Bible Question:

Did Dr J Vernon McGee believe in predestination or freewill?

Bible Answer:

This article will answer the question, “Did Dr J Vernon McGee believe in predestination or man’s freewill? It is sad to read on the Internet that some individuals claim that Dr. J. Vernon McGee did not believe in predestination and election. It is obvious that the books and sermons of Dr. McGee were not carefully investigated. As one who was a member of the Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles while he was the pastor, it is sad for me to discover the distortions on the Internet and in print.

What follows reveals Dr. J Vernon McGee’s teaching about predestination and man’s freewill. Quotes are provided from two of his commentaries and one sermon (in audio). This documentation will demonstrate that he believed in both predestination and man’s freewill. He said, “The Father gives men to Christ, but men have to come.”

Dr J Vernon McGee

John 6:37 — Father Gives and One Who Comes To Me

Dr. J. Vernon McGee did not focus on teaching predestination and man’s freewill. Yet, when he came to Scripture that referred to the subject, he taught it. Maybe one of the best examples is found in his commentary on John 6:37. We begin with John 6:37 which says,

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. John 6:37 (NASB)

Now here is part of his commentary on the verse.

This thirty-seventh verse is a very impor­tant verse. There is a theological argument that rages today on election or free will. There are some people who put all their eggs in the basket of election. There are others who put all their eggs in the basket of free will. I’m not proposing to reconcile the two because I have discovered that I cannot. If you had met me the year that I entered seminary, or the year I graduated, I could have reconciled them for you. I never have been as smart as I was my first year and my last year in seminary. I knew it all then. I could reconcile election and free will, and it was a marvelous explanation. Now I’ve even forgotten what it was. It was pretty silly, if you want to know the truth.

Election and free will are both in this verse. ”All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” states a truth, and that is election. But wait a minute! and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” is also true, and “him that cometh to me” is free will. I don’t know how to reconcile them, but they are both true. The Father gives men to Christ, but men have to come. And the ones that come are the ones, apparently, whom the Father gives to Him. You and I are down here, and we don’t see into the machinery of heaven. I don’t know how God runs that computer of election, but I know that He has given to you and to me a free will and we have to exercise it.

Because Spurgeon preached a “whosoever will” gospel, someone said to him, “If I be­lieved like you do about election, I wouldn’t preach like you do.” Spurgeon’s answer was something like this, “If the Lord had put a yellow stripe down the backs of the elect, I’d go up and down the street lifting up shirt tails, finding out who had the yellow stripe, and then I’d give them the gospel. But God didn’t do it that way. He told me to preach the gospel to every creature that ‘whosoever will may come.'” Jesus says, “and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” So, my friend, you can argue about election all you want to, but you can come. And if you come, He’ll not cast you out. Someone may ask, “You mean that if I’m not the elect I can still come?” My friend, if you come you will be the elect.[1]

It is clear that Dr. McGee  believed in election or predestination and man’s freewill. He admits that Scripture does not explain how the two work together, but they do.

Ephesians 1:4 — He Chose Us in Him

Dr. J. Vernon McGee also commented on Ephesians 1:4. The verse says,

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him . . . Ephesians 1:4 (NASB)

His commentary on Ephesians 1:4 is lengthy. Therefore, we will share only a brief portion of his commentary. Here is a portion of what he said,

The late Dr. Harry A. Ironside told this story. A little boy was asked, “Have you found Jesus?” The little fellow answered, “Sir, I didn’t know He was lost. But I was lost and He found me.” My friend, you don’t find Jesus. He finds you. He is the One who went out after the lost sheep, and He is the One who found that sheep. God chose believers in Christ before the foundation of the world, way back in eternity past. That means that you and I didn’t do the choosing. He did not choose us because we were good or because we would do some good, but He did choose us so that we could do some good. The entire choice is thrown back upon the sovereignty of the wisdom and goodness of God alone. It was Charles Spurgeon who once said, “God chose me before I came into the world, because if He’d waited until I got here, He never would have chosen me.” It is God who has chosen us-we have not chosen Him. The Lord Jesus said to His own in the Upper Room, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you … ” (John 15:16). Dr. G. Campbell Morgan commented, “That puts the responsibility on Him. If He did the choosing, then He’s responsible.” That makes it quite won­derful!

