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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Predestination

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1. Context.-Predestination in its widest reference, as attributed to God, is ‘His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass’ (The Shorter Catechism, A. 7). The word ‘predestinate’ appears nowhere in the AV_ of the OT, and in the NT it has now disappeared, having given place to ‘foreordain’ in the RV_ in the four places where the AV_ had it (Romans 8:29-30, Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:11). ‘Foreordained’ of the AV_ has also given place to ‘foreknown’ in the RV_ of 1 Peter 1:20 (where the Gr. is προεγνωσμένου. See Foreknowledge). ‘Foreordain’ in the passages referred to above, and also in Acts 4:28 (AV_ ‘determined before’), 1 Corinthians 2:7 (AV_ ‘ordained’), renders προορίζειν, the tense employed in these six instances being the aorist, as befitted a purpose of the Divine mind from eternity. The simple ὁρίζειν occurs similarly with a kindred meaning (Luke 22:22 : κατὰ τὸ ὡρισμένον; Acts 2:23 : τῇ ὡρισμένῃ βουλῇ; cf. Acts 10:42; Acts 17:26; Acts 17:31, Romans 1:4).

2. Connotation.-Election and predestination belong to the purpose of grace cherished in the Divine mind from all eternity; and as far as salvation is concerned they are the expression of the entire dependence of sinful man upon the grace of God from the beginning to the end. They are included together by St. Paul among the spiritual blessings bestowed upon believers; and the two transactions are regarded as taking place before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5). Election has in view the persons who are to be the objects of Divine blessing; predestination the privileges and blessings which are to be their portion (Romans 8:29-30, Ephesians 1:4-5). Foreknowledge, (πρόγνωσις, 1 Peter 1:2; cf. Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:20) belongs to the same purpose of grace, and is spoken of by St. Paul as the first step in the Divine plan of salvation, for it is those whom God ‘foreknew’ whom He also ‘foreordained’ to be conformed to the image of His Son. The word ‘chose’ (εἴλατο) in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 includes ‘foreknew’ and ‘foreordained’ of Romans 8:29, and has itself apparently the force of ‘elected’ (ἐξελέξατο).

3. Predestination in the moral world.-It belongs to the very nature of God that He should have a counsel or purpose which embraces all things from the beginning to the end, and that this counsel shall be assuredly accomplished. This is again and again declared in Scripture: ‘The Lord hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil’ (Proverbs 16:4); ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure’ (Isaiah 46:10). St. Paul affirms this truth when he speaks of ‘the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will’ (Ephesians 1:11). Not only the good but the evil of the world comes under the Divine predestinating purpose, for the evil as well as the good is known beforehand to the Omniscient (Acts 15:18). ‘In him we live, and move, and have our being’ (Acts 17:28), and every act of man, whatever its motive, is performed with bodily life and strength, with faculties and powers which He has supplied, and continues to supply, to the best and to the worst, to the noblest and the most depraved. Whilst not Himself the author of sin, He not only suffers the evil designs and wicked purposes of men, but uses them (and by using them shows that He purposed to use them from all eternity) for ends of His own, even the loftiest and holiest of which men can form any conception. The death of Christ was an essential element in the Divine plan of redemption. To bring to pass the death of Christ He made use of the hatred of the Jews, the baseness of the betrayer, and the culpable weakness of the Roman governor. The first Christians discerned and acknowledged this as they lifted up their united voice in prayer to God and said: ‘Of a truth in this city against thy holy Servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel foreordained to come to pass’ (ὄσα ἡ χείρ σου καὶ ἡ βουλὴ προώρισεν γενέσθαι, Acts 4:27 f.). And St. Peter declared the same truth to the Jewish multitudes on the Day of Pentecost: ‘Him being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay’ (τῇ ὡρισμένῃ βουλῇ καὶ προγνώσει τοῦ θεοῦ, Acts 2:23). It was in language no less strong that the Lord Himself predicted His betrayal and death: ‘The Son of man indeed goeth, as it hath been determined (κατὰ τὸ ὡρισμένον, Luke 22:22): but wce unto that man through whom he is betrayed.’ We also read that He showed ‘unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up’ (Matthew 16:21). These passages ‘combine to show that not only in the physical world, which is generally admitted to be subject in all its provinces to the absolute control and regulation of the Almighty, but also in the moral world, all circumstances and events, dependent though they may be on the voluntary actions of His intelligent creatures, are nevertheless pre-arranged and predetermined by Him; or, in other words, that whatsoever God does by His own personal agency in any department of the universe, and whatsoever He permits to be done by the agency of His rational creatures, is done or permitted by Him purposely and designedly, in accordance with his own determinate counsels, and for the accomplishment of His own contemplated ends’ (Crawford, Mysteries of Christianity, p. 303).

