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A Diagnosis of Biblical Predestination

Updated: Jul 26, 2022

In the realm of religious teaching, there has been some unclarity regarding what the Bible teaches about "predestination." The topic of predestination is often neglected because of a lack of confidence in properly understanding the word. There have been doctrines shaped around this idea of predestination. For example, John Calvin formed a doctrine regarding predestination that stands strong in many denominations of Christendom. John Calvin teaches five things regarding predestination: 1. Total depravity; 2. Unconditional election; 3. Limited atonement; 4. Irresistible grace; 5. Preservation of the saints. Total depravity is the concept of all man being born with sin, sins that were inherited through the sins of Adam. Unconditional election teaches that nothing can be done in an attempt to attain salvation. Limited atonement teaches that Jesus's sacrifice on the cross was only to forgive the sins of a select amount, typically taught as 144,000. Irresistible grace teaches that if you are a member of the elect, that there is no way to turn away God's gift of grace. Lastly, preservation of the saints is the common belief that once you are saved, you are continuously saved by the blood of Christ. Without going into great detail on this doctrine, we can note a few passages that logically show the flaw in this doctrine: 1. Total depravity makes no sense when Christ says that we must be pure like children (Matthew 18:3); 2. Unconditional election is flawed by the numerous discussions of faith and works both needing to be involved in attaining salvation (James 4:14ff); 3. Limited atonement falls apart at Paul's words as he wrote that Christ came and died for all people (2nd Corinthians 5:15); 4. Irresistible grace is flawed because it is possible to rebel against God and to make the assumption that He has no rule over our lives (Psalm 14:1); 5. Preservation of the saints, the idea of once saved always saved is a contagious lie deceiving many people, we know from God's own word that men can depart from the truth (Galatians 5:4; James 5:19-20). With all that being said, and there being a false understanding of predestination, what is it? That is what will be the topic of discussion. The Bible will be used as the means for understanding this word, predestination, by looking at the original language and the use of the term itself.

As the attempt is made to unveil the meaning of the word "predestine," it is necessary to gather the term's correct definition. Because the Bible is a translation of a once spoken language, we must understand the original text. The portion of the scriptures in which this word is used is the New Testament. The New Testament was written in a Greek dialect known as Koine Greek. Koine Greek was the common language of the people in the time of the authorship of the New Testament; it was introduced as a means of improving global communications once Alexander the Great had conquered the known world, and it allowed for the Romans to follow up and rule over the nations successfully. The Greek word that is used and translated predestine is proorizō. This word has five possible translations: predestine; foreordain; to predetermine; to be predetermined; to decide beforehand. This Greek word comes from the root word orizō, meaning to appoint, determine, or designate. Why is it so important that we address this translated English word from the original Greek word? Because this word's actual definition has been morphed to fit the false doctrines that encircle it. Anytime the word predestine is used, the automatic thought is the Calvinist doctrine, and that's surely not what it means. In the English language, the word predestine does not even point towards an idea of irresistible grace or that of limited atonement. In English, it is noted that the word predestine derives from the Latin word praedestinare, meaning to determine. So, predestine is arising to mean some sort of premeditated decision or a beforehand provision. But how is it used in the Bible?

There are six separate occurrences of the word predestine in the New Testament, and they are Acts 4:28; Romans 8:29-30; 1st Corinthians 2:7; and Ephesians 1:5,11. Let us begin our analysis with Acts 4:28. In Acts 4:28, the context of the scripture, the believers are praying for boldness. They had just witnessed Peter and John's display of boldness in speaking with the Jewish leaders, and so they go to prayer to achieve that same level of boldness. So, in Acts 4:28, the setting is a prayer, and the context of the exact use of predestine is regarding the fulfillment of a plan. The second and third findings of the word predestine begin in Romans 8:29 and continue to verse 30. The use of the word predestine here is again in regard to a plan, a predetermined plan that intends to shape the saints into the likeness of Christ. In verse 29, the passage reads, "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that he may be the firstborn among many brothers." Verse 29 opens us up to the fact that Biblical predestination is conditional. God possessed the insight, the foreknowledge, that only a select number would be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to be obedient to Him. These people who are obedient to His will are those whom He has predestined to conform into the image of His Son. Salvation isn't just granted unconditionally; there are conditions set in place to receive the reward. In verse 30, we read, "And those whom he predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified." Verse 30 teaches this regarding predestination, those whom God has foreknown would shape to the image of Christ are considered the predestined. Again, the plan was set in place and was achievable because of the foreknowledge that some would be obedient. A fourth time the word for predestine is used is in 1st Corinthians 2:7, except this case is different. In the case of 1st Corinthians 2:7, the Greek word for predestine is translated as decreed. Decreed is simple to understand; it is given as a promise for a specified behavior. If a king were to make a decree to kill all who are murderers, then it is expected that all who are murderers will be put to death by the decree. A decree is a forehand expression of a truth that relies on future events to expose the truth. God said He would save the people with a Messiah, that is a decree, that promise is fulfilled with Christ. The last occurrences of this word are in Ephesians chapter 1 verses 5 and 11. When looking at verse 5, it is read, "He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of His will," so here again, we find predestine being used in the context of a plan. A foreknowledge is necessary for the fulfillment of the plan that God has, one that works out the purpose of His will. In verse 11, it reads, "In Him, we have obtained an inheritance having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will." In this verse, it is again evident that predestination isn't a divine securing of a soul. From verse 11, we learn that through Christ, an inheritance is gained by those who are obedient, as it works out the intent and purpose of God's premeditated plan. Biblical predestination can be compared to this: if I make plans to go camping and I get all the things in order and message all my friends to come with me, but only some come, they were predestined to come. It was expected in my plans that some of my friends would come, and those that come are, as the Bible would define, predestined.

So, what is Biblical predestination? It is the premeditated, or predetermined, plan by which God has chosen to open the doors of redemption to all people, yet realistically understanding that only a few would follow therein. Biblical predestination is by no means the election of souls for salvation. If that were the case, there would be many contradictory passages. Galatians 5:4 states that there were those who had fallen from grace, in order to fall from grace, there would have to have initially had grace afforded, but that is a contradiction to the doctrine of predestination as an election. A message of an election would go against the very words of Christ in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me." If salvation was granted by way of election, then what would be the purpose of a way made by Christ? There would not be one! 1st John 4:10 informs us that Christ was sent and died as the propitiation, the atoning (not with a limit) sacrifice, for sinners. Romans 5:8 Paul writes that Christ came and died for sinners by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 1st Timothy 1:15 Paul writes that Christ came into the world to save sinners, sinners in a broad term, not a definite term. In one of His purpose statements, Christ Himself says in Luke 19:10, "For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost." Christ didn't say that He came to save some of the lost or shed some of His blood to cleanse some people's sins, but all the people's sins. So, again, is predestination an election to salvation? No, it is just merely God deciding beforehand that He would do something, typically in the redemptive realm, to work out the accordance of His will.
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