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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Predestination

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PREDESTINATION . The English word ‘predestinate’ in the AV [Note: Authorized Version.] is, in the few cases in which it occurs ( Romans 8:29; Romans 8:36 , Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:11 ), exchanged in the RV [Note: Revised Version.] for ‘foreordain,’ a return to the usage of the older Versions. The Gr. word ( proorizo ) conveys the simple idea of defining or determining beforehand (thus, in addition to above, in Acts 4:29 , 1 Corinthians 2:7 ). The change in rendering brings the word into closer relation with a number of others expressing the same, or related, meanings, as ‘foreknow’ (in pregnant sense, Acts 2:23 , Romans 8:29; Rom 11:2 , 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20 ), ‘determine’ ( Acts 17:26 ), ‘appoint’ ( 1 Peter 2:8 ), ‘purpose’ ( Ephesians 1:9 ), in the case of believers, ‘choose’ or ‘elect’ ( Ephesians 1:4 etc.). In the OT the idea is expressed by the various words denoting to purpose, determine, choose ( e.g. Isaiah 14:24-27; Isaiah 46:10-11 ), with the ahundance of phrases extolling the sovereignty and immutability of God’s counsel in all the spheres of His operation (see below; so in NT). The best clue to the Scripture conception will he found in tracing it as it appears in these different spheres of the Divine action.

1 . In its most general aspect, foreordination is coextensive with the sphere of God’s universal providence, is, in fact, but another name for the eternal plan, design, purpose, counsel of God, which executes itself in providence. The election of believers, to which ‘predestination’ is sometimes narrowed, is hut a specific case of the ‘purpose’ of Him ‘who worketh all things after the counsel of his will’ ( Ephesians 1:11 ). It is in this wider regard, accordingly, that foreordination must be studied first. It cannot be reasonably doubted that all Scripture OT and NT represents God as exercising in and over the world a providence that is absolutely universal. Nothing, great or small operations of nature or actions of men is left outside its scope. This does not happen blindly, but in accordance with a plan or purpose, equally all-embracing, which has existed from eternity. As Plato says in his Parmenides that nothing, not even the meanest object, is unpenetrated by the idea, so even the minutest details, and seemingly most casual happenings, of life (the numbering of hairs, the fall of a sparrow, Matthew 10:29-30 ) are included in the Divine providence. Free agency is not annulled; on the contrary, human freedom and responsibility are everywhere insisted on. But even free volitions, otherwise mere possibilities, are taken up in their place into this plan of God, and are made subservient to the accomplishment of His purposes. The Bible does not trouble itself with solving difficulties as to the relation of the Divine purpose to human freedom , but, in accordance with its fundamental doctrine of God as the free personal Creator of the world and absolutely sovereign Ruler in the realms both of matter and of mind, working through all causes, and directing everything to the wisest and holiest ends, it unhesitatingly sees His ‘hand’ and His ‘counsel’ in whatever is permitted to happen, good or bad ( Acts 2:28 ). It need not be said that there is nothing arbitrary or unjust in this ‘counsel’ of God; it can be conceived of only as the eternal expression of His wisdom, righteousness, and love.

Texts are almost superfluous in the case of a doctrine pervading the whole of Scripture, history, prophecy, psalm, epistle, but an instance or two may be given. The history is a continual demonstration of a Divine teleology ( e.g. Genesis 45:8; Genesis 50:20 ). God’s counsel stands, and cannot be defeated ( Psalms 33:1; Psalms 46:10-11 ); all that God wills He does ( Psalms 115:3; Psalms 135:6 , Daniel 4:35 ); it is because God purposed it, that it comes to pass ( Isaiah 14:24; Isaiah 14:27; Isaiah 37:26 ); God is the disposer of all events ( 2 Samuel 17:11-12 , Job 1:21 , Proverbs 16:33 ); man may devise his way, but it is the Lord who directs his steps ( Proverbs 16:9 ); even the hearts of men are under His control ( Proverbs 21:1 ); God sends to man good and evil alike ( Amos 3:6 , Isaiah 45:7 ). It has already been pointed out that the same doctrine is implied in the NT ( e.g. Acts 4:28; Acts 15:18; Acts 15:28 [story of Paul’s shipwreck], Ephesians 1:11 , Revelation 4:11 etc.).

2 . A universal, all-pervading purpose of God in creation, providence, and human life, is thus everywhere assumed. The end of God’s purpose , as regards humanity, may be thought of as the establishing of a moral and spiritual kingdom, or Kingdom of God, in which God’s will should be done on earth, as it is done in heaven (cf. Matthew 6:10 ). But this end, now that sin has entered, can be attained only through a redemption . The centre of God’s purpose in our world, therefore, that which gives its meaning and direction to the whole Biblical history, and constitutes almost its sole concern, is the fact of redemption through Jesus Christ, and the salvation of men by Him. To this everything preceding the call of Abraham, the Covenant with Israel, the discipline and growing revelation of Law and Prophets leads up (on predestination here, cf. Genesis 18:18-19 , Leviticus 20:24; Leviticus 20:26 , Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 43:7 etc.); with this begins (or, more strictly, continues) the ingathering of a people to God from all nations and races of mankind, who, in their completeness, constitute the true Church of God, redeemed from among men ( Ephesians 5:25-27 , 1 Peter 2:9-10 , Revelation 1:5-6; Revelation 14:1-6 etc.). The peculiar interest of the doctrine of foreordination, accordingly, in the NT, concentrates itself in the calling and salvation of those described as the ‘chosen’ or ‘elect’ of God to this great destiny ( Ephesians 1:4 etc.). The doctrine of foreordination (predestination) here coalesces practically with that of election (wh. see). Yet certain distinctions arise from a difference in the point of view from which the subject is contemplated.

