The issue of Predestination has long been looked at as you are either predetermined to go to heaven or hell. But this is not the picture we get from the Scriptures. It is one of those issues that is put in "either, or" terms. You are either a Calvinist or an Arminian in your view.
The goal of this writing, is to take an honest look at what the Scriptures really teach about this topic. We will need first to understand the meaning of the word itself, then take a brief historical survey on how this topic has been handled and by whom. After that, we will then look at the places in the Bible where it appears, and study the context. CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING !!!
A WORD STUDY
The Greek word translated 'predestined' is, pro-oridzo. This is made up of two Greek words, 'pro', which means before, and 'oridzo', meaning to limit, or set a boundary. Hence, the word means to mark the limit or set the boundary beforehand . The essence of the word is to set the limit or appointment of something in advance. When we come to the study of the verses in which we can see this word in use, we will find that it does not address Salvation, per se.
What it does address is the boundary or appointments that God has set beforehand, for those who are saved. It does not address the predestinating of some to heaven and some to hell as the Calvinist v. Arminian controversy states. This is the major flaw in both positions. They both misunderstand the true nature or point of the concept.
HISTORICAL SURVEY OF THE IDEA
Apart from the Apostle Paul, who gave us the true teaching of predestination, Saint Augustine was the first to attempt to come to grips with the doctrine. Augustine lived in the fourth and fifth centuries, and was the Bishop of Hippo, in North Africa. Augustine wrote much to counteract the teachings of Pelagius, a monk from the British Isles. Pelagianism taught that humans can merit salvation by good works performed through their own will apart from divine help. Hence, one could earn or merit salvation. However, Augustine asserted that man requires the grace of God to do good and that this grace is, of course, a free gift, bestowed by God without regard to merit. In this way, he taught that God alone determines who will receive the grace that alone assures salvation. In this sense, God predestines some to salvation.
THE REFORMATION: CALVIN VS. ARMINIUS
This doctrine of predestinating salvation, became a central theme in the theology of Calvin. At the Synod of Dort (1618-1619), Dutch Reform theologians crafted what they called the Five Points of Calvinism. These five doctrinal points were an obvious response to the teachings of Arminius. The five points teach that,
- humankind is spiritually incapacitated by SIN; Original Sin inherited from Adam. This concept of 'original sin' was first formed by St. Augustine.
- God chooses (elects) unconditionally those who will be saved; Predestined to Salvation.
- the saving work of Christ is limited to those elected to salvation; limited election. Salvation effective for the elect only.
- God's grace cannot be turned aside or resisted; If you are elected to salvation, you cannot resist.
- Those whom God elects in Christ are saved forever, i.e., eternal security of the believer, or as some put it, "once saved always saved".
Calvin made the issue of predestination a matter of salvitic destiny, while Arminius made it a matter of salvitic choice. Actually, it is neither.
PREDESTINATION: SALVATION OR PURPOSE ?
A proper understanding of any teaching or theology must not begin with the doctrine of men, but with the Scriptures themselves. There are six verses in which the word translated, predestinated, occurs. We will look at the most prominent ones.
Acts 4:28 "For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done."
The circumstances of this verse is the community of believers praying to God after the arrest and beating of Peter and John. They are referring to the fact that the things that had happened to Jesus at the hands of Pilate, Herod and the people, were pre-appointed, or determined by God. In other words, they acknowledged that Jesus' arrest, beatings, condemnation, and crucifixion were not happenstance, but were ordained beforehand by God. These events where Prophetically Ordained, that the Word of God by the mouth of the prophets, might be fulfilled.
Romans 8:28-30 And 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.
Here we have many of the major divine adjudications toward those who have come into relationship with God through Jesus. Paul first lays the foundation of the foreknowledge of God. The foreknowledge of God is the power of God to have knowledge of a thing before the thing happens or comes into existence. This is solely based upon the fact that God is the Eternal One, who dwells in eternity. Since eternity stands outside of and above time, hence so does God. He has perfect knowledge of ALL THINGS in time.
Many have confused His foreknowledge with foreordination (predestination). The two are connected, but distinct. The foreknowledge of God is not the CAUSE of men's actions. He simply knows the actions of men beforehand. God foreknew that there was a people who would believe the prophecies and enter into a faith relationship with Him through His Son. Those whom he foreknew, he also did predetermine certain things concerning them. Here in this passage, He did foreordain that they should be 'conformed into the image of His Son'.
