Design and Destiny: God's Compassion Before Creation
by Lynda Schultz 4/04/2008 / Bible Studies
The subject of predestination and election is an uneasy theme, much debated and seemingly never resolved. It has caused dissension, anger, frustration and concern amongst believers, and ridicule and rejection by unbelievers. The subject has divided denominations and theological schools. God's thoughts are not mine, nor are all His ways to be fully known by someone like me (Isaiah 55:8, 9), however I have a hard time believing that God doesn't want us to know the answer to this conundrum: Did He choose before the beginning of time who would be saved? How can we reconcile the Scriptures that seem to contradict each other; some seeming to say that salvation is for everyone, others apparently pointing in a different direction?
Every believer is blessed with the presence of the Spirit of God who was given to lead us into all truth (John 16:13), so I can echo the action of the Bereans in the book of Acts who: " were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11).
No Scripture can contradict another Scripture. While our understanding will always be imperfect, we can know, as much as it is possible for a human being, what God needs for us to know to complete His mission, and ours, in the world. The most obvious, and the best means of interpreting Scripture is to allow Scripture to interpret itself. God needs no other defense.
Before I began this study, I asked the Lord to guide me, and to help me look at this important issue with eyes unclouded by the prejudices of the past. Since the discussion surrounding Predestination and Election involves certain words primarily used in the New Testament, I began my investigation by looking up all the words relevant to the issue. I am indebted to the work of W.E. Vine (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New testament Words) and James Strong (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible), for the meanings of the words that I investigated in my search to try to bring two ideas together from seemingly opposite poles.
Did I resolve all the issues? To claim that would be arrogant. I believe that what I reaffirmed does no damage to the teaching of Scripture, or the doctrine of the evangelical church. What it does do, is to explain how it can be honestly said that God loved, and that Christ died for, all men, and that salvation is available to all men. The results of this investigation also declare that God did indeed make determinations which affected the eternal future of all humanity.
The words most commonly associated with the issue are:
Call, called, calling
Choice, choose, chosen
Elect, elected, election
Predestinate, also translated as determine, determinate
In Greek, there are subtle nuances that aren't always picked up in our English translations. I will deal with the specific forms of the Greek words that have to do with the verses directly related to the subject of this discussion. All verses are quoted from the New International Version except where indicated.
CALL, CALLED, CHOSEN
The Greek verb, KALEO, appears in Romans 1:1 (Acts 13:2; 16:10). In this verse, KALEO refers to God's call in trusting specific people with the task of preaching the gospel. In Romans we learn that this task was given to Paul: "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, CALLED to be an apostle and SET APART for the gospel of God" (NIV, emphasis mine).
Please note that many of the problematic words we are looking at turn up in the same verses. We'll deal with them one at a time, returning to the same verse when the other words appear that we are considering.
In Romans 8:30, we come to a key verse from which the doctrine has evolved. Paul writes: "And those he predestinated, he also CALLED; those he CALLED, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified" (NIV, emphasis mine).
Here, the word KALEO means to call someone, to invite, or to summon.
The Invitation to the Athenians
As I read this verse, an incident in Paul's missionary life comes to mind. In the incident to which I refer, Paul was addressing the Athenians, a people intimately connected with a variety of gods. Afraid that they might miss one or two, they set up a statue dedicated to AN UNKNOWN GOD (Acts 17:23). Paul decided to introduce them to this God with whom they were unfamiliar. In the midst of his discourse, the apostle said: "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but HE NOW COMMANDS ALL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed " (Acts 17:30, 31 NIV, emphasis mine).
The question that immediately arises is: What would be the point of calling on "all men everywhere to repent" if all these men in all parts of the world would not be allowed the opportunity to accept or reject the invitation? Is Paul simply speaking from a human perspective, exercising "wishful thinking" hoping that all these Athenians are marked for the Kingdom of God? That question led me to look up the word "commands". Paul, speaking for God, uses the word "commands", PARANGELLO, which means a message delivered by a heavenly messenger (did you notice the word angel hiding in the Greek?); a message which is given, ordered, charged, transmitted, declared. Paul clearly understood the meaning of Christ's words when the Lord said: "When he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment ." (John 16:8). I don't think Paul was indulging in "wishful thinking." God's Spirit calls all men to repentance. The world will be convicted. God is an "equal-opportunity" God.