Election, in the NT, as seen in the article referred to, relates to the eternal choice of the individual to salvation. As little as any other fact or event in life is the salvation of the believer regarded as lying outside the purpose or pre-determination of God; rather, an eternal thought of love on God’s part is seen coming to light in the saved one being brought into the Kingdom (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:15 ). There is the yet deeper reason for seeing in the believer’s calling and salvation the manifestation of a Divine purpose, that, as lost in sin, he is totally incapable of effecting this saving change in himself. He owes his renewal, his quickening from spiritual death, to the gratuitous mercy of God ( Ephesians 2:1-8; see Regeneration). Every soul born into the Kingdom is conscious in its deepest moments that it is only of God’s grace it is there, and is ready to ascribe the whole glory of its salvation to God ( Revelation 7:10 ), and to trace back that salvation to its fountainhead in the everlasting counsel of God. Thus regarded, ‘election’ and ‘foreordination’ to salvation seem to have much the same meaning. Yet in usage a certain distinction is made. It may perhaps be stated thus, that ‘election’ denotes the Divine choice simply, while ‘foreordain’ has generally (in sense of ‘predestinate’) a reference to the end which the foreordination has in view. Thus, in Ephesians 1:4-5 ‘Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world … having foreordained us unto adoption as sons’ (where ‘having foreordained,’ as Meyer rightly says, is not to be taken as prior to, but as coincident in point of time with, ‘he chose’); and in v. 11 ‘having been foreordained,’ i.e. to be ‘made a heritage,’ and this ‘to the end that we should be unto the praise of his glory’ (v. 12). In Romans 8:29 , again, where ‘foreknew’ which seems to take the place of ‘chose’ (it can hardly be foreknowledge of the faith which is the result of the later ‘calling’) comes before ‘foreordained,’ the latter has the end defined: ‘to be conformed to the image of his Son.’ Those ‘foreknown’ are afterwards described as God’s ‘elect’ (v. 33). This striking passage further shows how, in foreordaining the end, God likewise foreordains all the steps that lead to it (‘foreknew’ ‘foreordained’ ‘called’ ‘justified’ ‘glorified’). In 1 Peter 1:1 , on the other hand, ‘foreknowledge’ is distinguished from election still, however, in sense of pre-designation.

3 . God’s foreordination, or predestination, whether in its providential, historical, or personal saving aspects, is ever represented as a great mystery, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of which (for this is the character of its mystery) man can never hope to fathom ( Rom Romans 11:33-34 ). When the Apostle, in Romans 9:1-33 , is dealing with objectors, he does not attempt a rationale of that which he admits to lie beyond his ken, but falls back on the unchallengeable sovereignty of God in acting as He wills ( Romans 9:14-16; Romans 9:19-23 ). The answer would be a poor one, were it not as absolutely assumed throughout that God’s is a will in which there can be no taint of unrighteousness, and that there is nothing in His action which does not admit of vindication to a perfect wisdom and goodness. If God shows His mercy on whom He wills, His right to do so cannot be assailed; if He hardens not arbitrarily, but through the fixed operation of ethical laws and glorifies His wrath in the destruction of the hardened, it is not without sufficient cause, and only after much long-suffering ( Romans 9:22 ). As little does the Apostle attempt to show the compatibility of the Divine foreordination with human freedom, but habitually assumes that the one is not, and cannot be, in violation of the other. The material with which the potter works ( Romans 9:21 ) is not, in this case, after all, mere inanimate clay, but beings who can ‘reply against God’ ( Romans 9:20 ), and are the objects of His long-suffering endurance ( Romans 9:22 ). Sovereignty is seen in this, that even those who refuse to be moulded to higher uses do not escape the hands of God, but are made to subserve His glory, even if it be in their destruction. Doubtless even here a purpose of God is to be recognized. Godet, who is not a rigid predestinarian, says of the instance in Romans 9:17

‘God might have caused Pharaoh to be born in a cabin, where his proud obstinacy would have been displayed with no less self-will, but without any historical consequence; on the other hand, he might have placed on the throne of Egypt at that time a weak, easy-going man, who would have yielded at the first shock. What would have happened? Pharaoh in his obscure position would not have been less arrogant and perverse, out Israel would have gone forth from Egypt without çclat ’ (on Romans 9:17-18 ).

Only in this sense, of those wilfully hardened and persistently obdurate, is it permissible to speak if the language should be employed at all of a decree of reprobation . Scripture itself, with all its emphasis on foreordination, never speaks of a foreordination to death, or of a reprobation of human beings apart from their own sins. See Reprobate. Its foreordination is reserved for life, blessing, sonship, inheritance.

James Orr.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Predestination'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/p/predestination.html. 1909.

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