1:5 (NIV): “He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

Do you see what predestination is? We’re predestined (in Romans 8) to be conformed to the image of God’s Son – we’re going to look like the Messiah! And we’re predestined (in Ephesians 1) to be adopted as God’s sons! It’s God’s pleasure and will to give us – all of us – this destiny. It’s the very reason human beings were put on earth!

Verse 9: “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ.”

Now we know what the mystery is. But our Savior told us more about our Father’s good pleasure in Luke chapter 12.

What is His good pleasure? What is His will? It’s been a mystery for a long time. But our Father has made it known to His church, to His ekklesia, what His will and His good pleasure are.

It isn’t to terrorize us. It isn’t to hold out a false hope of salvation and then snatch it away. It isn’t to slam the door in our face.

Luke 12:32 (NRSV): “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”!