This Greek word for "called", is also used to express a divine invitation: "God, who has CALLED you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful" (1 Corinthians 1:9 NIV, emphasis mine); " encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who CALLED you into his kingdom and glory" (1 Thessalonians 2:12 NIV, emphasis mine); "For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are CALLED may receive the promised eternal inheritancenow that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant" (Hebrews 9:15 NIV, emphasis mine).
Notice the word "may" which comes after "called". You would suppose that "may" means exactly what you think it means. I had to make sure, so I looked it up since it is crucial to my argument. "May" means that something is possible. It's not a givenyet. By implication, those who are "called" might not take advantage of the promise of eternal life which has its foundation in the death of Christ on the cross. These people have received, or will receive the invitation, but they haven't sent in the RSVP to indicate that they want to come to the party.
The Invitation to the Gentiles in General
Another Greek word for "called", PROSKALEO, refers to God's call to the gospel issued to the Gentiles. Peter said to the multitude of representatives from the Gentile world gathered in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost: "The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far offfor all whom the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:39 NIV).
The second phrase "all who are far offfor all whom the Lord our God will call" is complementary to the first "you and your children," Peter's way of emphasizing what he wants to say. It makes sense that if the promise were only for some, Peter would have said so. The phrase far off means, literally or figuratively, at a distance. Peter was addressing a group of foreigners who had travelled great distances to get to Jerusalem, but their proximity to the Temple didn't mean they were any closer to God. They could be "far off" spiritually just as easily as they could be physically. The promise is for all who have distanced themselves from God and is an invitation to come closer.
The call to salvation is not a restricted one. When John writes that God loved the world and sent His Son to the cross to save the world, and to rescue the world from condemnation, he meant everyone (John 3:14-18).
This leaves us with Romans 8:30: "And those he predestinated, he also CALLED; those he CALLED, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified" (NIV, emphasis mine). If "called" is a term applicable to everyone, and God calls those He has predestinated to salvation, then am I saying that everyone is going to be saved? The problem in interpretation is caused by our not understanding the meaning of predestination, or what it applies to. No, not everyone will be saved. Hang on, we have a few more words to get to yet before we can draw too many conclusions.
The Invitation to Enjoy the Benefits of Salvation
The Greek noun for "call", KLESIS, refers to a vocation, a career as it were, that originates in, and finds its expression and fulfillment in, heaven. This "call" is an invitation to accept all the benefits that God promises as part of salvation.
Paul writes: "As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his CALL are irrevocable" (Romans 11:28, 29 NIV, emphasis mine). There's that election worddon't panic, we'll get to that one later.
We need to look at the context of this verse. The Roman church was made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Paul is arguing that, though the Gentiles have now been offered the gospel because the Jews rejected it, Israel will still have her opportunity to turn in faith to Christ. It may have seemed to some of Paul's audience as though God were treating the Jews as enemies by turning to the Gentiles with His gift of salvation. But the offer to the Jews stands, even though at the moment it appears otherwise. "Irrevocable" means unchangeable. Just as the nature and character of God doesn't change, neither does His call to salvation. God called the Jews to enjoy His favour, and still calls them to enjoy His favourJews are still being saved today.
To whom is the call issued? Verse 32 of the same chapter tells us. "For God has bound all men over to disobedience, so that he may have mercy on them all."
It sounds like Paul is saying that just as everyone is due for punishment because of sin, everyone will eventually be saved. This conclusion again reflects our misunderstanding of when this act of mercy took place to which Paul refers. We'll discover the "when" a little later.
The Parable of the Wedding FeastPart One
We need to consider the adjective form of the word "call".
The words we are looking at often come in combination with other important words. The following is an example of one such case. Matthew writes, quoting the words of Jesus: "For many are invited, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14 NIV). We'll get to the word chosen in our next section, but note that the word translated "invited" in the New International Version, was translated as "called" in the King James Version. Same word, same meaning.
