When the New Testament speaks of election and predestination, it always speaks of our being elect, or chosen, in the Beloved, in Christ. Ultimately, the New Testament tells us that people are chosen for salvation so that God the Father can bestow His glory, love, and affection on God the Son (Eph. 1:3–6). Ultimately, we’re redeemed not because of our worthiness but because of the worthiness of Christ.
If we are going to take the Bible seriously, we have to have some doctrine of predestination. The idea of predestination wasn’t invented by Calvin or Luther or Augustine. Paul says in Ephesians 1:4–6 that in love, God “predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” So, predestination is a biblical word, and it’s a biblical concept.
But the very concept of predestination raises the question, why does God elect certain people and not others? We know that it’s not based on anything that we do. It’s not based on our running, our willing, or our doing anything. It’s based solely on the purpose of God, as Paul says in Ephesians. But that raises another question: If the reason for the Lord’s selecting some to receive the tremendous benefit of salvation but not others is not rooted in those whom He chooses (Rom. 9:1–18), doesn’t that mean that somehow God is arbitrary?
Let’s take a moment to define what we mean by the term arbitrary. People who are arbitrary do what they do without any reason. They just do it, and when you ask them why they did it, they might respond, “No reason. Just on a whim.” We don’t have a lot of respect for capricious people who do things for no reason.