G4. Predestination Part 4: Predestination Tells Us Who We Are



Before Jeremiah was born, God knew him (endowed him with the substance of Christ), consecrated him (set him aside for a holy task), and appointed him (made him God’s representative in an alien, foreign world). … God does something similar for all his people. … We are exiles and strangers, but predestination gives us absolute assurance of God’s victory.

The prophet Jeremiah

How does predestination tell us who we are? Consider the following passage from the book of Jeremiah, in which God tells Jeremiah about Jeremiah’s predestined role in God’s plan:

Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” [Jeremiah 1:4-5]

“I knew you”

First God tells Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” We’ve already talked about what that means. I means that some of the substance of Christ was given to Jeremiah long before Jeremiah had an earthly body. Have you ever wondered how it happens that some people are mysteriously drawn to Christ — how it happens that they recognize him as soon as they see him, even if they might have been raised in a non-Christian tradition?

Did I say “As soon as they see him?” Sometimes people raised as Muslims report that Jesus appeared to them in a dream. They say that in the dream Jesus never announced who he was; they “just knew” instantly it was Jesus. How did they know? They recognized Jesus because their spirit was with him in heaven before they were given bodies on earth. Their spirit remembers! It is as the Preacher wrote in Ecclesiastes, when he referred to the day of death as the time when “the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” [Ecclesiastes 12:7]

“I consecrated you”

After telling Jeremiah “I knew you,” God tells him, “Before you were born I consecrated you.” The word consecrated means set aside for a holy task, that is, a task that will in one way or another bring glory to God. Jeremiah’s particular task (announced in the next clause) was to be a prophet to God’s people. But God tells us that we all have some part to play as members of the body of Christ. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ.” [1 Corinthians 12:12] Just as Jeremiah was given a special task by the Lord, so each of us also has been given some special task. It may not seem special to us, but God does not make mistakes!

“I appointed you”

When God announces the particular task he has for Jeremiah, he puts it this way: “I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Someone who is appointed is a representative of the one who appointed him. One might think here of the president of a country appointing an ambassador to some foreign country.l Ideally it should be someone who speaks that foreign country’s language and understands their culture, and at the same time someone who completely understand the priorities and goals of the president who appointed him. So that was Jeremiah’s job: to faithfully represent his God in an alien, foreign world.

Strangers and exiles on earth

The author of the letter to the Hebrews lists names of several Old Testament servants of the Lord, and then says, “These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” [Hebrews 11:13] He doesn’t mention Jeremiah’s name, but surely Jeremiah would have fallen in that category: a stranger and exile on earth. And isn’t that the situation of all of us, as well? We are strangers and exiles on this earth, serving a God who has sent us here with an appointed task.

And what if I refuse that task? you may ask. What if I decide to use my free will to resist God? If that is what you decide, then God will find someone else.

God’s people must reveal themselves, also

Recall once again God’s promise to Abraham, when he said that someday Abraham’s descendants would serve as slaves in Egypt. Then he said, “And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” In other words, God was promising that he would place his own people in the path of the Amorites so they could defeat the absolute wickedness of the Amorites. The message is that God does not only want to defeat evil. He also wants evil to fully reveal itself, so that it can be opposed; and he wants his people to glorify God by standing firm for God in opposition to evil. That is how we as God’s people are identified — by our standing firm for God, in opposition to the wickedness in the world.


In his parable of the seeds and the sower, Jesus talks about “the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.” [Matthew 13:20] This would be like any people who might have come out to support the king we talked about earlier in his showdown golf match, but when it began to rain a little, they decided to give up and go home. The king would say, “I don’t want any fair weather supporters. I want only the diehards. I want only the ones who survive the test. And when they survive the test and show complete loyalty to me, that will give glory to my kingship.”

Jesus says that our task is to stand up, not against rain clouds, but against Satan, the Accuser. We want to be among those who “have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” [Revelation 12:11]

God’s absolute assurance of chosen-ness

In the following verses from Isaiah 43, God is trying to convey to his people (and “his people” includes us today) an assurance of his protection at all times, rooted in his people’s chosen-ness (that is, in Biblical predestination). The last words of the passage give a clue to the overall meaning, so I’ll give you the last words before you read all seven verses: “every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Now here is the entire passage:

But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
every one who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.
[Isaiah 43:1-7]

There are certain people whom God “formed and made,” whom he “created for [his] glory”; and these people are by design (God’s predestined design) separate and distinct in the eyes of God from all other people on earth. This, once again, is the stumbling block of predestination: that God has made a distinction in favor of certain people and against other people, and the distinction was made even before they were created, even before they had done anything right or wrong.

“I give men in return for you”

And this passage contains a statement that is even more of a stumbling block. God says, “I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” How can God say such a thing? How can he say that he gives some people in exchange for others? It smacks of tremendous unfairness, by our human standards. But it brings us back to passages we have already discussed, like the time God told Abraham that his descendants must return to the land of Canaan because “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” It is necessary that God’s people confront those who are evil and, through God’s power, overcome them — thereby giving glory to God. Here the word “necessary” can be translated as “predestined by God.”

Why bother with predestination?

Perhaps you are thinking that predestination is a hard subject to think about, and you figure that you believe in Christ so shouldn’t that be enough, and why all this bother about predestination since it can be upsetting? Actually, the opposite is true — it can be very reassuring! Consider the words of Jesus to his disciples:

“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. [John 14:1-3]

Let not your hearts be troubled … rest assured … do not worry … be not anxious … because there is a place for you set aside by the God whose plan has been complete since the world began.

For those who acknowledge that they are strangers and exiles on this earth, who recognize that they are representing God as ambassadors in a foreign land, acting as obedient servants of the Lord Jesus Christ — for them “God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” [Hebrews 11:16] They may lift their eyes toward heaven and say, “I am thankful that God provided a path to eternal life for me, and that he provided it with absolute certainty even before the beginning of time!”