It sounds here like Paul is saying that God chose would be saved from the beginning, and I know a lot of Calvinists point to this verse as proof that God chooses those who will be saved and who won't be. Does this verse support their view? What is really being said in this part of scripture?Paul wrote:"But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth."
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I believe you are correct in saying that II Thess. 2:13 sounds like God chose who would be saved from the beginning. In fact, I believe He did choose who would be saved from the beginning just like it sounds. Yes, Calvinists would point to this verse as proof of their teaching. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter III, paragraph 3, it says “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His own glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.” As I read this statement, I actually don’t find that it contradicts what the Bible teaches. It is how Calvinists explain how God accomplishes this fact that I believe is wrong.
The Calvinists make their mistake in saying that man has no control over whether he is chosen to be saved or be lost, and then whichever way he is chosen can’t be changed. The Bible does not teach any such doctrine. The Calvinist teaching would carry a lot of comfort for those who are chosen to be saved. If you wanted to play golf on a pretty Sunday morning rather than going to worship, that would be okay since you couldn’t be lost. Examples like this could go on and on.
If you look at the very next verse (II Thess. 2:14), it says “to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Lord has chosen those to be saved who obey the gospel. He has chosen those to be lost who refuse to obey the gospel. Otherwise, why did Paul go to so much trouble to take the gospel to so many people with all the hardships attached? If God had already chosen individuals to be saved or lost regardless of what they did or didn’t do, Paul could have saved himself much suffering.
I like the way Allan Turner put it in his book, The Christian & Calvinism. On pages 135 and 136, we read as follows:
“The Calvinists wrongly teach that He ‘knew before’ only because He decreed/predestined/elected individuals to salvation unconditionally. But in stark contrast to this, the Bible teaches that God decreed/predestined/elected individuals to salvation conditionally. This means that in order to be saved one would have to meet the conditions for God’s grace. It means that those who did so would be God’s elect, individually and collectively.
“Who, then, are God’s elect? Those who, when confronted with the gospel, are willing, of their own free wills, to obey it. Why are they the elect? Because God, in His magnificent mercy, grace, and love, says so, that’s why. When did He know them? He knows them now and in the future, for such is the meaning of a verse like 2 Timothy 2:19. But even more significantly, He even knew who they were ‘Before the foundation of the world.’(Eph. 1:4) How could He know exactly who these individuals were before any of them were even created? Because He is an awesome God (Dan. 9:4) who “knows all things,’ (I John 3:20) ‘declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done,’ (Is. 46:10) and doing so simply because HE IS WHO HE IS. (Ex 3:20; John 8:58)
“Finally, does God have absolute foreknowledge? Yes. Does man have free will? Yes. Do these somehow cancel each other out? No. How do I know? Simply this: the Bible tells me so.”
A lot more could be said about Calvinism, but I will stop here. I hope this is helpful.