It is not easy for the mind to
dwell upon this term, without it being influenced by the word "destiny".
Destiny calls up the idea of
fate, inexorable and unalterable, and so, we have this statement in the
"That the number of the predestinated to life, and of those foreordained to
death, is so certain and
definite, that it cannot be either
increased or diminished".
It is difficult to see how any one holding such a doctrine,, could ever preach
the gospel of salvation,
could ever contemplate the "plucking"
of even "one brand from the burning" or why anyone should
bother to preach at all. The
overshadowing of the word "destiny" is plainly marked in this Confession,
and many of the advocates of
Calvinism are Necessitarians. In a letter to Archbishop Cranmer, the
"At the commencement of our Reformation, the Stoical disputations among our
FATE were too horrible".
The word "destination" may convey in some contexts, the most fixed and
unalterable of fates, while in another it may be the attaining of a
journey's end. To meet one's "Waterloo" may mean meeting one's fate; to be met at "Waterloo", or
"Waterloo Station was his destination" can have no such element of "destiny" about it. We must,
therefore, avoid importing any ideas into the doctrine of predestination that derive from the composition of the
English word. The Greek word translated "predestinate" is a compound of pro "before" and
set bounds". In the N.T. horizo is translated "determinate", "ordain",
"limit", "declared". This word gives the
English "horizon" which has no element of fate in its meaning, but means simply the "boundary" where sea and
sky appear to meet.
Predestination occurs twice in Ephesians, once it is "unto adoption" and once to
an "inheritance" (1:5,11).
This second occurrence falls into
line with the usage of the LXX. Horizo in the LXX is found in the
proximity of the words
kleros and kleronomia, words that mean "the obtaining of an inheritance by lot".
"This shall be your west border"
horion (Num. 34:6).
"Jordan shall be their boundary, horizo, on the east: this is the
inheritance (kleronomia) of the children of Benjamin" (Joshua 18:20 LXX).
"See, that I have given to you (lit. "cast upon you") these nations that are
left to you by lots (klerois) to your tribes . . . and the
boundaries (or he shall be bound horizo) shall be at the great sea
westward" (Josh. 23:4 LXX).
In the context of most of the references to horizo will be found words
that mean an inheritance obtained by lot. Seeing that the Apostle has
linked "predestination" prohorizo with "obtaining an inheritance" (kleroo), this O.T: usage must
Predestination, or "marking beforehand" is what every one does when he makes a
will. Here, in the Will of the Father, we are permitted to
see that "adoption" and "inheritance" are secured. That a human "will" is a permissible analogy, Galatians
3:15 and 4:1,2 will make clear, and no legatee under a human will has ever been heard to raise an objection
on the lines of "fatalism". Those who were chosen in Christ before the overthrow of Genesis 1:2, were
also "marked off before hand" and as the R.V. reads were "foreordained unto adoption".
The same goal, "adoption", is associated with predestination in Romans eight.
First let us see the structure.
A 1-4 No condemnation. God sent His own SON (huios)
B 5-15 Led by Spirit of God.
SONS now (huios)
Spirit itself bears witness. SONSHIP (huiothesia)
D 17-21 Suffering and glory. Manifestation of SONS (huios)
Spirit Itself intercedes. SONSHIP (huiothesia)
B 29, 30 Conformed to the image of His SON then (huios)
A 31-39 Who condemns? He spared not
His own SON (huios).
Just as the chapter opens with a statement concerning the believer's immunity
from condemnation, so it closes with the same fact, and upon the same
ground, namely, the gift of God's Son:
"There is, therefore, now no CONDEMNATION to them which are in Christ
Jesus . . . God sending His Own Son . . .
CONDEMNED sin in the
flesh" (Rom. 8:1-3).
"He that spared not His own Son . . . who is he that
CONDEMNETH? It is Christ
that died, yea rather; that is risen again, Who is even at the
right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:32-34).
This, then, is the beginning and end of the matter, even as it is the beginning
and end of the structure-"His own Son".
