Understanding The Bible
HOW GOD WORKS PREDESTINATION FOR OUR GOOD
Here is a subject on which I have been a contrarian over several decades of postgraduate study. I have never been able to accept theological statements that equate election and predestination. Part of my basis for so thinking is found in chapters one and two. But it can be seen very clearly, by me, that foreknowledge and predestination accentuate actions on the beginning and ending of the program of grace respectively. Predestination most clearly, of course, looks only at the consummation (i. e. end or goal) of the program. So the development of this chapter will proceed on the assumption that the two terms are distinct from each other.
One would have to say, after looking at the second of the five terms, predestination, that it was one of the four components in the elective process of God and is based on the predetermination (i. e. foreknowledge) in the election. It is not election itself, as so many state it. God's perfect preferences bring us blessing because they are made certain by His previous decrees--seen in the term foreknow. With Paul, the writer would speak of God in the highest terms, Eph 1:3:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ Who has blessed us with every blessing by the Spirit in the heights in Christ.
I have explained the subject of predestination across the United States and Canada. People have listened intently but their moist palms, at the door, betrayed it as a scary term and subject. (1) Perhaps secularists have embarrassed them because of their ignorance about the subject. Secularists understand predestination as fatalism. But fatalism is all blindness and predestination understood in these contexts is great insight. (2) Or perhaps someone's philosophic or rationalized theology has misled some with its insistence that its subject is salvation and damnation. That is, that predestination is addressed either to salvation or to damnation. In the Bible it is targeted at neither for it accentuates the goal of election and makes the believer "sighted," not blinded.
God, however, is not scared by the term predestination because:
(1) He sees it as one of His greatest goals for His program of election.
(2) He has decreed absolute certainty into the program. He knows that through the Holy Spirit's instruction all born again believers will see ahead of time where they are going and will derive many benefits from this great view along the way. These benefits, of course, will include perspective, poise, progress, productivity, etc.
What the Term Predestination Means
The English term pretty much indicates the way we are to understand the term predestination. It is a compound word composed of "pre" and "destination." We know our destination is certain ahead of time. It is covered by a divine decree. It is set up front on every believer's horizon. What that destination is will be treated in context below.
The Greek term also surfaces with an even more exciting figure. Proorizoo is also a compound word composed of "pro" and "hoorizoo" (i. e. like our English word horizon). In other words predestination means to see ahead of time because it is clearly marked out on our horizon. It clarifies how we personally will turn out. It is after all much more than a temporary facelift. This is a great advantage for believers. It is also the horizon-point to which God directs all His elective efforts. It also will be worked together with the other four elements for our good.
The Twofold Biblical Use of the Greek Term
It has long been correctly said that the term proorizoo is used about two distinct matters in Scripture: (1) For the foreordination of things or events. (2) For the predestination of believing/saved persons only.
The term is used only 6 times in the New Testament. It is usually translated foreordained, in Acts 4:28, of the trials and crucifixion of Jesus. It was used in the prayers of the church when Peter and John had been released to them. It centers in the predetermination of God, based on His own counsel, that the leaders of Israel unwittingly carried out. In 1 Cor 2:7 it is used of the hidden wisdom of God which He ordained before the world unto our glory.
It is usually translated predestined or destined in Rom 8:29-30 and in Eph 1:5, 11. In the latter 4 places it refers to the predestination of believers: (1) to be conformed to the image of Christ in order that He might become the firstborn among many brothers; (2) that He might adopt us with pleasure as children to Himself by Jesus Christ in His share with His heirs program. In adoption, God is dealing with the legal side of things because of the new birth. Adoption means son-placement or placement as a fully qualified son in the family of God. Thus we have all the legal rights to the inheritance, Rom 8:17, right from the new birth.
The term predestination is never used for unbelievers or unsaved persons in the Bible. The favorite discussion in bull sessions follows the line of rationalization. "If believers are predestined to be saved, then unbelievers are predestined to be damned." Ah yes, but the text does not say believers are predestined to be saved. It says believers are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ and end up in eternity in His likeness. It is a bad habit to rationalize that the opposite of what God says in one case must be true. There are other options available to God. God does not say men are predestined to be damned. God does say that it is not His will that any should perish, 2 Pet 3:9.
The Purpose and Pleasure of God
All the work of predestination is a work of God.- The Bible talks often of both inward and outward conformity to Christ. (1J We are to be shaped inwardly by Christ's death, Phil 3:10. (2) Inward conformity to Christ must come by our being transfigured, specifically by the renewing of our minds, Rom 12:2. (3) Outward conformity of the body will come from our body of lowliness to His body of glory, at the rapture, Phil 3:20-21.
