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Quotes about Predestination and Election

Quotes about predestination and election from throughout Christian History.


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Clement of Rome, AD 95-96

Day and night you were anxious for the whole brotherhood, that the number of God's elect might be saved with mercy and a good conscience. (1 Clement 2)

Let us draw near to him with holiness of spirit, lifting up pure and undefiled hands to him, loving our gracious and merciful Father, who has made us to himself a part of his election. (1 Clement 29)

Let us cleave, therefore, to the innocent and righteous, since these are the elect of God. (1 Clement 46)

Let him who has love in Christ keep the commandments of Christ. Who can describe the bond of the love of God? What man is able to tell the excellence of its beauty, as it ought to be told? The height to which love exalts is unspeakable. Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins [Jas. 5:20; 1 Pet. 4:8]. Love bears all things, is patient in all things [1 Cor. 13:4,7]. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits no schisms; love gives rise to no seditions. Love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect. Without love nothing is well-pleasing to God. In love has the Lord taken us to himself. On account of the love he bore for us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave his blood for us by the will of God, his flesh for our flesh, and his soul for our souls. (1 Clement 49)

Blessed are we, beloved, if we keep the commandments of God in the harmony of love, so that through love our sins may be forgiven us. For it is written, "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not impute to him, and in whose mouth there is no guile" [Ps. 32:1-2]. This blessedness comes upon those who have been chosen by God through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory for ever and ever. (1 Clement 50)

Ignatius of Antioch, A.D. 107 - 113

Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia, deservedly most happy, being blessed in the greatness and fulness of God the Father, and predestinated before the ages, that it should be always for an enduring and unchangeable glory, being united and elected through the true suffering by the will of the Father and Jesus Christ, our God: Abundant happiness through Jesus Christ, and his undefiled grace. (Letter to the Ephesians intro.)

Pray without ceasing on behalf of everyone. For in them there is hope of repentance so that they may attain to God. Permit them, then, to be instructed by your works, if in no other way. Be meek in response to their wrath, humble in opposition to their boasting; to their blasphemies return your prayers; in contrast to their error be steadfast in the faith; and for their cruelty display your gentleness. (Letter to the Ephesians 10)

As persons who are perfect, you should also aim at those things which are perfect. For when you are desirous to do well, God is also ready to assist you. (Letter to the Smyrneans 11)

Justin Martyr, c. A.D. 150

We have been taught that in the beginning [God]—of his goodness, for man's sake—created all things out of unformed matter, and if men by their works show themselves worthy of this his design, they are deemed worthy—and so we have received—of reigning in company with him, being delivered from corruption and suffering. For as in the beginning he created us when we did not exist, so we think that, in the same way, those who choose what is pleasing to him are, because of their choice, deemed worthy of incorruption and of fellowship with him. For it was not in our own power that we came into being at first, and so that we might follow the things which please him, choosing them by the rational faculties he himself endowed us with, he both persuades us and leads us to faith. (First Apology 10)

We hold this view, that it is equally impossible for the wicked, the covetous, the conspirator, and for the virtuous to escape the notice of God, and that each man goes to everlasting punishment or salvation according to the value of his actions. If all men knew this, no one would choose wickedness even for a little while, knowing that he goes to the everlasting punishment of fire. Instead, he would restrain himself by any means and adorn himself with virtue, so that he might obtain the good gifts of God and escape the punishments. (First Apology 12)

Among us the prince of the wicked spirits is called the serpent, Satan, and the devil, as you can learn by looking into our writings. That he would be sent into the fire with his army and the men who follow him, and would be punished for an endless duration, Christ foretold. The reason God has delayed doing this is his regard for the human race. For he foreknows that some are to be saved by repentance, some even that are perhaps not yet born.

   In the beginning he made the human race with the power of thought and of choosing the truth and doing right. As a result, all men are without excuse before God, for they have been born rational and contemplative. (First Apology 28)

But lest some suppose, from what we have said, that we say that whatever happens, happens by a fatal necessity—because it is foretold as known beforehand—this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man's actions.

