Updated: Jan 31
By Luke Lancaster
Some of those who are in the "reformed" Christian camp will argue for their belief in God's eternal decree of people to either Heaven or Hell by pointing to 1 Thessalonians 1:4. In this verse, Paul calls believers people who have been “chosen” or “elected” by God, which would imply that believers are predestined to Heaven without their choice, and could not lose their salvation. Paul said, “For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you” (1 Thess. 1:4). To be "chosen" or "elect," so it is argued, means that there was a permanent decision by God from the beginning of time for the believer to be saved. There was zero free will involved.
To say that zero free will was involved would not be in harmony with Catholic Tradition. We believe as Catholics that God mysteriously predestines, yet also takes into account the free will of the individual. I hold to the orthodox position that Christ foreknew who would accept and be faithful to the Gospel and who would not, and so Christ would have predestined those who He knew would accept it.
Methodist Scripture scholar I. Howard Marshall interprets the passage in a different but intriguing way than myself. He says in his book, New Testament Theology, that, “the term elect is always applied to those who have actually become members of God’s people rather than to those whom God has predestined to salvation before they have actually received it. What Paul is referring to here is the fact that God’s choice of the readers is seen in the way it which they have accepted the gospel.” Instead of arguing for God's foreknowledge and subsequent predestining, Marshall argues that those who accepted the Gospel freely were chosen by God that very moment.
So a believer could say that he used his free will and was chosen by God to come to faith, instead of being predestined by God’s previous choice. Judas would be an example of this, for he was chosen by God when he followed Jesus, but subsequently was unchosen when he denied Jesus. I think this is a very sound interpretation of the Holy text as .