Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Predestination – What the New Testament Says.

Over the years I have had many discussions with Christians over the doctrine of Predestination. It can be a heated topic, one that can get Christians hot under the collar, and seeking the Lord regarding the truth of the matter. So the purpose of this essay is to look at what the New Testament says about Predestination.

There are four verses in the NT that translates the Greek into Predestined,

1. Rom 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
2. Rom 8:30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
3. Eph 1:5 he[3] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—
4. Eph 1:11 In him we were also chosen,[5] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,


There are two other verses that translate it as determined and destined,

1. Act 4:28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
2. 1Co 2:7 No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.


As Christ centred theologians it is important that we look at the context of these scriptures to find what it is they are really saying. Starting with Acts; the background is that Peter and John were jailed for preaching Christ Act 4:1 after they healed a man from his lameness. In the course of his sermon, Peter clearly speaks of the death and resurrection of Christ. Then speaks of what it was that God predestined, and that was that Christ would die through the hands of mankind, and would raise to life again.

Turning to Romans

Rom 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Rom 8:30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

The key verse to understanding God having predestined us is in the word Foreknew . Paul says that it is those he foreknew who he predestined, and explains who was it that he foreknew ? A faithful translation of the text would be,

Those he glorified, he had justified, those he justified he had called, those he called he had called he had predestined; those he predestined were those he knew would accept his Son Jesus Christ and what he done for them.

Another important word in determining what Scripture is truly saying is the word Foreknowledge. It is used twice in the NT.

1. Act 2:23 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[4] put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

2. 1Pe 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 1Pe 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.


In Acts Peter speaks of Christ being handed over, that God knew it would happen. Indeed Jesus often spoke of his impending death, explaining the Scriptures to his disciples. In the 1 Peter passage, Peter is telling the Christians that they are Gods elect according to His foreknowledge, and from the Romans passage we have the explanation as to what elect means. Peter is encouraging those who suffered through the dispersion, knowing that their suffering has been a result of their obedience to Christ. Then he tells them that the Spirit has sanctified them, Christs shed blood, reminding them of Christs own sacrifice.

Moving onto the Ephesians passage we need to look at the whole passage and what it is that Paul is truly saying.

Eph 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
Eph 1:2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Eph 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us
in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Eph 1:4 For he chose us
in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
Eph1:5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in
accordance with his pleasure and will--Eph 1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace,
which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Eph 1:7 In him we have redemption
through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's
grace Eph 1:8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.Eph 1:9 And
he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he
purposed in Christ, Eph 1:10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached
their fulfilment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head,
even Christ. Eph 1:11 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,


In verse 5,Paul is saying that God had predetermined that there would be an adoption through Christ before the creation of the world, and indeed we read a reference to this in Genesis when God tells Eve that her seed would crush the serpents head. God had determined that there would be salvation of mankind and it is in this context that Paul is speaking of Predestination – in that God had already determined that Christ would come, Christ would die, and Christ would live again.

In verse 11 the context is in that Paul is speaking of the Jews being the first born to receive the hope of Christ. God had determined that it was through the Jews that Christ would come. God determined or predestined before the creation of the world that indeed Christ would come. God determined that Christ would come through Abraham and that through him a great nation would grow.

Finally we need to look at

1Co 2:7 No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

The word Destined is the same word translated Predestined, and here it speaks of Christ being Gods wisdom for the sinfulness of mankind. Again Paul is consistent in saying that God had determined Christ would be our savoir before time began.

Therefore we can confidently say that the NT does not speak of predestination in that God chooses some to be saved and not others, rather it says that God knows who will be saved and accept his message and that it was Christ who he predestined, 1Ti 2:6 to give himself as a ransom for all.

3 comments:

Paul said...

I am not satisfied with your theology of Predestination because you don't insinuate that those who disagree with your theology are sons of the devil who are denying the Lord's sovereignty. Your theology is wholly lacking in ad hominem attacks at your opponents. I am deeply disappointed at your level of maturity. No star for you.

Paul said...

Yes, that was a sarcastic cheapshot reflecting on how some (N.B. some, not all) Calvinists like to approach this doctrine. Arminians and others can be just as immature -- I've demonstrated that in myself already. I know that Calvinists have different views on the doctrine, even views different and contrary to those of John Calvin. Many have softened Calvin's doctrine to make it more palatable (Calvinism without balls). It's difficult to pin down what Calvinists actually believe these days.

I appreciate your analysis of the topic, Craig. Very biblical, with no signs of systematic theology acting as prejudice.

To anyone who believes the following definition of predestination, I suggest reading John Wesley's (AKA Satan/Lucifer) "Free Grace" for an alternative point of view:
"All are not 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." (Institutes III, 21, 5)

Craig Bennett said...

Thanks Paul for dropping by. We all need to learn to speak and listen to one another in love. Christs bride is the only bride that punches herself in the eye just before her wedding day.

Thanks for your thumbs up re the analysis.

craig b