The next fact that emerges is that
all who are thus blessed are "sons of God" too. The member marked B 5-15 is full of references to the Spirit, the
spirit of resurrection anticipating now in this life and in these mortal bodies,
that glorious consummation when we shall
in actual fact be "conformed to the image of His Son" in resurrection glory.
And so the two corresponding members
B 5-15 Led by the Spirit of God. SONS now (huios)
B 29,30 Conformed to the image of His SON then (huios)
Added to this leading by the Spirit of God is His "witness" and His
"The Spirit Itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of
God" (Rom. 8:16).
"The Spirit Itself . . . maketh intercession for the saints according to the
will of God" (Rom. 8:26,27).
This "witness" and "intercession" are closely associated with the fact that
these sons of God are not yet in glory, but here in the midst of a groaning
creation. They are strengthened to suffer because of the glory that is to come; they are "saved by hope"; and while
they often know not what to pray for, they do know that all things work together for good. It is in this realm that
the witness and intercession of the Spirit have their place. In the structure it
will be seen that the word SON
gives place to SONSHIP, which
is the word translated "adoption" in the AN.:
C 15-17 Spirit Itself bears witness. SONSHIP
C 22-28 Spirit Itself intercedes.
This brings us to the centre of the structure:
D 17-21 Suffering and Glory. Manifestation of SONS (huios).
Until the reign of sin and death actually ceases, until creation itself emerges
into the liberty of the glory of the children of God, the day of complete emancipation
for the believer must be future. For the present, it is enough that we have
passed from Adam to Christ, that there is now no condemnation, that during this
pilgrimage we have the witness and the intercession of the Spirit, and that with
all our ignorance of what to pray for, we know that all things work together for
good to them that love God.
We commend this outline to the prayerful interest of the reader, believing that,
as it is based upon the occurrence of words used by the Holy Spirit and not upon
headings of our own devising, it does "divide aright" this precious portion of
truth. It shows us the seven great sections into which the subject-matter falls,
and provides us with well-defined bounds for our subsequent studies.
Turning to the section that speaks of predestination we read:
"For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image
of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom
He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them
He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified" (Rom.
The analysis of the passage is simple, and is as follows:
A PREDESTINATION-Conformity. Steps leading to
B PURPOSE-Christ. Firstborn among
A PREDESTINATION-Glory. Steps leading to.
But before we can appreciate its magnificence we shall have to arrive, with some
certainty, at the meaning of several of the words used.
Foreknowledge. How are we to understand this word? The word
proginosko, to foreknow, occurs five times in the N.T., and the noun,
prognosis, twice, making seven references in all. The passages are as
"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge
God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).
"My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation
at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the beginning" (Acts
"For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate" (Rom. 8:29).
"God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew" (Rom. 11:2).
"Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (1 Pet. 1:2).
"Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Pet.
"Ye, therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things
It will be observed that the usage subdivides this list into three groups. (1)
God. It is used of God in connection with Christ and His sacrifice for sin.
(2) God. It is used of God in connection with His people who are called
the elect, or the chosen. (3) Man. It is used of man in the sense of
knowing beforehand, or of haling previous information. The grouping of these
occurrences may be made more evident if set out as follows:
A Reference to Christ and His sacrifice (Acts 2:23)
B Reference to man and his previous knowledge of facts
C Reference to the elect people of
God (Rom. 8:29; 11 :2, 1 Pet. 1:2)
A Reference to Christ and His
sacrifice (1 Pet. 1 :20)
B Reference to man and his foreknowledge as a
result of Scriptural testimony (2 Pet. 3:17).
TO KNOW BEFOREHAND
Commentators are divided in their treatment of the meaning of the
"foreknowledge" of God. The Calvinist sees in the word a synonym for
predestination. Others an indication of love and favour. Apart from theological
necessity, the word means to know beforehand, without responsibility, as to the
event. Dr. Liddon says of the earlier suggestions, "the New Testament use of the
word does not sanction this (not even Rom. 11:2, 1 Pet. 1:20), or any other
meaning than to know beforehand". To us, creatures of time and space, such
knowledge borders upon the impossible. Indeed, some, like Jonathan Edwards, have
boldly said, "it is impossible for a thing to be certainly known, to any
intellect, without evidence", and have come to the conclusion that the
foreknowledge of God compels Him, the Most High, to decree, foreordain, and
unalterably fix every act and word that He has foreknown. It is extraordinary
that any should thus presume to say what is or is not possible to the Lord; nor
can such avoid the logical conclusion of their argument, that God must be, if
they are right, the author of sin, a conclusion diametrically opposed by the
Word of God, and odious to the conscience of His children.
