This morning, I am of a mind to perhaps write a series of articles on Biblical terminology. Should this series of writings prove fruitful, the hope for each segment will not be a simple observation of the definition, etymology, and mood of the word. Rather, taking those basic principles of the word, the hope is to determine the scope of the word in Scripture, and also perhaps identify the errant ideologies surrounding these words and what perhaps motivates that errant thought. The first word of this series that we desire to investigate is predestination. While that particular word form is not found within the pages of Scripture, the words predestinate and predestinated – from its word family – are both found in Ephesians 1 and Romans 8.
The word predestinate has definitive connotations to determining things beforehand, foreordaining something, or to do something before the actual time to ensure its completion. No man can truly predestinate anything, for his mightiest efforts can become thwarted, since he cannot control all the varying factors of any given situation. Yet, such a hindrance is not applicable to the God of heaven and earth. He – being the sovereign power of the universe – can speak with none to say "What doest thou?" (Daniel 4:35, Psalm 115:3) Before something ever comes into actual existence, God can foreordain or predestinate something as He has the power to bring it to pass regardless of what transpires in time between now and then.
The first thing that is easily observable about the word is that it is both active in sense and Biblical in root. It takes great help to think either a. the subject is not a Biblical one, or b. that predestination takes on different moods (such as passive or cooperative). Based on the above cited Scriptures from Paul's writing, it takes a foolish and/or blinded mindset to deny the Scriptural authenticity of this subject. Equally foolish and/or blinded is the mindset that can look at these passages and attribute something other than complete active voice and control by God over that which He predestinates. The passages Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 do not teach that God absolutely predestinates everything that happens (as we will investigate in some detail later), but they do teach without equivocation that what God predestinates, He predestinates absolutely and actively pursues and accomplishes every detail of that act down to the least detail.
Another thing that bears mentioning about predestination before we get into some objections from both extremes is that it in no way – when rightly divided – impugnes God with injustice or inequity. Should the Bible teach – as some believe – that God predestinates everything that happens, we cannot but help impugne God with such thinking based on our study of the word definition above. What God has done in predestination neither treads down the subjects of God's justice or His mercy, for when the fulfillment of what God predestinated comes to pass, His wonderful mercy will be manifested, and His glorious justice will be upheld.
The subject of predestination in Biblical sense only applies to a single subject broken into three subparts. When looking at Paul's line of thought from Ephesians 1:3-11, predestination is restricted to a. a group of people, b. their position, and c. their destination. When Paul correlates this point in Romans 8:29-30, he reiterates points a. and b. about the people and their position. To extend the thought of God's predestination any further than this is both un-Scriptural and certainly unwarrented in any sense.
Some objections that we will briefly comprehend now are generally in two main groups: overly man-centric viewpoints and overly God-centric viewpoints. The first group openly believe in a "works based" salvation in which they have to do something to get to heaven. Hearing about Paul's grand theme of God's elect people being foreordained to His image to live in heaven with Him before time ever began impugnes their pride and self-worth. It takes away their sugar stick about what brings them into favor with God. Since the passages clearly show that God did this to select people before time and handled all of the subsequent details needed to conform them to Christ's image and gather them into the heavenly portal, man-centric theologies balk at the concept and pretend it is not there. These theologies are not hard to refute and hopefully point people down the pathway of truth. By simply showing them that it is there sometimes opens up a new world to them that they never knew the Scriptures contained.
The second main group is harder to press down on this subject. Reason being: they love to talk about predestination, but they apply it far too broadly and claim that it is the only line of thought that truly glorifies God, failing to see that the thinking actually charges God with sin (though they generally deny that thought when presented to them). Their objections to the Biblical viewpoint are generally a. the Greek word used for predestinate is used in other places to talk about other things, b. predestination simply shows that God took care of what He knew in advance would happen, and c. the verses where the word is found show more than what we have applied in this piece.
The first objection points us to Acts 4:28 and I Corinthians 2:7. In those two verses, the words "determined before" and "ordained" come from the same Greek word "proorizo" that is translated into predestinate and predestinated in Romans 8 and Ephesians 1. However, I think it remarkable that translators of the Greek text to the English print chose to use different English words in different places. From the nature of language, the Greek word must be broader in sense and scope than the word predestinate is. The Greek word "proorizo" is literally rendered "limited in advance." That broad definition does include as a subset the thought of predestination as discussed above. God limited in advance that a portion of the race of Adam would live with Him in the image of His Son.
In Acts 4:28, the church is gathered and thanking God for blessing them in spite of their suffering. They even rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer in the name of their Redeemer who suffered for them. They then say that all the rulers of the earth did to Christ what God determined before to be done. Are we to take from this thought that God's active hand moved those actions that Peter emphatically declared wicked in Acts 2:23? How would such thinking not charge God with being the author of that sin? Rather, the general scope of the word shows that God limited in advance what man could do. In other words, man could do no more to Christ than what he did, but certainly had those men restrained themselves, they could have done much less. The passage in I Corinthians 2:7 applies in similar fashion. Paul speaks of some things that God has hidden to most and revealed to some. God limited in advance what could or might be known of Him and also limited the scope of who might know it. Just looking at the tracks of the gospel over the history of time, God limited in advance what some people could ever know about Him from not having the gospel go unto them. (Matthew 10:5)
The next objection is that God must have predestinated everything for how then could He have been convinced that it would stand unless He handled all the factors? Such thinking generally confuses two things about God: omniscience and predestination. Scripture plainly teaches that God is omniscient – all knowing – for nothing will ever take Him by surprise. (Isaiah 46:10, Hebrews 4:13, Psalm 147:5) Yet, this is simply a divine attribute of Him. In other words, it is part of His character and essence rather than an action He takes. Predestination, on the other hand, is a divine action by God that He performs and performs perfectly. Therefore, to say that God must have done it to ensure its completion, or God must have done it to make sure it gets done either ignores, confuses, or infuses God's omniscience with His predestination.
The last objection is that Paul intended more than God's people, their position, and their destination in Ephesians 1:3-11, or that Paul intended more things in Romans 8:28 than what subsequently followed. Yet, consider that both passages reference "all things" on more than one occasion. Romans 8 references the term in verses 28 and 32. Ephesians 1 references the term in verses 10 and 11. Regardless of what someone defines those terms to be, language demands that both verses in the respective passages use the same definition as neither passage redefines the term. In Romans 8:32, Paul says the "all things" were "freely given us in Christ." In Ephesians 1:10, Paul says the "all things" are "in Christ." Scripture plainly declares in other places that some things are not "in Christ." (John 14:30) Yet, both passages have at the heart of their message a glorious depiction of a group of people that are "in Christ." Predestination was done for them and them alone. Predestination for them does not include every step they take or every decision that they have. Rather, it includes where they are going and what position they will have when they are there. Everything needed to accomplish this end – God did it without question and without fail.
No matter the objection, predestination continues to amaze me for its beauty, depth of richness, and glory of God. Seen in its proper light, one must wonder why God did what He did for us – such a wonderful and unspeakable gift – though He still knew what kind of shape we would find ourselves in. Rather than believe the thought that He cast us into the fire just so He could pull us out of it, He rather said, "You're coming to be with me in spite of everthing you will do because I love you that much." What a glorious subject, and what a wonderful thought should be ours to never be ashamed of.