The context surrounding this word is found in a parable told by Christ. A wedding is about to take place and the king, who is the father of the groom, invites guests to the celebration. Unfortunately everyone who is invited on the first round comes up with an excuse for not accepting. In disgust, the king orders his servants to go out again; this time to invite "all the people they could find, both good and bad" to the wedding reception. The invitation was issued to all.
CHOICE, CHOOSE, CHOSEN
There are six verbs in Greek used to express the various forms of "to choose". Two of these six are important to our discussion.
The first: EKLEGO, means to pick out, select, to choose for oneself but without necessarily implying that what is not chosen has been rejected. This is an important distinction. The choice is made for the purpose of showing kindness, favor or love.
This meaning is reflected in verses like Mark 13:20 when Jesus tells His disciples that unless the time alloted to the tribulation had been shortened, no one would have survived, so for the sake "of the elect, whom he has chosen" God limited that period of suffering.
Here "chosen", and by implication the "elect", since both words refer to the same group, do not necessarily mean that others have been rejected. It is possible that the "chosen" here refers to those God selected to go through this particularly terrible moment in history. Just as God knew the integrity of His man when He chose to allow Satan to tempt Job, so God has already decided who is able to handle which of the many difficulties that present themselves in life. So, to spare His children who had to live through this period, God's shortened the time alloted for the suffering.
On the night of His betrayal, Jesus told His disciples: "I know those I have chosen." Here, Jesus is specifically referring to certain people whom He has selected for a particular assignment, in this case, His disciples, whom He chose to be the foundation stones upon which He would build His church. This idea of selecting certain people for specific tasks in inherent in other verses as well as this one (See Acts 1:24; Luke 6:13, 9:35, 10:42, 14:7; John 6:70; Acts 1:2, 6:5, 13:17, 15:22, 25; 1 Corinthians 1:27, 28; James 2:5).
Ephesians 1:4 is another reference where the context clearly tells us to what a person, or persons, is being chosen. "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." The principles of interpretation demand that every verse, or any of its parts, be examined in its context. Otherwise we end up with "proof" texts that are way off their biblical base. The whole Bible becomes the context within which we interpret its parts. Here in Ephesians, the context clearly states that God's purpose for His people from before the beginning of time was that they be holy and blameless.
In spite of sin, God's purpose has not changed. It is still His desire that His children be holy and blameless. That's what He meant us to be, what we were designed for. Anything other than that affects our communion with Him, just as it affected Adam and Eve's communion with Him in the garden. As the meaning of the verb shows, this verse has nothing to do with rejecting anyone. It simply states what God wants of His creation.
Having said that context is vital, we have to include the following verse in Ephesians I as part of that context. This verse says: "In love, he predestinated us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will." This verse also connects with verse 11, which states: "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will "
Keep these verses in mind when we come to look at the meaning of "predestine" a little later.
The Means to the End
Another one of the six Greek verbs that are expressed in English by "to choose", is HAIREO. This word means to select by taking. The action here is important. For example: I am looking at a basket of apples. I want an apple. But I have to chose a means of getting that apple from the basket to my mouth. Since I'm not a magician and don't practice levitation, I reach out with my hand and grab the apple.
The means of salvation, like the means of how to get the apple to my mouth, is what is reflected in this verse: " from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this " (2 Thessalonians 2:13, also Deuteronomy 7:6, 7; 16:18).
God chose the means through which His offer of salvation to lost sinners would be made. The Holy Spirit would the agent through which conviction, faith and new life would come. This work of the Holy Spirit would result in the acceptance of the truth that Jesus Christ died to provide forgiveness and salvation to those who believe.
The context is vital. If you stop reading at the word "saved" you won't get the meaning of what Paul is saying. This idea of choosing one means among several options is found in other Scriptures as well (Philippians 1:22; Hebrews 11:25).