Time is the measure of motion, and in our limited state, the idea of a timeless
state expressed by the title I AM, is beyond our comprehension. A very crude
illustration, however, may be of service in arriving at some understanding of
the matter. Suppose the reader to be standing at a small table upon which there
rest books, paper, ink, and pens. As he stands, he comprehends the whole table
and contents as one; there is neither a first nor a last. The articles could as
well be enumerated from the left hand as from the right. Now, further, suppose
that an ant has crawled up one of the table legs, and that he visits each
article in turn. To the ant there will be a definite sequence because the
element of time is introduced and, resultingly, there will be a first and a last
and moreover there will be a limit to its vision. So also, if a spider crawl up
the opposite leg, its enumeration and experience would be reversed. But God, as
it were, sees all at a glance; He knows the end from the beginning. With us, the
future is hid from our eyes because of our human limitations.
We shall be wise, therefore, to leave the word foreknowledge to mean just what
it says and no more. The infinite knowledge of God makes it impossible that He
shall not know who will preach and who will teach; where they will go, and when
they will go; who shall hear, who reject, who accept, and who be left without a
word of the gospel. The one great demand upon all who hear the gospel is that
they believe the testimony of God concerning His Son. Whoever so believes passes
into all the blessings purchased by the blood of Christ. Whoever does not
believe makes God a liar (1 John 5:10). If there were any idea of preordination
in this, refusal to believe would be as much a part of God's predeterminate
decrees as is election to glory, and it would not be possible to make God a liar
by so refusing His testimony. Further, in the passage before us, foreknowledge
is differentiated from predestination, for we read, "whom He did foreknow He
also did predestinate". If we alter the word "foreknow" to any word bearing the
sense of predetermining or predestining, the sentence ceases to have meaning,
as, for example, if we read, "whom He did foreordain He also did predestinate".
We, therefore, understand the passages before us to declare that God, Who is not
under the limitation of time and space as we are, and needs no external evidence
to attain unto knowledge, knows all things, past, present and future; knows them
perfect and completely, and can therefore act with absolute certainty where, to
us, all would appear in a contingent light.
Those who were foreknown of God were also predestined to conformity to the image
of His Son. Here is another term that demands care in application.
The word "predestinate" as we
have already observed is a translation of the Greek prohorizo. The word
horns, from which horizo is formed, does not occur in the N.T., but it
has the well established meaning of boundary or limit, as in the word horizon.
This word, in turn, is from horao, to see, boundaries generally being
marked to make them visible and conspicuous. Those whom God foreknew He also
marked out beforehand for a glorious end--conformity to the image of His Son.
There are three related words which should be considered together, and each of
these three commences with the prefix pro, in the original.
(1) Purpose (prothesis). Something set or placed before the
mind, a proposition.
(2) Foreknowledge (proginosko). To know beforehand, and
(3) Predestinate (proorizo). To mark off beforehand.
The whole testimony of the Scriptures is to the effect that God has a purpose
before Him, according to which He works and, in accord with that purpose of
peopling heaven and earth with the redeemed, He foreknew every one who would
respond to the call of grace, and accordingly marked them off beforehand for the
various spheres of glory that His purpose demanded. If we believe that God fixed
unchangeably from all eternity, whosoever should in time believe, then however
much we may hedge and cover the fact, there is but one logical conclusion, a
conclusion that, in days gone by, has driven many to the edge of despair. That
conclusion is, that He Who absolutely and unalterably fixed the number of those
who should believe, just as surely fixed unalterably the number of those who
should not believe, a conclusion so monstrous that it has only to be expressed
to be rejected:
"How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? And how shall
they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard?
