Rbanks, please receive my words with an understanding that I write in a spirit of benevolence, and not insolent argument.
The sort of determination you describe is not Divine Predestination at all, though you may use such language. Rather, it is a kind of heavenly reaction, God's merciful ratification of the foreknown, self-sovereign determination of persons to believe on Christ for salvation. Such belief supposes that from eternity God merely stamps His approval on the foreseen intentions of those who ultimately commit their hearts to Christ. And this decision to place faith in Jesus springs decidedly from an energy native to their own natural being, or else God would be partial and unjust for granting them more than another.
Have I misrepresented your views? I do not think I have been too unfair. Yet even a common dictionary declares this to be a wayward definition of predestination, nor is it classical usage of the term elsewhere.
Webster's 1828 states,
"PREDESTINA'TION, n. The act of decreeing or foreordaining events; the decree of God by which he hath, from eternity, unchangeably appointed or determined whatever comes to pass. It is used particularly in theology to denote the preordination of men to everlasting happiness or misery."
Predestination is an active verb; it is an act. The supposed ratification of which you speak is passive, reactionary. It responds to the work of man. Divine Predestination, by contrast, is unalterably the work of Sovereign God on passive man. I will demonstrate this below. But first,
You wrote, "He has foreordained everyone in Christ to eternal life, because they believed in His Son and his finished work of redemption."
Your application of the word "because" makes the previous statement abhorrent, though I can trust you are saved differently than your writing would indicate. A Gospel which saved because we fulfilled the command to "repent and believe" (Acts 17) is not the Gospel which Ephesians, or the whole counsel of God preaches. You mix the means of salvation for the basis of of it, and pour water on the roots of the Galatian heresy.
Hear the words of inspired Paul,
"For you are saved by grace, through faith, not of yourselves but the gift of God."
We are not saved [i]because[/i] of faith, but [i]through[/i] faith, which comes as a result of being "quickened, who were uterly dead in trespasses and sins. He does this in His elect because of a real atonement made by Christ for all who were predestined by God to adoption from before the foundation of the world. Though the means and conditions of salvation are proclaimed freely, yet all willfully reject it except the few chosen. These only receive the regeneration necessary to alter their nature, thereby freeing their will from bondage to dominating sin.
You may cringe at such a statement, but the fact is everywhere evident. The harmony of will and nature is plain to anyone who looks. Consider now that nearly everyone who has heated water chooses to have hot showers rather than cold ones. The fact that they always choose hot is not because they have no will by which to choose cold; people simply choose their preference, and never will for what they expect to give less satisfaction. Every decision a person makes is for their greatest satisfaction, even if their ability to judge what will satisfy is greatly impaired. Intoxicated men have strong wills but weak judgments. Alcohol does not take their will, it perverts it. So does sin. As well, a man who ordinarily hates lying will eagerly tell one to save his friend's life. Such a man desires the greater satisfaction of preserving his loved one than of preserving his character, and so wills against his usual inclination. We see undeniably that the will is captive to ones ability to judge what will best satisfy his desires.
This brings us to the great problem, that mankind is born with a sinful nature which will always motivate him, at last, to choose self and sin over God. At the very best, men depart like the rich young ruler. Though one sees something of the value of Christ and the gospel, yet he does not desire more to be free of sin and the works of the law. "None cometh unto Me," said Christ, "accept Him whom the Father draws, and ALL of these I shall raise up on that day." The battle for souls is secure in a conquering King, who liberates souls victoriously.
The God who elects some willful sinners to salvation by regeneration unto faith, has also passed over others. He has chosen instead to make some sinners examples of His justice and wrath, per Romans 9.
"What (is your complaint) if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction (as it were, by the hands of a Potter God) :
And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the [b]vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared[/b] unto glory, Even [b] us, whom he hath called[/b], not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?"
In conclusion, the predestination of some to hell for their willful sin is just. The predestination of others by grace unto salvation through faith which comes by regeneration, is gracious.
Brother, I leave you with John Gill's exposition of Ephesians 2:1. May God save you from this error, though I may have reasonable confidence He has already saved your soul.
Men in an unregenerate state, being represented in these passages as dead in sin, shows, that whilst they are in such a state, they are as incapable of spiritual motion or action, or of quickening themselves, as a dead man is of natural motion, or action, or of raising himself from the dead. Whence it must needs follow, that the work of conversion is a work of God, and not man, and to be ascribed to the exceeding greatness of his power; in which man is passive as a dead body is in its resurrection from the dead. In answer to which,
1st. It is said, "that the metaphor of being dead in trespasses and sins, cannot warrant our saying anything of unregenerate persons, which may properly be affirmed of the dead;" for,
1. "A dead body is void of all sense; whereas the unregenerate man is often under strong convictions, and a deep sense of his present misery." To which I reply, that it is one thing for a man to be under strong convictions, and a deep sense of his present misery, or of the evil and mischief which comes by sin, which sense is purely natural; and another thing to be under real convictions, and a deep sense of the true evil and wickedness that is in sin, which is purely spiritual, and arises from the quickening influences of the Spirit of God.