The Parable of the Wedding FeastPart Two
Consider the adjective form of HAIREO. "Chosen" or EKLETOS, which means chosen out or selected, is used to describe believers and to describe Christ. Because it's the same word with the same meaning, it should be interpreted in the same way. Here are four key verses where the adjective form is found:
Matthew 22:14: "For many are invited, but few are chosen."
Luke 23:35: " let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One."
Revelation 17:14: " and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers."
1 Peter 2:4, 9: " the living Stonerejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood "
If we believe that "chosen" means that someone has to be rejected in the process, the use of the adjective would imply that Christ was "chosen" above someone else, or something else, to be the means of salvation. It is true that He was chosen to do what the Law failed to accomplish in bringing men to God. The Law's purpose was not to save, but to point to Christ (Galatians 3:24). He was chosen above the angels because only He was perfect. Only God could finish what God had begun. Nothing, or no one else would do.
It appears we have come to a black hole in the argument, a hole from which there is no escape. If Christ was chosen above others to complete the task of salvation, then it appears that believers are chosen above others to be saved. Except that, Christ didn't come to reject the Law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-19). His demands on us post-Law are actually more rigid that the demands of the Law ever were (Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43). The Law is not rejected, it simply doesn't save. There is no rejection in this word, "chosen". The word reflects a specific purpose designed for a particular person or thing.
In the parable in Matthew 22 Jesus tells us about a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son. The guests who were first invited, found convenient excuses for not attending the reception. In some cases, the king's messengers were abused by the people they were sent to invite. The king, in disgust, destroyed some of these ungrateful guests and ordered his servants to go out and "gather all the people they could find" to come to the party.
When the festivities was about to start the king noticed that one of the people in attendance did not have the proper clothing. The king said: "Friend how did you get in here without wedding clothes?'"(22:12). He had no excuse. Consequently, he was thrown out of the banquet hallnot just into the street, but into Hell. Then come the famous words: "For many are invited, but few are chosen."
The first part of the parable obviously refers to the Jews. They were the people to whom God first opened the doors of the Kingdom. The nation refused to come, though individual Jews did accept the invitation. These are truly the people of God. Abraham, Joseph, David, Samuel, the prophets, and a countless host of others, make up the redeemed. As a nation, the Jews exercised their choice and God was rejected. Consequently, the Lord punished the nation. In the parallel version of this parable in Luke 14, Jesus says: "Not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet" (Luke 14:24).
The parable is also prophetic in that it implies that salvation will be offered to others because of the rejection of the Jews. After Pentecost, the doors to the Kingdom were fully opened to the Gentiles. Similar references to this expansion of the boundaries of the Kingdom are found in Romans: " at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect (chosen, author's note) did (Romans 11:5, 7)."
What about this guest without the proper wedding garments? Every detail of a parable doesn't necessarily illustrate a truth, but the incident of the guest is so striking that it has to have some meaning.
The invitation went out to both "good and bad" (22:10). These people were "gathered" so it doesn't appear they had time to go home and get on their "Sunday best" to come to the wedding. The servants went out and found everyone who was in the streets. They must have all come, since there is no mention of exceptions being made. To "gather" reminds me of the sweeps that were made of anyone found on the streets during curfews. If you were out there, you were picked upvery inclusive. When they arrived, we can assume they were supplied with appropriate attire by the servants at the door since they didn't seem to have had time to go home and get their good clothes on. The king didn't actually dress his guests because this one man did not put on the garments with which he had been supplied. Can you see the parallels here? Like those wedding garments, righteousness must be supplied by the host. Our own goodness is not sufficient to save us, or to get us into the banquet hall of glory The king supplies the garments, but he doesn't put them on. God supplies the garment of salvation but it is for those who are "gathered" to put them on. If they don't, their fate will be the same as the guest in the parable.
What's the basis of choice here? The king allowed those who had on the appropriate garments to stay for the party. It was on the basis of the wearing of the garments that he made his choice as to who was an appropriate guest. The implication is that the guests themselves decided if they were going to make use of the garments.
Romans 9:11 is often used as a proof text, but the verse really has nothing to do with being chosen for salvation or for damnation. It has everything to do with who God chose to be the leader of the nation whose people He had chosen to be His instruments of witness in the world. The honor should have gone to Esau as Isaac's firstborn, but God chose Jacob instead.