4. St. Paul’s view of predestination and salvation.-Predestination, however, in its bearing upon salvation finds its great exponent in the apostle Paul. That God has foreordained particular persons from all eternity to salvation and eternal life, that He has provided for them the means to that salvation in the work of Christ and the gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit, and that He bestows upon them grace to persevere to the end, is especially the teaching of St. Paul. Here, again, as in his teaching upon election, St. Paul follows up the teaching of the Lord. ‘No man can come to me,’ says Jesus, ‘except the Father which sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day’ (John 6:44). ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.… My Father, which hath given them unto me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand’ (John 10:27; John 10:29). ‘All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me’ is, as the older divines would have put it, an article in the Covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Son in the counsels of eternity; ‘and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out’ is an article in the Covenant of Grace wherein the offer of a free and a full salvation is made to all (John 6:37). It is this teaching which St. Paul casts into his own more philosophical moulds and expounds in language which has not only passed into the vocabulary of theology, but even become familiar in the religious speech of many types of evangelical Christians. ‘We know,’ he says in a characteristic utterance, ‘that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren’ (Romans 8:28-29). The sovereignty in which St. Paul here reposes such confidence is the sovereignty of a God of grace and faithfulness; and he is confident that He who began a good work in him and his fellow-believers ‘will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:6). The end to which God ‘foreordained’ those whom He ‘foreknew’ is conformity to the image of His Son, that they should be sons of God after His likeness of love and holiness here and dignity and glory above. This end is that which apostolic teaching always has in view, and no other: the apostles have nothing to say of predestination to wrath or destruction (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 1:1-2).

In the opening passage of the Epistle to the Ephesians St. Paul sets forth in still greater detail this great doctrine (Ephesians 1:3-8; Ephesians 1:11-12). It is ‘the saints which are at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus’ who are the objects of this Divine choice and blessing, persons who are believing men and women (τοῖς πιστοῖς) and Christians indeed (τοῖς ἁγίοις). The benefits bestowed upon them in common with the Apostle are enumerated as ‘redemption,’ ‘forgiveness of sins,’ ‘holiness,’ ‘adoption’ as sons of God, ‘a heavenly inheritance,’ and they comprise ‘every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ’-benefits not merely offered but actually enjoyed, and that in accordance with the purpose of God before the foundation of the world. The Divine choice rested upon them and took effect in them not because of their merits or attainments, not because God foresaw in them a holiness and a faith marking them out as recipients of eternal favour and blessing, but ‘according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace.’ They were chosen not because of foreseen holiness and blamelessness, but ‘in order that they should be holy and without blemish.’ If we adopt the punctuation which connects ‘in love’ (at the close of Ephesians 1:4) with ‘having foreordained’ (at the commencement of Ephesians 1:5), and which has some textual authority, we should hold that it was in love that He foreordained them, moved by ‘an “unseen universe” of reasons and causes wholly beyond our discovery’ (H. C. G. Moule, Cambridge Bible, ‘Ephesians,’ 1886, p. 48). Whatever the grounds of God’s predestinating purpose, they did not lie in any merits or qualifications of theirs, for they were called ‘not according to their works, but according to his own purpose and grace before the world began’ (2 Timothy 1:9). Election is a spontaneous act of God’s favour and grace, uncalled for by anything in the objects of it moving Him thereto. Before the ages of time God foreordained the glory of the saints, and with a view to that consummation He purposed both creation and redemption (1 Corinthians 2:7 with T. S. Evans’ note in Speaker’s Com. iii. [1881]).