That is not all the conformity that is involved for Eph 1:11 states, "having been predestined according to the program of Him Who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will." This is His Sovereign purpose for calling us, Rom 8:28c.
We are not alone in receiving pleasure. As Eph 1:5 states it, "He predestined us to be adopted ... in accordance with His pleasure and will--to the praise of the glory of His grace." This is His sublime pleasure in turning out masterpieces as the One Master of our believing lives.
Both of these distinct and operative terms--foreknowledge (preference) and predestination work out:
(1) In the love He fountains forth in our lives by the Holy Spirit Who is also a gift to us and a gifted Person in us, Rom 5:5. The operation of God requires just such a spiritual climate of godly love, Gal 5:6c.
(2) In daily experience of this unique new factor of amazing grace, 2 Pet 3:18. Moreover we are not the only ones living this endowed way for He is the firstborn among many brothers.
So you see neither of these terms is scary when it is understood in context. Instead they buoy a person on any tide or wave of life.
In bringing this subject to a fitting close we choose four points describing how predestination contributes to the operation of all five things in a believer's heart and life experience:
First, it contributes a legal aspect. Ephesians 1:5 states that "He predestined us to be adopted as sons to Himself by Jesus Christ." The legal aspect provides believers with full right as sons--as if believers were always in God's family. No one can successfully protest the treatment believers get from God. As we have said, He shares with His heirs. "If children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ if so be that we suffer with Him that we may also reign together," Rom 8:17. It is legal for a believer to ask for God's provision at the very moment after salvation. For adoption means to be legally placed not as a mere child but as a grown son in the family of God. The term for adoption (Gr huiothesian) is a compound word meaning to place as a responsible son.
Second, it contributes a logical aspect. Romans 8:28-30, because it involves God's Sovereign purpose, must necessarily involve God's sublime pleasure. He could not choose a purpose that would not please Him sublimely. In fact a thorough study of Romans 8:25-32 will show the perfect logic with which God's mind worked out the entire plan or program for mankind.
Third, it contributes a Christological aspect to everything. It is said in Romans 8:29 "that He (Christ) might be the firstborn among many brothers." Christ became the older brother to all in a new Adamic race -- Christ being the second and last Adam, 1 Cor 15:22. He became such by His resurrection for mankind as the firstfruits from among the dead, 1 Cor 15:20. In being the second and last Adam He established a family relationship with believers -- so He has many brothers. Without Christ their would be no family of believers.
Fourth, it contributes a spiritual aspect of great proportions. Three things need to be said about this aspect:
(1) Believers are predestined to be consistently and continually shaped into Christ's image. This is a spiritual goal.
(2) Believers are all set in the one earthly family God has, the true Church into which every believer is baptized/ not by water, but by the Spirit, 1 Cor 12:13; Eph 4:5.
(3) This spiritual progress is worked out by God the Holy Spirit in daily practice as stated perfectly in 2 Cor 3:18:
But all of us with unveiled faces, constantly beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transfigured into the same image from glory to glory--even as by the Spirit from the Lord.
This means that the second term of the family of five has been shown to fit into the pattern of the text, Rom 8:28-32. In the words of Eph 1:11, "In Whom also we have received an inheritance having been predestined in line with the program of Him Who works all things out according to the counsel of His will."
The Writings of Douglas B. MacCorkle
see brief Biography)
Prophetic Peaks, Exposition of the Olivet Discourse. Copyright 1968 by Douglas B. MacCorkle. Third Printing 1972. Printed by Careers With Christ Press, Philadelphia College of Bible, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Printed in the United States of America. Published by the not for profit MacCorkle Bible Ministries, Inc. Books. P.O. 320909, Cocoa Beach, Fl 32932-0909. Used by permission through the generosity of Judith and Ray Naugle.
God's Own VIPS, Copyright 1987 by Douglas B. MacCorkle. MacCorkle Bible Ministries, Inc., Printed in the United States of America. Published by the not for profit MacCorkle Bible Ministries, Inc. Books. P.O. 320909, Cocoa Beach, Fl 32932-0909. Used by permission through the generosity of Judith and Ray Naugle.
Dr. MacCorkle's Books and Study materials on this website are made available here free, through the generosity of Judith and Ray Naugle, and may be copied for use in Bible study groups, in limited numbers, providing that no charge is made for them. No further distribution or use of these materials is allowable under U.S. or International Copyright Law without express permission.
Additional copies of Dr. MacCorkle's books are available from Judy Naugle, 2201 Harmony Hill Dr, Lancaster PA 17601.