Paul is trying to prove to the Jews that God loves them and will keep all the promises He has made to them in the past, even though the gentiles have been passed the baton as the witnesses to God's grace in the world. He writes: " in order that God's purposes in election might stand: not by works but by him who callsshe was told 'The older shall serve the younger.' Just as it is written, 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'" To Esau, it may have seemed like God hated him as he was cheated out of his birthright and his blessing. We can imagine him crying out to God, "Why me?" Hebrews 12:16, 17 adds that Esau tried to get back that blessing, but it was too late.
Even though Jacob was no prime example of a God-follower, Esau is described as "godless" and his disregard for the spiritual aspects of his inheritance cost him. But God made Esau rich and famou, as are his descendants to this day. And we have no reason to believe that, even though he despised his privilege as firstborn, that he wasn't a God-follower in the end. He just wasn't ready at the right time, to be molded into the head of the branch of the family which would become the people God chose to fulfill a specific task in historyGod's foreknowledge at work. That is the point of the message that Paul delivers in Romans: God is faithful to the promises He made to His people. The door of salvation is still open to them if they come by the means He has provided.
God has told us what we need to do to be saved: " it is by grace you have been saved, through faithand this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of Godnot of works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9). The only part that corresponds to us is the act of faithputting on the wedding garment. That's the only qualification. We are "chosen", or allowed into the wedding reception based on the faith we have placed in Christ, on whether we have put on the wedding garment God has supplied.
The same interpretation can be made in the case of 1 Peter 2:9: "you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood", we are chosen based on having put on the garment of righteousness won for us by Christ on the cross and at the empty tomb.
ELECT, ELECTED, ELECTION
For many people, this word "elect" may as well be a call to battle. The Kingdom of God is poorer for the number of believers whose fellowship with other believers has been damaged or destroyed because of needless arguments over what the Scripture means by this word.
If it's any consolation, there are only two verbs used for "elect" and only one noun for "election" though there are some variants within each one.
Qualified for the Task
The more common verb for "elect" is EKLEKTOS. It means picked out, chosen from, gathered. This word is used to describe Christ as the chosen of God. It is also used to describe angels and believers. In Luke 23:25, we could have just as easily read in: " let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the ELECT One." Both words, "elect" and "chosen", share the same meaning.
In the New International Version, the word "chosen" has been used in 1 Peter 2:6 to replace the word elect found in the King James Version: " Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded."
The Scripture says: "I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels " (1 Timothy 5:21). W.E. Vine notes that the Greek word here refers to the high rank of certain angels, those especially fitted to be God's messengers. If the word means that in this verse, logic would insist that it mean the same when it is applied to Christ and to believers. Christ was the only One qualified for His task, believers meet their qualifications for salvation through faith in Christ, and angels are qualified for their tasks by Well, I don't know. However I'm sure God does, and I'll leave angels in His hands.
The verses in the New Testament that use the word "elect" are many (For example: Matthew 24:22, 24, 31. See also Mark 13:20, 22, 27; Luke 18:7; Colossians 3:12; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1, 2:9; Matthew 22:14; Revelation 17:14; Romans 8:33, 16:13; 2 John 1:13; 2 Timothy 1:9; John 17:6).
Man's Eternal Destiny
Notice how often the words we have been looking at are interchangeable. You will see in the following verses that the word "predestinate" often turns up. We haven't looked at this word specifically yet, but one Greek word KLEKTOS, is used for both "elect" and "predestinate". The verses that follow teach us specifically what God's purposes are for man's eternal destiny.
"For he chose us in him before the foundation of the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestinated us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will" (Ephesians 1:4, 5).
We note in the first phrase: "For he chose us in him " the same idea that we have seen before: "to be holy and blameless in his sight." The choosing is to a lifestyle, a vocation. God always meant, and still means, us to be like Christ. We were designed to be like Him and to fulfill the mission that God once gave to Adamto be keepers of His creation and followers of the Creator (Ephesians 2:10). That leaves us with the second half of the verse: "In love he predestinated us ". However, before we get to that, let's add other similar verses.