THE GOAL OF PREDESTINATION
In the original the word "conformed" in Romans 8:29 is summorphos, which
is made up of sum, "together with", and morphe, "form". The English word
"form" is from the Latin forma, which is but a translation and transposition of
of the Greek morpha or morphe. While the word morphe
indicates visible shape, its usage, both in its simple form and as a compound,
compels us to see in it resemblance that is much deeper than mere outward
conformity. We have, for example, in Romans 2:20, "a form of knowledge," and in
2 Timothy 3:5 "a form of godliness" which was merely external and "formal". In
Mark 16:12 and Philippians 2:6,7, we have the word used in the account of the
appearance of the Lord to His disciples on the way to Emmaus, and in the
exhortation based on that most wonderful condescension, when He laid aside the
"form" of God by taking upon Him the "form" of a servant. In combination with
the preposition meta, we have the familiar word metamorphosis, a word
used in the study of insect development to indicate the change from pupa to
perfect butterfly, a wonderful illustration comparable with the argument based
on the sowing of seed used by the Apostle in 1 Corinthians fifteen.
Again we find the word in Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2, where it is translated
"transfigured". In Philippians 3:21, future resurrection glory is in view, the
word, "change" being metaschematizo, and the words "fashioned like" being
The primary meaning of "form" is uppermost in most of these references. We note
the change from that which is external to that which is within in Galatians 4:19
when the Apostle says, "my little children, of whom I travail in birth again
until Christ be formed in you," and again in Romans 12:2, where we have the two
words suschematizo and metamorphoo translated "conformed" and
"transformed" respectively. The difference between the two words may be better
appreciated if we remember that morphe deals more with organic form, and
schema with external appearance.
"And be not conformed to this age, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your
mind" (Rom. 12:2).
Here it is most evident that the transformation is internal and not merely
outward and visible. Again, in 2 Corinthians 3:18, the words "changed into the
same image" must not be construed to refer only to a future resurrection
likeness, but to a present spiritual anticipation. Lastly, the words occurring
in Philippians 3:10, "being made conformable unto His death," refer to the
present spiritual transfiguration that anticipates "conformity to the body of
His glory" in that day (Phil. 3:21).
With this thought we return to Romans 8:29. Conformity to the image of His Son
is to be both a present experience, and a future hope; the one, associated with
the "renewing of our mind" now (Rom. 12:2), the other, associated with the
"redemption of our body," then (Rom. 8:23). In Romans eight, sonship is here and
now essentially associated with resurrection, the "spirit" of sonship being
expressed in Christ-likeness, while literal sonship itself ("adoption", 8:23)
will be expressed in complete likeness to the glorified Lord, in body as well as
in spirit. God's goal for His children should also be consciously their goal. To
be like Christ, the Son, is to satisfy all that Scripture demands in holiness,
righteousness, wisdom and acceptance. All growth in grace and all advance in
knowledge must be submitted to this one standard-conformity to the image of His
Son. We have borne the image of the earthly; we look forward to bearing the
image of the heavenly in resurrection glory (1 Cor. 15:49), the teaching in this
passage being associated with the two Adams. While in Romans 8:29 the subject of
the two Adams is in the foreground (see Rom. 5:12-8:39 as a whole), a closer,
family figure is used of the Lord, namely, "that He might be the Firstborn among
many brethren". The following passage in Hebrews two vividly comments on this
"It became Him, for Whom are all things, and by Whom are all things, in bringing
many sons unto glory, to make the Cap-
tain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He that sanctifieth
and they who are sanctified are all of one: for
which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren .... Forasmuch then as the
children are partakers of flesh and blood,
He also Himself likewise took part of the same" (Heb. 2:10-14).
The reader will remember that the structure of Romans eight as a whole throws
into prominence the words "son" and "son-
ship". Whether it be deliverance, life, peace, growth or victory, the spirit of
sonship must never be forgotten. To attempt an
entry into the position of Romans eight in any other spirit is to court
disaster. The Lord foreknew us, and He predestinated us to the glorious goal of
conformity to "the image of His Son". May He see of the travail of His soul, and
be satisfied in some measure now, even as He shall be fully satisfied when we
shall stand in all the glory of His resurrection before God our Father.