Whilst St. Paul in speaking of God’s predestinating purpose towards the saints calls them ‘vessels of mercy which he afore prepared unto glory’ (Romans 9:23), he is careful not to attribute to the immediate agency of God ‘the destruction’ which overtakes the ‘vessels of wrath’ (Romans 9:22). These the Apostle describes as ‘fitted unto destruction,’ whom God ‘endured with much longsuffering’; and he regards them as bringing upon themselves by their obstinacy and continued sinfulness the natural penalty of their guilt, the just judgment of God. The issue of glory for the saints proceeds from God’s predestinating purpose ‘according to the good pleasure of his will’ and without any foresight of merit on their part; the issue of destruction for the wicked proceeds from the rejection of offered grace and their persistence in transgression and sin. The distinction is that set forth by St. Paul when he says: ‘The wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 6:23).

That God’s sovereignty in predestination is exercised consistently with man’s perfect liberty to choose is an antinomy which it is impossible for us to reconcile, but which, nevertheless, stands out clear in the teaching of St. Paul. In Romans 9:20-21 St. Paul appeals to one side of the antinomy and affirms the Divine sovereignty by reference to the figure of the potter; and in Romans 10:11-15 he exhibits the other side when he affirms the universality and freeness of the gospel offer, saying, ‘Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?’ Whilst St. Paul, as we have seen, affirms the doctrine of absolute predestination to life, he asserts no less clearly the truth of human responsibility. Underlying all his exhortations to holiness, and all his presentations of gospel privilege and blessing, there is the assumption of the freedom of the human will to avail itself of offered grace or to refuse it, to put forth effort or to remain inactive. Whilst the kindling of the Divine life in the soul through the exercise of faith in Christ is of sovereign grace (Ephesians 2:8), the increase and fruitfulness of the Divine life through prayer and service depends upon the same grace, as St. Paul exhorts: ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:12-13).

5. Predestination in Christian experience.-The doctrine of predestination has the analogy of Christian experience to support it. Every Christian man is ready to acknowledge that there was some power at work for his salvation before his own freewill. ‘We love,’ says St. John, ‘because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19). It is He who, through the Holy Spirit, by the use of the means of grace, quickens into spiritual life men who are dead in trespasses and sins. And there are multitudes who acknowledge their experience to have been that of Lydia, ‘whose heart the Lord opened, to give heed unto the things which were spoken by Paul’ (Acts 16:14). In Christian experience there is the conviction of this gracious influence which has been beforehand with us in showing us the guilt of sin and leading us to Christ for salvation, but there is also the consciousness of moral responsibility, requiring from us the constant exercise of faith and the diligent use of all the means of grace. ‘I could no more,’ says Erskine of Linlathen, writing to Thomas Chalmers from Herrnhut (Letters, 1800-1840, ed. Hanna, 1877), ‘separate the belief of predestination from my idea of God, than I could separate the conviction of moral responsibility from my own consciousness. I do not, to be sure, see how these two things coincide, but I am prepared for my own ignorance on these points. We know things, not absolutely as they are in themselves, but relatively as they are to us and to our practical necessities.’ There we must be content to leave the antinomy, believing that though it is beyond our limited powers to reconcile, it is reconciled in the mind of the All-knowing and Eternal God.

6. Practical applications.-The doctrine of predestination has practical applications full of comfort and encouragement. A reasonable assurance of salvation finds in the eternal decree, whose sole cause is the good pleasure and eternal will of God, its most certain and abiding ground. To have a well-grounded persuasion, through the fruit of the Spirit and the evidences of the new life, that one is of the number of those whom God foreknew and foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son, cannot fail on the one hand to fill one with gratitude and humility, and on the other to stimulate one to the pursuit of holiness and all the graces of the Christian life. The belief that God in His predestinating purpose has His elect-known to Him when unknown to man-in every community and every congregation where Christ is preached, is an encouragement to faithful ministry, as it was to St. Paul when in a vision of the night the Lord said to him: ‘I have much people in this city’ (Acts 18:10). ‘The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination,’ says the Westminster Confession (ch. iii. 8), ‘is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending to the will of God revealed in His word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel.’

Literature.-C. Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1872, i. 535 ff.; T. J. Crawford, Mysteries of Christianity, 1874, p. 291 ff.; John Forbes, Predestination and Freewill, 1878; J. B. Mozley, Predestination2, 1878; B. Jowett, The Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, Galatians, and Romans, 1894, ii. 870; J. Drummond, Studies in Christian Doctrine, 1907, p. 463; T. Haering, The Christian Faith, 1913, p. 788ff.

T. Nicol.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Predestination'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/p/predestination.html. 1906-1918.

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