"For those God foreknew he also predestinated to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, and those he predestinated, he also called; " (Romans 8:28). Notice again that the predestination or election is to a lifestyle, a vocation. We have already seen that "called" is universal in nature. That leaves us with another word "foreknew" which we will come to a bit later.
"What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrathprepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for gloryeven us, whom he also called " (Romans 9:22, 23).
Imagine what it was like before creation. The Almighty is planning the formation of the universe down to the tiniest detail. Nothing escapes His eye. As He works out the joints and sinews of the man He has designed as the keeper of His creation and as the one with whom He has chosen to fellowship throughout eternity, He writes into the program something which He knows is essential, but dangerous. He could leave it out, and still end up with a creature who would worship, love and serve Him. However, it would be a creature forced to do so because he had no other choice. That was not the relationship that God wanted. None of us would choose to have someone love us because they had no choice. We want someone to choose to love us, to deliberately put aside every other meaningful thing in the universe because of us. That's love. That's what God wanted.
To provide for that, the Almighty had to allow His man to have a freewill, the ability to choose between best and better, good and bad. God would run the risk of losing man's affection by allowing man the option to place his affections elsewhere. Because God is all-seeing, all-knowing, God knew what choices man would make. He knew what the cost would be to restore what man would destroy through those decisions. From the beginning, before the foundations of the earth were laid, before one star was put into place, before time started to tick, God planned how He would restore the creation He had not yet made.
Note that the word "predestined" comes before "called". The means of salvation was predestined before the people who would need to be called to accept it were formed. God prearranged the conditions for salvation: " we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ it is by grace you have been saved, through faith a gift of God not of works For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:3-5, 8-10).
We were meant for glory. We lost it, and He wants to restore both it, and us. The good works He planned for us to do are the same He planned for Adam and Eve to do. Restoring creation is the goal of His enterprise (Romans 8:19-24). The verses from Romans 9 are thrilling: "What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrathprepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for gloryeven us, whom he also called ". Paul asks the question, What if ? Then he answers it. We were all objects of His wrath and deserving of punishment. What if, Paul, argues, God showed great patience and instead of punishing the objects of wrath, he chose to make them objects of mercy by providing for them a way back to the paradise they lost. Paul isn't speculating, because he knows that's exactly what God did. Peter writes: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
For whom was the plan put in place? For everyone. God's desire is for "everyone, everywhere" to be saved. The means of that salvation, the way back to the restoration of things as they were before the fall, was put in place before creation, ready to be offered to each and every one. However, God will drag no one kicking and screaming into the Kingdom. He offers a choice to man, just as He did in the beginning. He has set the conditions: through faith. He has provided the means: Christ. The plan has been predetermined since before time. Now the choice has to be made. He has made His decisionHe will restore His creation, rather than destroy it. We have to decide if we will meet the conditions of faith that He has put into place for that restoration to occur.
Paul explains it so beautifully in these verses. Notice the universality of both the problem and the solution. "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men, For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous" (Romans 5:18, 19).
When the choice is made to accept the invitation, to exercise the faith He has given and to accept Christ as God's only way back, there will be no doubt as to its reality: "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our Gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction" (1 Thessalonians 1:4). This verse is surrounded in its context by examples of the kind of fruit that believers will produce as a demonstration of their faith in Christ. Picking them out of the crowd (pardon the pun) will not be hard. God's hand on their lives will be obvious. This will be their new vocation in life: conformity to the image of one they confess.
Look at the noun form of "elect". Peter writes: "Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things ("things" refers to the previous verses, 3-9; conformity to the image of Christ), you will never fail" (2 Peter 2:10). This verse parallels verses such as: " who has saved us and called us to a holy life" (2 Timothy 1:9). and "As a prisoner of the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received" (Ephesians 4:1).
