So one issue that I’ve dealt with for a long time now (and many others have as well) is that of election. In case you don’t know what I am talking about I am not talking about campaigns, voter fraud, and Super PACs; biblically the concept of election refers to those who are saved and to whom salvation is available. When it comes to the Christian concept of election there are two basic views:
Favored by many in the Reformed tradition and other offshoots of Calvinism, unconditional election asserts that God is the sole means of salvation. What I mean by this is that there is nothing that any person can ever do to come to God’s invitation of grace. To put it plainly, the person cannot make a decision to receive Christ unless God the Holy Spirit moves them to do so. While I acknowledge seeing this in God’s nature in places like the Exodus (God saved his children whom couldn’t save themselves) I have honestly struggled with this for some time. I mean without the willful response of the individual it would mean that the salvation that Jesus provides isn’t truly available to everybody, and can lead to a feeling of arrogant superiority where anyone who rejects Christianity was simply predestined to damnation. This leads to the second view:
This theological view holds that the work of salvation was completed by Jesus on the cross and the gift of grace is freely available to all who choose to accept it. For most of my Christian life I have believed this view of election because I made a choice to ask Jesus into my heart, but I also believe that it was by His grace that I recognized my need for Him. Just like the opposite view the danger of extremes is present. We can go from simply acknowledging that we need to respond to the gift that is offered to a works based means of salvation like as in Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and I’m pretty sure the rest of the world’s religious systems.
So which position does the Bible support?
Answer: Both. There are many verses and examples in the nature and character of God to support both of these views of saving election, and we (errant humans reading the inerrant Scriptures) have a hard time coming to terms with it. We think that the Bible is contradicting itself and that it’s an either-or when it may be more of a both-and. What settled this debate for me was the 6th chapter of the Book of Numbers.
The Mystery of the Nazirite Vow
So first off, God is not random. Everything He does is orderly and purposeful. We see this in the natural sciences as well as in history through His direct interventions as well as through His providential care for His people. That means that the Laws in the Old Testament are just as orderly and purposeful as the Prophets and the Gospels. In Numbers chapter 6 God speaks to Moses and gives the requirements of anyone who takes something know as the Nazirite vow. The word Nazirite literally means one separated/consecrated and the vow was meant to serve as a promise between the man or woman and God that they would be set apart for Him and His purposes. The life of a Nazarite during his vow was one of sacrifice. They were not to cut their hair or drink any kind of alcohol, and the Bible goes so far to say that they can’t eat grapes, raisins, grape seeds or skins.
As I considered this section of Scripture one thing became clear; the priests, the Levites, the warriors, the craftsmen, and all of the people of Israel needed to offer sacrifices for the atonement of their sins. Only those honoring God through the Nazirite were considered holy (righteous) without an atoning sacrifice. Why is that? God tells us elsewhere in the Bible that he does not desire burnt offerings, sin offerings, or wave offerings, but instead a heart after him. The Nazirite was not required; it was a voluntary vow that someone could take, much the same as the decision made by a Christian to serve Jesus as their Savior AND Lord.
So that covers the conditional end of things, but if the Nazirite vow was voluntary, what can it teach us about election? The Bible gives us two examples of men who lived a life as a Nazirite from birth unto death: Samson and John the Baptist. Before their births angels of God came to the parents of these two men and laid it out. Samson was not to cut his hair. John the Baptist was not to taste any strong drink for they would both be Nazirites. So did God convict the hearts of the men and women of Israel to be set apart for Him? Yes, and some chose to accept it and consecrate themselves for The Lord which God considered holy. But did God make the decision in he lives of certain people along the way to be set apart and consecrated for Him? Yes. The decision of obedience was there all along; John the Baptist maintained his determined vow while Samson didn’t, but they did not make the choice for themselves.
So I hope this is in some way helpful in answering the question of predestination for you. If you have questions or comments fire away below or contact me directly.