Predestination and Election

It is sad that the subjects of predestination and election are a stumbling block for many believers. Whilst every single instance of 'predestination' in the Bible is set in a context that is supposed to bring courage and hope to the believer the subject is now one that most Godly people either shy away from or use as a platform to launch an attack at another set of believers. For some it even threatens or lessens their perception of the love or omnipotence of God.

I believe however that if we are prepared to limit the definition of the words to what they actually, literally mean. And if we are prepared to accept that this limitation means there are some things we do not have answers for. Then I believe predestination and election are both concepts that can be embraced and benefited from, even if they are less encompassing than we may otherwise hope.

The easier of the two words to tackle is predestination. This word occurs four times in scripture[1] and is always a translation of the Greek word 'proorizo'. The same Greek word occurs two other times; once in Ac 4:28 where it is rendered 'determined before' and again in 1Co 2:7 where it is rendered 'ordained'.

Proorizo is itself a compound of two Greek words[2] 'pro' meaning before and 'horizo' which means to 'mark out' or to 'bound'. I suggest that the notion of laying a blueprint and certainly the notion of laying a boundary is a huge distance from most people's perception of the word 'predestination'. Some of the uses of 'horizo' are worth considering. In Acts 17:26 it is used of the fixing of the boundaries of the seasons, in Acts 11:29 it is used of a human decision to send relief. Most tellingly however in Lu 22:22 it is used to describe the Lord's pathway upon this Earth. Thus, if we wish to believe that the predestination of the believer precludes personal choice then we have to accept that Christ had no say whatsoever in Calvary or anything else for that matter.

Of course rather than resorting to lexicons a good way to tell the meaning of a word is to see how it is used. Firstly from Roman 8:29 we know that predestination is different to foreknowledge. Thus predestination is not just a prediction of what would happen. However predestination is subsequent to and limited by those that are foreknown. Thus predestination did not happen independently of the character of those that were predestined. The final point to glean from Rom 8:29 is that the predestination was towards a conformance to the image of Christ. Of course we are not told that this conformity we result in uniformity.

Romans 8:30 adds another important note; predestination is prior to calling yet calling is a necessary adjunct to predestination. Further justification only comes following predestination and calling. Ephesians 1:5 adds that the predestination to adoption is according to His good pleasure and then Eph 1:11 adds that the predestination is according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will (italics mine). I believe that this shows a God that is not enforcing micro-managed conformance but instead a God that is providing a pathway for all of those whom He has called despite of the human free will that is being exercised.

On the basis of the foregoing I believe that predestination means that a pathway has been mapped out for all of the foreknown. All of those for whom the pathway exists are called to follow the pathway and that those that choose to take it are justified and then glorified. Of course the immediate question is: does everyone have one of those pathways mapped out for them? Purely upon the basis of predestination I don't think that question can be answered. However we do know that calling follows predestination. Therefore we can be sure than anyone that is called to follow the pathway does have one laid out for them to follow.

The election and the corresponding notion of election are a little harder to define. It is interesting to note however that the word first applies to Christ[3] and then Israel[4] both before and after[5] the dispensation of grace. In fact it may well be worth noting that even within the New Testament the first seven occurrences[6] of the elect are in eschatological passages where the term again refers primarily to the Jew. Then within Romans where the mystery of the gentile church is laid out fully it is principally in the section from Rom 9-11 that the term election is used. From that point forward however 'the elect' appears to be used almost synonymously with 'the church'[7].

We do need to be careful to distinguish that election is not quite synonymous is with salvation. Christ is deemed elect in both Old and New Testaments[8]. Angels are also capable of election[9] although we have no reason to believe they are capable of salvation. Romans 11:7,28 is a particularly interesting section and my understanding of it is at best tentative. Verse 7 appears to contrast 'the elect' with Israel. Israel has not obtained something yet the elect have. Verse 28 would appear to state quite explicitly that the Jew is an enemy of the Gospel and yet is elect!

The only reasonable explanation I can produce for this seeming impossibility is that Romans 9-11 is actually dealing with a transition in election method. It may be significant that Rom 11:5 notes that at the present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. I would offer that in the dispensation of law it was the nation of Israel that was elect (chosen) as a nation. Not all Israel followed God faithfully and there were devout followers of God[10] that were not Jewish; but the election was principally by nation. In the dispensation of grace the election is based upon foreknowledge of the individual[11]. However the principle is, I suggest the same. The 'elect' is primarily a term to denote "God's team". Whilst there are many theologically consequences and corollaries of being on God's team I think the term 'elect' may be best seen in this simpler guise.

Much as for predestination the question that always follows the notion of election is 'is everyone elect'. I think the answer to that particular question is easily 'no'. In the dispensation of law the elect was a particular nation and in the dispensation of grace the elect are those that share a common faith[12] although the Jew is still elect in some manner which is secondary in this era.

In this paper I have attempted to define predestination and election. I have done so in a relatively cautious way that will probably satisfy neither the Calvinist not the Armenian. However I believe I have shown the predestination essentially denotes a plan or pathway that has been laid before some group of people and that everyone that has been called to follow such a path will have a path there for them to follow. If and how exactly they follow that path is still a matter of the individual's free will. Election I have essentially equated to being on 'God's team'. Under law this election was on the basis of race; now it is purely a matter of Grace. The extent to which we prove a 'team player' is still up to us.


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