Jesus used the illustration of the vine and branches in John 14 to emphasize to His disciples that a believer produces fruit to the glory of God. For that glory we were, and are, created. In this passage an interesting expression pops up: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruitfruit that will last" (John 14:16). This reference is specific to the disciples. They weren't volunteers. Christ handpicked these twelve men; He called them to leave their vocations to take up new ones. These instructions given before His death were for them, with obvious implications for us. This is not a Heaven or Hell passage: It is a vocational one.
Let's come back to Romans 11:28, 29, another passage where the noun form of "election" is used. "As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs. For God's gifts and his call are irrevocable."
Paul is trying to reassure the Christians in Rome that even though the gospel has now been offered to the Gentiles, the Jews have not been denied the possibility of salvation. The promises God made to His people through the patriarchs remain in effect. He has included the Jews in His plan and nothing has changed that reality. He continues to love them, to be merciful to them, and to save them as the qualifications for that salvation are met.
PREDESTINATE (DETERMINE, DETERMINATE)
"To establish in advance" is the dictionary definition of "predestinate". God predestinated the plan to restore His creation. This interpretation does justice to the Scriptures, to the doctrines that are foundational in them, and to what we know about the character of God.
HORIZO means to bind, or to be bound, to set a boundary (as in horizon in English), to mark out, determine, settle. In the newer translations, the words "predestinate", "determine" and "determinate" have been replaced with words and phrases of more common usage. The idea remains the same whatever word is used. Compare these three translations of the same verse: "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23 KJV).
"This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross" (Acts 2:23 NIV).
" this Jesus, betrayed in the predestinated course of God's deliberate purpose, you got wicked men to nail to the cross and murder " (Acts 2:23 Moffat).
This last translation is somewhat awkward but you get the idea. In case those responsible for putting Christ on the cross (and that's all of us) were under the mistaken impression that all these events were accidents, errors, or humanly designed, think again. God had this plan in place before the beginning of time. It was pre-designed for the specific purpose of restoring a lost creation. God set the limits of the actions and events that men would carry out. He's sovereign, He can do that.
PROOIZO means beforehand, to determine before, foreordain, predestinate. This word appears in such verses as: "They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen" (Acts 4:28).
None of these verses are Heaven or Hell issues either.
Man's eternal destiny based on these scriptures does seem to come into the discussion because, I believe, we've been programmed to expect it to.
Romans 8:29, 30 is among the most famous of these passages. "For those God foreknew he also predestinated to be conformed to the likeness of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestinated, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified."
We have looked previously at verse 30, and examined the word called. Let's look now at "predestinated". Notice the context. Paul is very specific as to what God has predetermined for us: we are to be "conformed to the likeness of his son". As we have seen in other cases, this is not a Heaven or Hell issue, but a vocation issue and has to do with God's desire to restore His creation to what it was before the fall. To restore His image in us, as it is reflected in Christ, is His all-encompassing purpose. To reach that goal, He calls us to come back to Him so that He can begin that process of restoration. We have the entire Old Testament history of Israel as an illustration of this.
PROORIZO is also found in Ephesians 1:5, 11: "he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will in him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will "
Imagine the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31), in the context of what it was like for God at creation. The Almighty literally gives life to his earthly son, Adam. When the perfection of Eden is reduced to perdition because of the first pair's sin, the bond of parenthood is broken. It is not that the Father has rejected the children. Rather, the children have disowned their Father, preferring to live life their own way. Today, it is possible legally, for children to divorce their parents. This is what Adam and Eve, and all subsequent generations, have done divorced themselves from God, His family, and His rule.
God, knowing that this was going to happen, had several choices: to destroy what He had created, to ignore what He had created, or to restore what He had created. He chose the latter, putting a plan into place before the foundation of the world. He chose the means in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. He established the conditions: that man had to acknowledge his sin, accept the provision through Christ by faith than God had made for him.
We divorced Him, but He is willing to adopt us and take us back into the family as His sons and daughters. The idea that God pre-determined, predestinated, this plan before the foundation of the world is in keeping with His character and His original purpose in creating man. It is His pleasure to restore us and complete His original plan of transforming us into the likeness of His Son through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in us.