The predestination in this passage is not a heaven or hell issue. It is a question of position and character. God has pre-appointed that those who enter into covenant relationship with Him through the Son, are to be conformed into the image of the Son, so that He might be the Firstborn among many brothers. The underlying concept of the word, brother, in the Greek, is one who shares the womb. God has determined beforehand, that we should be "made like unto His glorious body;" that just as in this world we bear the image of the first Adam [Gen. 5:3], so also, we should bear the image of the Last Adam. Hallelujah!!!
Paul continues to state the things that he has ACCOMPLISHED IN ADVANCE on our behalf. Those whom God foreknew, he preordained that they should be conformed into the image of the Son. Those whom He has preordained this conforming, He has called. This is a calling to be with and participate with the One who has called. Those He has called to be with Him and participate with Him, He has also justified. The idea of justification is pregnant with beauty. It means that God, the Righteous Judge, has determined that those conformed to the image of the Son, have been acquitted of the guilt they were formally charged with and their record of guilt has been expunged. They have been not just acquitted, but have been declared righteous and vindicated in regard to the Law.
All of this is made possible, not through their own actions, but through the grace of God and faith in the sacrificial, vicarious death of Jesus. We have been declared innocent and righteous, just as Jesus is innocent and righteous. Those whom God has declared Righteous with regard to the Law, He has also glorified. He has exalted us in Christ, to be "seated with Him in the heavenlies". The real image we have here, is that since Jesus is the Firstborn among many brethren, these brethren have been placed alongside of their eldest brother, to be like him and to be seated with him. These things are not future events, but present realities. All the verbs that Paul uses here, are in the Greek aorist tense, which look at events or actions as having already been accomplished. WE HAVE ALREADY BEEN CONFORMED, CALLED, JUSTIFIED, AND GLORIFIED. These are divine historical events. What Paul admonishes, is to recognize these truths, and BECOME WHAT YOU ALREADY ARE!!!!
Ephesians 1:4-5 ; 11-12 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 unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Here, the issue of predestination is with regard to the position of adoption through Jesus the Messiah. He has 'predetermined' that those who are the chosen should be holy and without blame in His presence. The 'in love' best fits with 'having predestinated'. In love He has appointed us beforehand, that we should receive the position of children of adoption through the person of Jesus, His Son. The concept of adoption, is literally, to place as a son. It refers to the legal action by which one takes into his family a child not his own, with the intent or purpose of treating the child and giving to the child all the privileges of his own son. We have been predestined to share in the same relationship and position as the natural Son. Glory!!! Again, here predestination speaks not to heaven or hell, but of our position as sons of God.
Ephesians 1:11-12 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will; That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ.
Again, no heaven or hell issue here. We have been predestined according to His purpose, that we should be to the praise of His glory. God has appointed beforehand, that we as his children, should stand in and reflect the Praise of His Glory, who have trusted or hoped in Christ. This idea of being to the Praise of His Glory is stated again in chapter two, but in a little different way.
Eph. 2:6-7 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
In verse seven, Paul teaches that God has done all these marvelous works for us IN CHRIST JESUS, so that He might demonstrate, or display the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness toward us through Messiah Jesus. This is so beautiful and full of power. In the ages to come, that is, throughout the dispensations of eternity to come, the Church, those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, shall ever be God's public proof of His demonstration of the exceeding riches of His Grace. We, as those who have received the riches of the grace of His kindness, shall for all eternity be to the Praise of His Glory. If there ever arises a question of God's goodness or mercy, such as was brought by Satan, all God need do is to point to the Church. We are the eternal proof and demonstration of the riches of His grace and kindness. We who deserved death and destruction. We who stood under the full penalty of the Law. We who were enemies of God in our hearts and our minds. We are now and forever, the eternal evidence and demonstration of the power of the grace of God, in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Blessed be His Holy Name.!!!
It may be difficult for many to think of this issue of predestination in any other
terms, than heaven or hell. However, the only real reason for this is due to the
indoctrination of the teachings of men, rather than taking an honest look at the
Scriptures for themselves. When we look at the presentation of the Scriptures on this
topic, it should become clear, that God in his kindness and grace, has appointed
1). we should be conformed into the image of His Son,
2). that we should receive the Adoption of sons through Jesus the Messiah,
3). and that we should for all eternity be the demonstration of the riches of his Glory, to the praise of His Glory.
That the topic of predestination is not a heaven or hell issue should be obvious from the Scriptures. It only speaks to the redeemed and to the position to which God has pre-determined for them. It is hoped that this will reveal the greatness and goodness of God toward His Covenant Children, instead of inciting fear and distortion of the truth.