THE GRAND PURPOSE OF
THE ETERNAL SPIRIT (5)
Divine Selection and Predestination
In our previous issue, we considered the way in which sinners are called to be saints, and the means by which they might be reconciled to their Creator. But according to Messiah himself, though there may be multitudes who are being called, only a relative few will be finally selected to be invested with an incorruptible nature: “many are called, but few are chosen” (Mat. 22:14). These “few” are those who traverse the narrow path, as distinct to the majority who remain on the broad way that leads only to ultimate destruction (Mat. 7:13-14). In this study, we shall consider the process of Divine Selection according to the Foreknowledge of Yahweh, styled in Scripture, “Predestination”.
One of the difficulties of examining this subject, is that the Bible word “Predestination” is often used to describe a non-Bible subject, which directly denies the Bible doctrine of free-will. For ease of reference, in this article we shall refer to this doctrine as “Calvanism”, after John Calvin who famously articulated this idea in his writings. Calvanism has been conveniently described as follows:
“The eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. Not all are created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death”
The book called The Christadelphian Treasury carries the following definition:
“Calvanism is the doctrine that we are predestined by God to be saved, or to be damned, in spite of our own efforts or conduct.”
And a further summary has been expressed thus:
“Our entire lives have been pre-ordained, or pre-planned by God, and that therefore we inevitably work out our lives according to a destiny we cannot avoid”
The essence of Calvinism then, rules out salvation according to the exercise of free-will to obey Yahweh. Denying the very existence of such a free-will, it teaches that all men are in an inexorable path either to death or life, solely upon the purpose and direction of the Creator. Like so many wrong doctrines, this brand of falsehood is a confusion of truth and error, but it’s overall premise contradicts the Bible teaching of personal choice and free-will. Consider the following testimonies:
“I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27)
“Let us also fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His Rest, any of you should seem to come short of it” (Heb. 4:1)
In both of these passages, the very real danger of not being granted salvation is expressed as a means of encouraging a faithful walk in Christ. Even the Apostle Paul recognised that despite the good that he endeavoured to accomplish, there was still the possibility of him becoming a castaway. Clearly, this contradicts Calvanism which states that once saved, it is just not possible for a believer to fall by the exercise of his own volition.
Again, the Apostle writes to the Philippians:
“Wherefore my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).
If salvation is irrespective of human will, then why must we “work out” our own salvation? Surely, nothing that we can do will change our irrevocable destiny to either salvation or damnation?
Leaving behind the folly of men, we need to consider the Bible doctrine which is called “Predestination” in the English version. Linguistically, it has been pointed out that “Predestinate” translates the word “proorizo,” which is derived from pro = “before” and “horizo” = “to mark out” or “bound” (from which we have the word “horizon”). Literally therefore, the Greek signifies “to mark out before”. The word occurs 6 times in the New Testament: we shall consider these instances in turn
“… both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts. 4:27-28).
This passage is particularly interesting, as it has a very direct bearing on the idea of being “marked out before”. The context is to do with a quotation from Psalm 2, where the things described by the Apostles, are written in advance (compare Psalm 2:1,2 with Acts 4:26). Here the predestinated purpose is that Yahweh had predicted that certain things would take place—marking them out before in His Word—and they were actually accomplished. Those who were instrumental in fulfilling this prophecy did so entirely out of their own motives (else they could not righteously be condemned for what they did), yet things worked out to fulfil the Old Testament Scriptures. In a similar way, God has determined in advance who will be in the Kingdom based upon His Foreknowledge as to what men will turn out to be like. Utilising (rather than denying) human free-will, His Purpose concerning them will surely be fulfilled. So we read in Romans 8:
“… for whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreoever, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them h also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:29-30).
Notice there, the certainty of the thing is so absolute that it is spoken of as if it were already accomplished. The words “them he also glorified” relates to the future, yet describes the things in terms as if they already were present. “Glory and honour and eternal life” will be given at the Master’s coming again (Rom. 2:7), for it is only “when the chief Shepherd shall appear” that “ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Pet. 5:4). Yet Romans 8 speaks as though the glorious Crown has already been given—and through the divine foreknowledge, as distinct from the interference of free-will.
To summarise Romans 8, we find that God knew us beforehand (e.g. Jer. 1:5): Through His Foreknowledge, He determined that we should be conformed to the image of his Son—in order that Jesus might be the firstborn of many brethren.