   If this is not true, but all things happen by fate, then nothing at all is in our own power. If it is fated, for example, that one man be good and another evil, then the former is not meritorious, nor is the latter to be blamed. And again, unless the human race has the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, no matter what those actions are.

   But we will show that it is by free choice they both walk uprightly and stumble in this way: We see the same man making a transition to opposite things. Now, if it had been fated that he were to be either good or bad, he could never have been capable of both the opposites, nor of so many transitions. Nor would some be good and others bad. Since we are making fate the cause of evil, we would be making her act in opposition to herself. …

   But we assert this as inevitable fate: they who choose the good have worthy rewards, and they who choose the opposite have their merited awards. For God did not make man like other things, such as trees and four-legged creatures, which cannot act by choice. Man would be worthy of neither reward or praise if he did not choose good himself but was instead created for that purpose. Nor, if he were evil, would he be worthy of punishment, not being evil of himself, but being able to be nothing else than that for which he was made. (First Apology 43)

But if the Word of God foretells that some angels and men shall be certainly punished, he did so because he foreknew that they would be unchangeably [wicked], not because God created them so. (Dialogue with Trypho 141)

Hermas, c. A.D. 160

To those whose heart he saw would become pure and obedient to him, he gave power to repent with the whole heart. But to those whose deceit and wickedness he perceived, and saw that they intended to repent hypocritically, he did not grant repentance, lest they should again profane His name. (Shepherd of Hermas III:8:6)

Theophilus of Antioch, A.D. 168

Was man made by nature mortal? Certainly not. Was he, then, immortal? We do not affirm this, either. … Neither, then, immortal nor yet mortal did he make him, but … capable of both.  … 

   If he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as the reward from him immortality, and should become divine [The early Christians regularly equated immortality with divinity; only gods are immortal, and they regularly quoted John 10:34-35 to establish that God offers to make us gods.]. If, on the other hand, he should turn to the things of death, disobeying God, he should himself be the cause of death to himself. For God made man free, and with power over himself.

   That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through his own philanthropy and pity when men obey Him. For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting. For God has given us a law and holy commandments, and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption. (To Autolycus II:27)

Melito of Sardis, c. A.D. 170

There is, therefore, nothing to hinder you from changing your evil way of life, because you are a free man; nor from seeking and finding out who is the Lord of all; nor from serving him with all your heart. For with him there is no reluctance to give the knowledge of himself to those that seek it, according to the measure of their capacity to know him. (Discourse in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar, from Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. VIII)

Irenaeus of Lyons, c. A.D. 183 - 186

They [The Marcionite heretics], "God hardened the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants." Those … who allege such difficulties do not read in the Gospel that passage where the Lord replied to the disciples, when they asked Him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?"—"Because it is given to you to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, but to them I speak in parables so that seeing they may not see, hearing they may not hear, and understanding they may not understand. … " For one and the same God inflicts blindness upon those who do not believe, but who set him at naught in the same way that the sun, which is his creation, to those who, because of some weakness of the eyes, cannot behold his light. But to those who believe in him and follow him, he grants a fuller and greater illumination of mind.

   In accordance with this word, therefore, the apostle says, in the Second to the Corinthians, "In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should shine [on them]." And again, in that to the Romans, "And as they did not think fit to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do those things that are not convenient." Speaking of antichrist, too, he says clearly in the Second to the Thessalonians: "And for this cause God shall send them the working of error, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be judged who did not believe the truth, but consented to iniquity."

   If, therefore, in the present time also, God, knowing the number of those who will not believe—since he foreknows everything—has given them over to unbelief and turned his face away from men of this kind, leaving them in the darkness which they have themselves chosen for themselves, then why would it be amazing if he also, in that time, gave Pharaoh—who would never have believed—along with those who were with him, over to their unbelief? As the Word said to Moses from the bush, "I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go except by a mighty hand."

