15/10/17 Ephesians 1 – Addendum regarding predestination
During our recent studies in Ephesians Ch.1, I made the statement that “Nowhere does this passage teach that God chooses (elects) a people specifically for salvation.” The word used for predestinated (proorizo) is used 6 times in the New Testament; its meaning is to predetermine; decide beforehand; foreordain; appoint beforehand; in the NT of God decreeing from eternity.
While it is clear that this involves the decreeing of things still yet in the future, and therefore some significant measure of sovereignly determining such without opposition from other events or wills, not one of the relevant verses can be used to exclude foreknowledge (as God’s perfect knowledge of the future) being used to predetermine the salvation of man. However, if man should call upon the name of the Lord to be saved, and God through His foreknowledge determines this fact, then his name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, or the list of the elect, from the foundation of the world (Revelation 17:8).
Ephesians 1:5 – Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Ephesians 1:11 – 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:
Romans 8:29 – 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.
Romans 8:30 – 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.
The other two uses of proorizo do not have anything to do with salvation itself.
Acts 4:27-28 – 27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
1 Corinthians 2:7 – But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, [even] the hidden [wisdom], which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
Even Ephesians 1:4 (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:) cannot exclude the use of God’s foreknowledge of future salvation decisions to determine beforehand whom He should choose. This is particularly so when 1 Peter 1:2 says that we are elect by the foreknowledge of God, where “elect” is the adjectival form of the word used for “chosen” in Ephesians 1:4. Of course, the calvinists then have to redefine the meaning of “foreknowledge” (as establishing God’s relationship with His elect) in order to avoid trouble. They’ll even misuse Greek grammar rules (such as the Granville Sharp rule) to attempt to redefine “foreknowledge” as “foreordained” using Acts 2:23. After all, what’s a lie or two when you have to defend a doctrine of devils?
I have often heard calvinists declare that man has some measure of free will but not unto salvation, and that after a person is “regenerated”, that person has free will with vague limits imposed by holy God upon His “elect”. Thus, calvinists (though not all) generally acknowledge that, while God chooses man’s eternal destiny, man has some limited free will within his calling (either to the elect, or non-elect). MacArthur teaches that Christians can sin; however, he says that As Paul explains in Romans 7, “No longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me.” (Commentary on Ephesians) That is, the Christian apparently isn’t guilty; instead, it’s the sin which indwells him that is guilty! MacArthur also teaches that the lost have free will to choose their own poison, yet can never have the right to choose salvation! But within the framework of our sinfulness we could pick our poison. … The one thing he's not free to do is to choose salvation (GTY106/answering-the-key-questions-about-the-doctrine-of-election)
The Bible does teach that salvation commences with the acceptance of that full and free salvation, the justification by faith that changes a person’s direction from condemnation to eternal life. Romans 10:13 says For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. This is the point of acceptance of the gospel of Christ.
Of course, much happens before this point of acceptance:
- The gospel is faithfully preached and received; the person hearing it knows that it is God who claims to be speaking through His word.
- The person has to decide if God does exist and, if so, whether or not what God says is absolutely true. (See Hebrews 11:6)
- If that person determines that God exists and is speaking the truth, then his response should involve godly sorrow (as per the tax collector parable) which would include some measure of despair and also some measure of desiring to change (often termed repentance).
- Such godly sorrow (including a desire to change) should prompt the person to respond in faith, calling upon the name of the Lord to be saved. Note that faith is not a gift of God, as taught by calvinists, but instead it is man’s response to his trust in the character of the God who tells him that he is a sinner and needs to be saved. You have faith in those whom you trust! And faith, according to Hebrews 11, is clearly an active demonstration of our belief.
But, salvation, once commenced, does not actually end there. It continues for the rest of a person’s life, with continual sanctification until the final glorification at or after death. However, when we talk of a person being saved, we generally mean the initial acceptance of salvation and not the consequential ongoing process.
In this light, predestination could be seen as that process that takes a person from the initial acceptance of salvation right through the rest of that person’s life. Thus, once a person calls upon the name of the Lord to be saved, God according to His promise then puts into action His salvation to the uttermost. That person is then, via God’s foreknowledge, foreordained to be justified, being adopted as a child of God (Ephesians 1:5), obtaining an inheritance in heaven for all eternity (Ephesians 1:11), in fact, growing in righteousness as we are conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
“But,” cries the calvinist, “Romans 8:30 does say that those who are predestinated are also justified, which means that we are predestinated to be regenerated!” Well, if they mean “justified” according to the foreknowledge of God, then yes, I can accept even that, but still only according to God’s foreknowledge, His perfect knowledge of the future! It is the calling upon the name of the Lord to be saved that God acts upon, and that calling upon the name of the Lord is not, nor can ever be foreordained or predestinated by God. It’s the calling upon the name of the Lord to be saved that triggers God’s full and free salvation, that turns a potential salvation into a complete reality, and it is God’s foreknowledge that determines who will be predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ and all that entails.
The Bible says we are predestinated to conform to the image of Christ, and that those who are thus predestinated are also called, justified and glorified. (Note that “called” in Romans 8:30 is not the same as “called” in Romans 8:28. In Romans 8:30 the word for “called” denotes the naming of a person or similar, as per Matthew 1:25b – and he called his name JESUS.) But it does not teach that we are pre-programmed to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved as per Romans 10:13. The gospel is offered freely to all mankind, but is not automatically granted to all! Man may either accept or reject that gift of salvation offered to all. It is the acceptance of that salvation as per Romans 10:13 that leads to our salvation, and it is God’s faithfulness to His promises to save to the uttermost that saves all those who call upon the name of the Lord to be saved.
Ultimately, that predestinating of man to be conformed to the image of Christ is based upon God’s foreknowledge – “For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated …..” (and also to be called, justified and glorified!) What did God foreknow? Simply, God would know from the beginning if you called upon the name of the Lord to be saved, and, if so, then God would save you according to His foreknowledge, and then predestinate you to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), a process which would include being called, justified and glorified. If you call upon the name of the Lord to be saved, the resultant predestination would also ensure that God would call you to be saved (as per His promises), ensuring your justification before a holy God, and ultimately glorifying you, such that you will belong in heaven with God for all eternity.
But nowhere does the Bible teach that the initial free will decision to be saved is predestinated, that is, nowhere is it written into the script for your life from the foundation of the world. Yes, if you are a Christian, then God did choose you from the foundation of the world, but, it cannot deny the process of God foreknowing from the beginning that one day you would indeed call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. Nowhere in the Bible has God predestinated that one day you would call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. That is your decision and yours alone. God only acts in full accordance with your will and wishes for your eternity. If you reject God and His salvation, then God will honour your decision for all eternity! If you accept God and His salvation (by calling upon the name of the Lord), then God will honour your decision for all eternity! God will do all the necessary works, either to condemn you, or to save you, but He will act only according to the decision of your personal will.
The calvinists reject free will because it interferes with their heresies; likewise, they reject foreknowledge, for foreknowledge implies the need for decisions to foreknow, and that in turn implies free will. Without foreknowledge and the free will of man, especially in salvation, the elect must be unconditionally chosen by God, which is what the calvinists want. But God has given man free will to choose or reject salvation, and God’s foreknowledge fully comprehends the decision made by every single person for all time, from before the foundation of the world.
God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, “What doest thou?” Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.
(Knowledge of the Holy A W Tozer Page 76)