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Predestination and "Practice"

How important is it that those who claim to know and follow Christ pursue godliness and holiness in life? Isn’t it enough just to get our sins forgiven? Isn’t it enough to be pronounced a child of God? Continue reading . . .

How important is it that those who claim to know and follow Christ pursue godliness and holiness in life? Isn’t it enough just to get our sins forgiven? Isn’t it enough to be pronounced a child of God? Why would anything beyond justification and redemption be required? In fact, isn’t it dangerous to emphasize holiness of life? After all, if we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, wouldn’t talking of the importance, or worse still of the “necessity” of “our” works cast a shadow on the mercy and saving love of God?

Or to put it in other terms, if we are elected unto eternal life unconditionally, apart from works, what possible reason would there be for us to be concerned with how we live?

Jonathan Edwards spoke to this issue as much anyone in the history of the church. In his tenth sermon in his series of studies on 1 Corinthians 13, which he titled Charity and Its Fruits, Edwards argued that “all true Christian grace tends to practice” (294, Yale:8). What he meant is that

“practice [i.e., godly behavior and conduct] is the aim of that eternal election which is the first ground of the bestowment of all true grace. Good practice is not the ground of election, as the Arminians suppose who imagine that God elects men upon a foresight of their good works. But Christian practice is the scope and end of election. Though God does not elect men because he foresees that they will live holy, yet he elects them that they may live holy [emphasis mine]. Thus God in the decree of election ordained that man should walk in good works. Eph. 2:10, ‘Created unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.’ God hath chosen the elect before the foundation of the world to this end, as Eph. 1:4, ‘According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.’ So Christ tells his disciples that he had chosen them for that end, that they might go and bring forth much fruit. John 15:16, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you that ye should go and bring forth fruit.’ Now God’s eternal election is the first ground of the bestowment of saving grace. Some have saving grace and not others, because some are from eternity chosen of God and not others. And seeing that holy practice is the scope and aim of that which is the first ground of the bestowment of grace, it is doubtless the tendency of grace itself; otherwise it would follow that God makes use of a certain means to attain an end which is not fitted for that end, and has no tendency to it” (294-95; Yale 8).

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