   For the reason that the Lord spoke in parables and brought blindness upon Israel, that seeing they might not see, which is that he knew the unbelief in them—for the same reason he hardened Pharaohís heart. This was so that, while seeing that it was the finger of God which led forth the people, he might not believe, but be precipitated into a sea of unbelief, resting in the notion that the exit of the [Israelites] was accomplished by magical power and that it was not by the operation of God that the Red Sea afforded a passage to the people, but that this occurred by merely natural causes. (Against Heresies IV:29:1-2)

This expression [of our Lord], "How often would I have gathered your children together, and you were not willing" [Matt. 23:37], set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free agent from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will is present with Him continually. And therefore does he give good counsel to all. And in man, as well as in angels, he has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves. On the other hand, they who have not obeyed shall, with justice, be not found in possession of the good, and shall receive appropriate punishment: for God did kindly bestow on them what was good; but they themselves did not diligently keep it, nor deem it something precious, but poured contempt upon His super-eminent goodness. Rejecting therefore the good, and as it were spewing it out, they shall all deservedly incur the just judgment of God, which also the Apostle Paul testifies in his Epistle to the Romans, where he says, "But do you despise the riches of his goodness, and patience, and long-suffering, being ignorant that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But according to your hardness and impenitent heart, you store up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. ... But glory and honor," he says, "to everyone that does good" [Rom. 2:4,5,7]. God therefore has given that which is good, as the apostle tells us in this epistle, and they who do it shall receive glory and honor, because they have done that which is good when they had it in their power not to do it; but those who do it not shall receive the just judgment of God, because they did not work good when they had it in their power so to do.

But if some had been made by nature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good, for such were they created; nor would the former be reprehensible, for thus they were made. But since all men are of the same nature--able both to hold fast and to do what is good; and, on the other hand, having also the power to cast it from them and not to do it--some do justly receive praise even among men who are under the control of good law and obtain deserved testimony of their choice of good in general, and of persevering therein; but the others are blamed, and receive a just condemnation, because of their rejection of what is fair and good. And therefore the prophets used to exhort men to what was good, to act justly and to work righteousness, as I have so largely demonstrated, because it is in our power so to do, and because by excessive negligence we might become forgetful, and thus stand in need of that good counsel which the good God has given us to know by means of the prophets. (Against Heresies, IV:37:1-2)

For in no other way could we have learned the things of God, unless our Master, existing as the Word, had become man. For no other Being had the power of revealing to us the things of the Father, except his own proper Word. For what other person "knew the mind of the Lord," or who else "has become His counsellor?" [Rom. 11:34] Again, we could have learned in no other way than by seeing our Teacher and hearing his voice with our own ears that, having become imitators of his works as well as doers of His words, we may have communion with Him, receiving increase from the Perfect One, and from him who is prior to all creation. We were but lately created by the only best and good Being, by him also who has the gift of immortality. We have been formed after his likeness--predestinated according to the prescience of the Father, that we, who had as yet no existence, might come into being and be made the first-fruits of creation [Jas. 1:18]--and we have received, in the times known beforehand, according to the ministration of the Word. He is the one who is perfect in all things, as the mighty Word and truly man, who, redeeming us by his own blood in a manner consistent with reason, gave himself as a redemption for those who had been led into captivity.

   Because the apostasy tyrannized over us unjustly and--though we were by nature the property of the omnipotent God--alienated us contrary to nature, rendering us its own disciples, the Word of God, who was powerful in all things and not defective with regard to His own justice, did righteously turn against that apostasy and redeem from it his own property. He did not do this by violent means. That was the way the [apostasy] had obtained dominion over us at the beginning, when it insatiably snatched away what was not its own. Instead, [the Word of God redeemed us] by means of persuasion, as became a God of counsel, who does not use violent means to obtain what He desires. In this way justice is not infringed upon, nor does the ancient handiwork of God go to destruction. The Lord thus has redeemed us through his own blood, giving his soul for our souls, and his flesh for our flesh. He has also poured out the Spirit of the Father for the union and communion of God and man. He indeed imparted God to man by means of the Spirit and, on the other hand, attached man to God by his own incarnation. He bestowed upon us at his coming immortality--durably and truly--by means of communion with God. (Against Heresies V:1:1)

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