predestination

 

One of the unfortunate features of this subject, is that a Bible word is commonly used to describe a non-Bible doctrine. The Apostasy hijacked the term, and gave it a new meaning—which differs from what the Bible plainly teaches. Consider these words which outline Calvin’s doctrine of “Predestination”:

“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 concept is that our entire lives follow an irrevocable destiny, appointed beforehand by God. That whether or not we inherit life or death as the final outcome is something concerning which the individual has no influence or choice.

Bro John Ullman writes concerning this:

“Some claim that 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. This teaching is false. Yahweh certainly “knows” the “end from the beginning” because of His limitless power. See Isaiah 46:10. But God’s foreknowledge is quite different to the proposition embodied in predestination. See 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Deuteronomy 30:19; Ezekiel 33:11; Acts 10:34; 2 Peter 3:9”

(John Ullman, The First Principles of the One True Faith)

Again, we read in The Christadelphian Treasury:

“CALVINISM is the doctrine that we are predestined by God to be saved, or to be damned, in spite of our own efforts or conduct. It is both unscriptural and immoral. There is, however, a Bible doctrine of Predestination, or Election. It is based upon the fact of God’s foreknowledge, which Calvinism ignores (Rom. 8:29, 30)”

The biggest stumbling block to those who espouse this doctrine, is the fact that the Bible teaches free-will, and that how we exercise that will is going to determine our ultimate end.

Consider these words of Messiah’s Apostle:

“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)

According to the Apostle Paul then, it is possible to set the way of life before other men, and yet still fail to attain to it oneself. However, if Calvanism is true, then there would be no doubt: Paul would not be able to speak of the possibility of being “a castaway,” for by the very nature of things, it would be impossible, with his “destiny” being irrevocable.

Again, the same principles are expressed elsewhere:

“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)

Notice: it is possible to “come short” – and whether or not we fear God, and believe His Promise determines whether we shall “come short” or not. The Apostle’s exhortation is meaningless if we have no means of influencing our ultimate standing before God. Any doctrine that robs men of the free-will to serve Yahweh, or otherwise cannot be true, for it would of necessity mean that we would not be judged “according to our deeds” (Rom. 2:6), but rather according to certain unalterable principles that we can have no control over. It would mean that Yahweh will use a criteria for judgment concerning which men have no personal accountability or responsibility – which would be inherently unjust.

However, as well as considering the wrong doctrine that has the term “predestination” applied to it, we need to understand the truth concerning the matter, as it is written in the Word of God. The word occurs in two passages of Scripture, as follows:

“we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 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. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:28-30)

“… having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will … in whom we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will …” (Eph. 1:5,11).

In these places, the Greek for “predestinate” is 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,” and speaks of how through the Father’s foreknowledge, (that is, based upon His knowledge of what we will do and become before the things become reality). Knowing in advance which path we will choose to take, He made certain determinations based upon his knowledge of our exercise of that choice. In other words, He has determined, or marked out in advance those who will be in the Kingdom to come. Here is the point: there is a difference between Yahweh knowing that certain things will come to pass, and Him actually causing them to come to pass by interfering with Free Will, and thereby altering the character and destiny of all men according to His Pleasure.

Men may commit acts of sin which are unrepented of—Yahweh knew that this individual would sin, without causing him to do it. But as we saw above, his reward or otherwise will be “according to his deeds,” and not according to how God made him. Yahweh knew from the very beginning that he would be rejected at Messiah’s Judgment seat. Contriwise, He also knows who constitute the righteous, as it is written: “The Lord knoweth them that are his” (2 Tim. 2:19), and upon the basis of their faith being manifest in faithful works, they will be given an entrance to the Kingdom. In both cases, the individual’s free-will determines their ultimate “destiny,” but because the Father knows in advance what men will become, it can be said that upon the basis of that foreknowledge, he determined, or marked out before— even before Creation who will be accepted, and who will be rejected.

This idea comes through in other places of Scripture. Ephesians chapter 1 (see above) describes the divine selection, or choosing of God:

“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: having predestinated us …” (Eph. 1:4-5).

Notice here, how the “predestination” is directly linked to the Father’s foreknowledge. Upon the basis of His Foreknowledge, he chose the faithful from the foundation of the world, according to the good pleasure of His Will. And “according as he hath chosen us” in advance, so it might be said that we have been “marked out before,” to be in our Father’s kingdom.

This language is used repeatedly in the Scriptures. See for instance Jno. 17:24, where Christ was loved of his Father from before the foundation of the world. Again, 1 Pet. 1:20, Christ was “foreordained from before the foundation of the world”. And again, Rev. 13:8, 17:8 speaks of the faithful having been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.

From these testimonies, it is abundantly clear that Yahweh, in knowing the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10), has determined upon the basis of His foreknowledge what will be in relation to His Purpose. That is the Bible doctrine of Predestination. Calvanism, on the other hand, in it’s denial of the exercise of free choice, actually removes responsibility and therefore accountability for wrongs done. It would teach that God made him that way, to do that thing, that he might be condemned. And by the same token, there could be no commendation for works of faith – for he did not do them by his own free will, but because God made him that way, to do that thing, that he might be commended. So it is, that the basis of judgment is not the exercise of individual free choice, as manifest in faithful or unfaithful works: free will is entirely overridden and has no bearing upon the eventual outcome – a situation that is inherently unjust.

ANOTHER SIDE TO CONSIDER

But like many circumstances, there is another side to the case. Whilst free-will is always present, there is a “purpose of God according to election” (Rom. 9:11). Or as expressed another way, “it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Or another way still, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works…” (Eph. 2:10).

Some have difficulty in reconciling such passages as these with the principle of free will. It is testified by the Master himself that no man can come to him, lest they be drawn by the Father (Jno. 6:44) – but all in harmony with free will. The Father will not draw those who do not want to be drawn. Individuals can, and do disobey the commandment to repent (Acts 17:30). In this sense the calling of the Gospel is an invitation as well as a commandment. It is a commandment to be obeyed, coupled with the invitation to become part of a new family with Messiah at the head, and which will be glorified in days to come.

God will “work in” us “both to will and to do” His Pleasure—but again, He does not do so with those who are abandoned to disobedience, and have no interest in the things of the Spirit. The work of the Father is there – an arm of Salvation extended to man, lifting him out of the mire of humanity to be a people reflective of the Divine impress. We are truly his workmanship if we take hold of that arm, allowing us to be lifted from the dunghill to be considered the Sons of God, elevated in the Heavenlies in Christ Jesus. The entire work, even from before it’s initiation, is of Yahweh in every respect. But we can choose whether or not to allow Him to work with us, as a potter does the clay, creating a vessel to honour, and forming particular characteristics that please Him. Let us make the right choice.

Christopher Maddocks