Predestination

The word “predestination” (foreordination ASV) appears in some form eight times, in reference to God’s dealings with man (Acts 4:27-28; Romans 8: 29; 8:30-9:23; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:5; 1:11; 2:10).  At times, the word is connected with other words, which we will also define at some point in this series: “foreknow” (Romans 8:29-30); “chosen” (Ephesians 1:4-5, 11).  However, for simplicity sake, now we will only consider those passages where the word is not joined with these other words.

Definition

The most common wording is proorizo, which literally means “to mark out beforehand.”  Thus, “to predetermine, or decide beforehand.”

The word in Romans 9:23 and Ephesians 2:10 is proetoimazo, which literally means “to prepare beforehand.”

Let us add the word tasso, which  refers to being “decided”, “appointed”, or “ordained”.  This word appears in Acts 13:48.  I did not include it in the list of words associated with God’s dealings with man.  However, we will consider it.

Acts 4:27-28

“Both Herod and Pontius Pilate,  with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.”

Prophecy (Acts 4:25-26 cf. Psalms 2:1-2), marked out before what the people would do with the Christ.  These things were according to God’s determined purpose to save man (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; 1 Peter 1:18-20; Revelation 13:8).  Wayne Jackson commented, “one must remember this: Jehovah respects human free will.  He never forces men to do wicked things.  When they are so inclined, however, God can manipulate the circumstances and bring about His ultimate will” (Acts, p. 50).

Illustration: Joseph’s brethren sold him into slavery (Genesis 37).  God used this to put Joseph in place to accomplish good (Genesis 50:19-20).  Even so, it is in the case of Christ – God used man’s evil to accomplish salvation.

Illustration: God used Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon to punish Judah (Jeremiah 25:9).  Yet, His use of them did not mean that their conduct was approved(Jeremiah 25:12).  Even so, it is the case with Jesus’ death – God did not approve of the behavior of the people (Acts 2:36-38; 3:14-15, 19), but He did use such for salvation.

Acts 13:48

“Now when the gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord.  And as many as had been appointed (NKJV/ordained KJV) to eternal life believed.”

The wording “had been appointed” is not the usual word rendered “predestined.”  The original word can carry the idea of “to dispose… to settle, decide” (The New Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 402), or “to make disposition, to fix, to turn one’s gaze, to set one’s heart” (The Theological Dictionary of The New Testament, p. 1157).  The same original word appears in Acts 15:2 (determined) and 1 Corinthians 16:15 (devoted).

The context is essential to understanding this passage compare Acts 13:45 with 13:48

     Jews                                                                                                     Gentiles

Filled with envy                                                                                          Glad

Contradicting and  Blaspheming                                                               Glorified God

Judged themselves unworthy                                                                Appointed to  eternal life

Adam Clark commented, “(The world) carries no idea of pre-ordination or pre-destination of any kind.  What does the word mean?  The disposition of readiness of mind of several persons in the congregation, who possessed the reverse of the disposition of those Jews who spoke against those things” (p. 790).

Wayne Jackson commented, “The term ‘ordained’ means to arrange or, to set in order, to determine.  Here the word may be either passive form ‘were ordained,’ or middle form ‘determined themselves’ (Lenski, p. 552).  The context indicates that the latter is the case, because the Gentiles are set in contrast to the Jews who trust from themselves the message of salvation.  Knowling says, ‘there is no countenance here for the absolutum decretum of the Calvinist, since verse 46 had already shown that the Jews had acted through their own choice’ (p. 300)” (Jackson, The Acts of the Apostles, Wayne Jackson, pp. 161-162).

Note: We did not include this passage in our list in paragraph one, because this does not refer to God’s preordaining, but to man’s ordaining himself.

1 Corinthians 2 :7 

“We speak the wisdom of God… which God ordained before the ages for our glory.”

God, long ago, before time itself (Ephesians 3:11; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8), marked out a plan for our glory.  Glory refers to that blessed state to come (Phil. 3:20-21 cf. 1 John 3:1-2; Colossians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:14).

This plan of God had been hidden.  It was in time past a mystery (1 Corinthians 2:7; Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:3-6; Colossians 1:24-27).  The term “mystery” refers to God’s plan which could not be understood without revelation, and which in times past was not clearly revealed, but now has been revealed by the apostles and prophets (Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:3-6; Colossians 1:24-27).  The mystery of the ages is no longer a mystery.

Ephesians 2:10

“We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we should walk in them.”

The words “prepared before” refer to the standard.  Foy Wallace Jr. commented, “prepared for Jews and Gentiles… one course of conduct” (Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, p. 152).  David Lipscomb commented, “God prepared works in which his children should walk before he created them in Christ Jesus.  He who fails to live that life fails to fulfill the ends for which he was created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, p. 44).

Romans 9:23

“That He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.”

There are two ways to understand predestination.  F. Furman Kearley explains – “One model for understanding the concept of foreordination, predestination, and election may be called the ‘particularistic’ or ‘individual’ model.  In this model one predetermines… that he will bestow certain blessings upon some and certain curses upon others, regardless of what they do, determined solely upon arbitrary… factors (of which the individual knows nothing).  For example, a teacher might predetermine that all the students who enroll in a class will receive grades on a random basis having nothing to do with their performance in the class.  The teacher designates in his own mind that all who sit in the front row will receive A’s, all who sit in the second row will receive B’s, all who sit in the third and fourth rows C’s, all who sit in the fifth row will receive D’s, and all who sit in the sixth row will receive F’s.  The students, they know nothing of the teacher’s plan… anyone with a sense of fairness would immediately conclude the teacher’s system of grading was unfair.  This model would be still more limited if one envisions the teacher as having a list of students beforehand and simply, on the basis of going down the list, decided in advance what grade he would give each student.

“A second model… would be the ‘general’ model or ‘criteria’ model.  Under this model, which is basically the model all teachers use, one would determine what knowledge and what skills should be expected on the part of students.  It would be predetermined those who achieved this knowledge or these skills to better than 90% would receive an A, while those who develop them to better than 80% would receive a B, etc…  Then, when the students come to class, this teacher would attempt to communicate what the students were expected to know and the skills they were expected to develop, and would assist in growing and developing.  This latter model we recognize as a fair and just one” (Kearley, The Biblical Doctrine of Predestination, Foreordination and Election, pp. 7-9).

Certainly, this last model is the way God deals with man’s salvation.  He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  He “desires all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

Note: The destiny of the vessel is determined by the quality of the clay.  Moreover, we have control over the quality (Romans 9 cf. Jeremiah 18:1-11, especially vv 8, 10, 11).  There is no implication of Calvinistic predestination found in this passage.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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