The father in the story of the prodigal son, waited for his son to return. However, it was the son's decision to return. The father did not pursue him and drag him home. When the son returned, and when he confessed his sins and asked, not for sonship, but just to serve, his father pardoned him and restored him to the full rights of a son of the household. The father says in perfect echo of the voice of our heavenly Father: "For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found" (Luke 15:24).
There remains one more word we need to think about, though it occurs only a few times in Scripture. We've seen it come up in verses we have looked at previously, but it is worthwhile to study it a little more closely.
The verb form of "foreknow" is PROGINOSKO which means to know before. It is used when speaking of Divine knowledge and of human knowledge.
We find the reference to Divine knowledge in verses like this one in the King James Version: "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last days for you" (1 Peter 1:20 KJV). The New International Version translates foreordained as chosen. Again we have the idea of Christ being chosen for a task because of His unique qualifications. We also have a reference to God having put this plan into effect long before the first sin was ever committed.
Romans 11:2 refers to God not rejecting the people He "foreknew". Like the father of the prodigal son He stood, and stands, waiting with the provision ready for the return of what was lost and dead.
Romans 8:29 says: "For those God foreknew he also predestinated to be conformed to the likeness of his son " He has known us since before Adam walked the earth, and it was His choice to make a way for us to return to those days before the fall, and to return to what God started in the garden.
The noun PROGNOSIS is only used in reference to God's knowledge.
Most of us are familiar with this Greek word in an entirely different context. When we are sick, we go to a doctor. After he has made his examination and run, what can sometimes seem like an endless number of tests, the doctor comes up with a prognosis based on the information he has at hand, and on his training and expertise.
God has "prognosticated" our end based on perfect knowledge of our condition. He knows what He wants: Creation restored. He knows what is preventing that: Sin. He knows what the end will be unless He provides a solution: Eternal death. He knows what the remedy is: Christ. He knows what the conditions are for that remedy to be effective: Faith in Christ. He knows what will happen when the remedy is applied: Conformity to the likeness of Christ or, the fall reversed and creation restored.
" chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father " (1 Peter 1:2).
His prognosis? If you are willing to meet the qualification that He set out before the beginning of time, the prognosis is very good He guarantees it.
I suppose I could be accused of coming at this theme with some biases, in spite of all my best efforts. That would be correct. No one could possibly be neutral on what is literally, a life or death issue. My greatest concern is to be true to the Scriptures; my greatest fear is to impose my own wishes on them.
God is consistent. What He says, He does not contradict. What He says, He means. He is unchanging and unchangeable. His Word is true. He has preserved His truth because He is God and He does want to communicate with us.
The way of salvation is still clear no matter what side of the argument you are on. The gospel remains the "bottom line." Unfortunately, the arguments have become a distraction in evangelical circles. Any distraction to the mission that God gave us to fulfill in bringing the gospel to a lost world and working with Him to restore creation, belongs to the forces of evil; forces we are called upon to resist. Division is not God's heart, unity is. Uniformity is not at issue. God didn't create carbon copies, nor does He want them, except when it comes to our conformity to the likeness of Christ. However, unity in the body is the goal we should all seek whatever side of the argument we take.
When there are no answers meant for us to know, there we must cease to question. God was and is, to some extent, inscrutable, unknowable. His thoughts and ways are far beyond our feeble minds. I say, "our" because it behooves all of us to admit that we don't fully understand how God works. We don't always understand His purposes. That's where faith enters into the equation.
I believe God loved the world before He made it. Because of that love, He chose to make preparations to restore what all mankind took part in destroying. He allowed us to rejoin the familyor not, by laying out the simplest of conditions. Now the Almighty waits with open arms.
"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts my word will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace " (Isaiah 55:1, 3, 6-9, 11, 12).
The Scriptures close with these words: "Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the gift of the water of life" (Revelation 22:17).
At the end of all the arguments, whatever God chooses to do is as perfect and just as He is. Our task is to obey what we do know and leave the rest in His perfectly capable hands.
Lynda Schultz is a freelance writer currently serving with FEBInternational, the overseas arm of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada. She works in resource development and discipleship in Caracas, Venezuela.