2. A dead man cannot awake himself out of the sleep of death; but God saith to the spiritually dead man, Awake, thou that sleepest, arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee life, it should have been light (Eph. 5:14). I reply, that these words are not spoken to the spiritually dead, but to professors of religion, as abundantly appears from the context; who were fallen into a drowsy, sleepy frame, which was very much owing to their conversation with dead sinners: wherefore the Apostle exhorts them, to rouse themselves from this lethargy, and arise, and depart from their dead companions, and unfruitful works of darkness, when they might expect more light and liveliness in their souls from Christ.
3. "A dead man cannot hear: but to the spiritually dead, God saith, Hear, and you souls shall live (Isa. 55:8)." To which may be replied, that there is a twofold hearing of the word; an external one, which regards the outward ministry of it, and an internal one, so as to understand it; the former, men spiritually dead may be capable of, but not of the latter; (see John 8:43, 47). Besides the persons spoken to in the passage of Scripture cited, were not spiritually dead, but were such as were quickened, who had a principle of spiritual life implanted in them. In consequence of which, they thirsted after spiritual things, verse 1, though greatly distressed under a sense of their spiritual poverty. Wherefore, the Lord encourages them to hearken to him, and listen to his covenant, grace and promises, that they might live comfortably.
4. "It would be absurd to exhort a dead body to turn about and live; whereas God thinks it not incongruous to say to persons spiritually dead, Turn yourselves, and ye shall live" (Ezek. 18:32; 33:11). I reply, that the passages referred to, do not regard such who were spiritually dead; since they concern the whole house of Israel, and every one of them: of whom it cannot be said, that they were dead in trespasses and sins: nor do the exhortations relate to the first work of conversion, but to an external reformation of them as a body politic, that they might peaceably live in their own land, and comfortably enjoy the good things of it.
5. "Good Christians are said to be dead to sin (Rom. 6:2, 11); to the law (Gal. 2:19), and to the world (Gal. 6:14)." Now if hence we cannot truly argue, that they cannot sin at all, that they can do nothing relating to the world, or to the law; neither can we argue from the metaphor of being dead in trespasses and sins, that we can do nothing in obedience to the calls of God, or compliance with the motions of his word and Spirit. To which I reply, that the meaning of the phrases in the passages mentioned is, that believers are freed from the damning power of sin, and from the curse and condemnation of the law, and are delivered from this present evil world. Now, whereas we can truly argue from hence, that believers are so dead to sin, the law, and the world, and these to them, as that they cannot condemn, damn, or destroy them; so we can truly argue from the metaphor, of being dead in trespasses and sins, that men can do nothing spiritually good, until God powerfully calls them by his grace, and they feel the quickening influences and motions of his Spirit.
2ndly In answer to the argument from these Scriptures, it is observed, that "both the places cited concern only the Gentile world; and so we cannot argue from those words, which do so certainly relate to the worst of Heathens, that this must be the natural state of all men: or, that the same power is requisite to convert the unregenerate Christian, and the worst of Heathens." I reply, that these persons spoken of were Heathens, is readily granted; but that they were the worst of Heathens is not so manifest, though, probably, they were as bad as any. However, I cannot but take notice of the unregenerate Christian, as a mere paradox, a contradiction in terms; since no man can be truly a Christian but he that is regenerated by the Spirit of Christ. But, passing these things, let it be observed, that the same character of being dead in a moral or spiritual sense, is given to unregenerate Jews, which is here given to the unconverted Gentiles (Matthew 8:22; John 5:25). For that they were Jews, and not Gentiles, our Lord speaks to and of in the places referred to, is evident from this consideration, that as yet the Gospel was not sent to the Gentiles; nor were there any among them as yet who heard his voice or followed him. Nothing is more a certain and true than this, that he, or she, that liveth in pleasure, whether Jew or Gentile, are dead while they live. Besides, the a apostle says the very same things, in the same words, of himself, who was a Jew, and a devout one, and of others, while unconverted, as he does of these worst of Heathens (Eph. 2:4, 5). So that we may truly argue, and safely conclude, that this must be the natural state of all men; and that the same power is requisite to convert an unregenerate Jew, yea, an unregenerate man living where Christianity is professed, and the worst of Heathens; since the same characters belong to them.