“we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory” (1 Cor. 2:7).
Notice that again, we have reference to the “glory” of the redeemed, but this time the “wisdom” relating to it was hidden from previous generations, and was only now being revealed through the New Testament apostles and prophets. The principle is that the thing was ordained from before the world began, yet was later revealed to the New Testament writers.
“… as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself” (Eph. 1:4-5)
“… in whom also we have obtained and inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11).
Here, the Predestination is according to His “Purpose”. That purpose was being made plain by the ministration of the prophets (both Old and New Testaments). Upon the basis of how men and women will fit into the outworking of Yahweh’s Purpose, He has adopted them as children, and will use them for the accomplishment thereof.
THE PURPOSE OF YAHWEH
The Scriptures we have considered illustrate how that the fulfilment of Yahweh’s purpose depends upon the free-will of men and women to choose to follow His Ways, and develop in His Image and likeness. Brother Peter Moore in a recent Bible Class expressed the situation thus:
“The Lord planned, or determined beforehand a way to bring into existence a community of people who will serve and praise Him because they have exercised their free-will and chosen to do so.” (Peter Moore)
Based upon His infinite knowledge of how this will be accomplished, the fulfilment of that Purpose is certain and absolute: “as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh” (Num. 14:21, Hab. 2:14). Another writer give the following summary:
“God has marked out beforehand the program of His actions with mankind, and therefore is able to see the results of that work before it comes to pass” (HP Mansfield)
BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD
Romans chapter 8 clearly links the idea of Predestination with Yahweh’s Foreknowledge:
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29).
God did “foreknow” who would turn out to be the means of establishing His Kingdom by the exercise of their free-will. In this way, He has Chosen us even before the world began:
“… According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4).
The Divine Choice is not made because men and women have no free-will to accept, or reject the principles of their Creator—but because they choose to follow righteousness, and forsake sin. The Creator knows in advance who they will be, and according to the principle of His Foreknowledge He has selected them to be vessels for the holding forth of His Glory. The outworking of His Purpose is so absolute and certain that it is spoken of as if it were already present. Hence above, we have been chosen before the world’s founding. Accordingly it is written that “then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mat. 25:34).
Notice that here, in harmony with Ephesians 1, the very kingdom itself is prepared before the foundation of the world. Again, Messiah himself was marked out before, even before he existed:
“… who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pet. 1:20).
And his sacrifice was similarly marked out before. Speaking of those who bow the knee before the Papal imposition, the Scripture speaks of how “all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).
Clearly, the Lamb of God was not literally slain before the foundation of the world, but in the Purpose of his Father, it’s certainty was so absolute that it is spoken of as if it were.
Romans chapter 8 continues to inform us:
“… we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His Purpose” (Rom. 8:28)
Here, the description of the “called according to His Purpose” is aligned with those who “love” him. The loving of God implies a desire and inclination towards His Purpose, rather than some sort of divine compulsion along a predetermined path. Because we love God out of our own choice, we are predestined to bear His Image in days yet to come. In short, we have free-will, and we are also predestined by foreknowledge.
A WORK OF GOD
The entire system of salvation is a work of God:
“It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
Sometime it might be thought that because our Salvation is a work of God, that therefore it is irrevocable, and cannot be altered. But this is to impose too narrow a view upon the Scriptures in question. Whilst we read (above) that God “worketh in you” in order to accomplish His Purpose, God does not do so against our will. The Apostle elsewhere describes how this “working” takes place: “ … the word of God which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thess. 2:13). In his letter to the Philippians, Paul speaks of what, whereas in his letter to the Thessalonians, describes how. The word of God works “in” us—but it cannot do so if we do not put it in us! The Word of God is that which shall surely accomplish it’s Speaker’s Purpose (cp. Isa. 55:11), but it will do through us choosing to allow it to work within us. It will only work within those who “believe” and desire to become part of their Maker’s Plan. So began the work of a new Creation, comprised of such men and women:
“… we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10)
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17)
From the above, we can offer the following points in summary:
- God knows “the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10)..
- Because of His Foreknowledge, He knows how each one of us will respond to the Gospel power.
- Knowing this in advance, He has Chosen the believers from the foundation of the world
- The work of Salvation is a work of God through the Gospel message understood and believed
- We therefore must “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).