Israel furnishes us an example of this divine choosing. “Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: there­fore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:1-2). God chose Israel in time; He chose the church in eternity. Since God made the choice in eternity, there has not arisen anything unforeseen to Him which has caused Him to revamp His program or change His mind. He knew the end from the beginning (see Acts 15:18).[2]

Here Dr. McGee states, “My friend, you don’t find Jesus. He finds you.” Again he said, “That means that you and I didn’t do the choosing.” It is very clear that he believed in predestination.

Ephesians 1:5 — He Predestined Us

Then in Ephesians 1:5, Dr. McGee spoke directly about predestination. But first, here is verse 5,

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . . Ephesians 1;5 (NASB)

Now here are his comments.

Somebody says, “Oooh, there’s that word pre­destination, and that’s another frightful term!” Friend, that’s one of the most wonder­ful words we have in Scripture, and this a glorious section. It is something we don’t hear too much about today. If I were not going through the Bible, I would have probably avoided this and would have chosen something else. I would have talked about the comfort there is for the saints, which is the big theme of even most fundamental preachers today. We’re all talking about comfort, but what we have here is strong medicine. Some folk won’t be able to take the medicine; but if you take it, it’ll do you good. We need something pretty strong in this flabby age in which we live. We need to know that we’ve been chosen in Him in order to stand for God today. It will make a world of difference in your life.

. . .

First of all, we’ve seen that He chose us-and that’s a pretty hard pill for us to swallow. Secondly, the Father predestinated us to the place of sonship. Thirdly, the Father made us accepted in the Beloved.

I cannot repeat often enough that election is God’s choosing us in Christ. I emphasize again that men are not lost because they have not been elected. They are lost because they are sinners and that is the way they want it and that is the way they have chosen. The free will of man is never violated because of the election of God. The lost man makes his own choice. Augustine expressed it like this: “If there be not free will grace in God, how can He save the world? And if there be not free will in man, how can the world by God be judged?” Here again is Paul’s strong statement, ”What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid” (Rom. 9:14). Now if you think that there is some unrighteousness with God, you had better change your mind.[3]

Notice that Dr. McGee believed in predestination, but he not believe in double predestination. He said, “I emphasize again that men are not lost because they have not been elected.” Why? Now as the author of this article, I will add that Scripture never teaches that God predestined men and women to eternal condemnation.

Conclusion

In one of Dr. J Vernon McGee’s sermons titled, “Election or Free Will, Which One?” he said that there is “No contradiction of these two great doctrines.”[4] The two doctrines he referred to are election or predestination and man’s freewill. Early in his message he said,

Scripture does teach both of these doctrines. It teaches the doctrine of election. It teaches the doctrine of freewill. We are going to look at each one of them, and then we are going to see that the Scriptures harmonize both them, and that they can function together in a friendly climate. And the contradiction is largely in the limit of our minds and in our own thinking today.[5]

At the conclusion of his sermons, he taught John 6:37. We have already discovered that he did believe that God elected men and women to believe in Christ from the foundation of the world. Let us remember that he said this,

I don’t know how to reconcile them, but they are both true. The Father gives men to Christ, but men have to come. And the ones that come are the ones, apparently, whom the Father gives to Him. [6]

 

References:

1. J. Vernon McGee. Matthew through Romans. Thru the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1983. p. 405.
2. J. Vernon McGee. 1 Corinthians through Revelation. Thru the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1983. p. 213-214.
3. Ibid., p. 216.
4. J. Vernon McGee. “Election or Free Will, Which One?” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MuC0Azbbg8)
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid., J. Vernon McGee. Matthew through Romans.

Suggested Links:

Predestination and Human Responsibility
If you are not chosen, then does it really matter when you die?
Does teaching predestination prevent people from going to heaven?
Who are the elect or the chosen in salvation?
How can we have freewill if we must love God to escape hell?
How does Romans 11:33-36 help us understand Ephesians 1:4-6?
I Am the Bread of Life, part 1
I Am the Bread of Life, part 2
Are You The Christ? Tell Us Plainly!
What is the role of man and God in salvation?