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What is Predestination?

Posted by Matt Postiff November 28, 2017 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology  Bible Texts 

Today's question:

What does the Bible mean when it uses the word 'predestination'?

Definition of a Key Greek Word

The main Greek word that we have to understand is proorizw (proh-or-ídzō). It occurs six times in the New Testament. The Greek dictionary relevant for the common Greek of the New Testament era defines this word as, to "decide upon beforehand, predetermine." The person who does the predestining is always God, for no one else has the power, knowledge, or wisdom to do so.

We look now at Scripture to see how the Holy Spirit uses this word to convey truth.

Uses of This Word

I have selected to provide Scriptural quotations from the New American Standard because it is an older literal translation and it consistently translates the Greek word as "predestine." It is helpful to read the verses before and after these to get the full picture of what is being said.

Acts 4:28 "to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur." Although Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were to blame for the death of Christ, God in His all-wise purpose had decided beforehand that Jesus would die.

Rom. 8:29 "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren." There is a group of people who, verse 28 says, love God and are called by Him according to His purpose. These are all Christians. These are the ones that God "knew beforehand," in the sense of setting his love upon them from the foundation of the world. He also decided beforehand that they would be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

Rom. 8:30 "and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified." Those same ones that he decided beforehand to make like Christ, He called, justified, and glorified. In whatever way God decides beforehand, we should be clear that all Christians are described by these ideas.

1 Cor. 2:7 "but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory." Here the object of predestination is not a person or event, but it is "the wisdom of God" which refers to the plan of God revealed to us through His Spirit, that body of truth which centers upon Jesus Christ. God decided beforehand that it was by this way that He would save His people.

Eph. 1:5 "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will..." Here again the object of predestination is people. God decided beforehand to adopt believers into His family through Jesus Christ. This was in accordance with what He was pleased to will to be done.

Eph. 1:11 "also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will..." God decided beforehand to make us heirs. This too was in accordance with His purpose and will.

I am convinced that God predestinates certain people to salvation

The above texts are the only ones that use this particular Greek word. However, there are quite a few others that deal with related subjects like election and foreknowledge, as well as depravity, which causes the need for this work of God in our lives. The above texts, however, are sufficient to convince me that God did decide before I was born to do something with me that would bring me into salvation. He decided beforehand to:

  • conform me to the image of Christ
  • adopt me into His family
  • make me an heir with Jesus

I thank Him for those truths. I am fully confident that whatever God decided in advance will indeed come to pass. Nothing can frustrate the will and plan of God. What God decides, He ensures will come to pass without fail.

What About Others, Those Not Saved?

If anyone is not foreknown, predestined, called, justified, or glorified, then that person simply is not a Christian. Why God chose this way is something that I cannot explain, and I don't believe I have to be able to explain it because the Bible doesn't go into any great detail on it.

What Scripture does say is sufficient: God will be glorified both in the salvation of His people, and in the judgment of those who reject Him. For this idea, I appeal to texts like Romans 9:21-23 (vessels of wrath/vessels of mercy and the outcome to show God's wrath, power, patience, and glory). Other relevant texts are Proverbs 16:4; Romans 11:22; and Romans 9:13-18. In the latter text, God says He chooses whom He wills, and the Bible tells us there is no injustice in God because of this. He has mercy on whoever He wants to, and He hardens whomever he wishes. That is His business, and I'm glad to leave it to Him because He knows what He is doing. I am too finite to be able to understand everything.

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