Monday, April 2, 2007

The Purpose of God: Predestination and Foreknowledge

The Purpose of God: Predestination and Foreknowledge

“Predestination” is a word often used to signify God’s foreordaining of all the events of world history—past, present, and future. This usage is quite appropriate. In Scripture and historic Protestant theology, however, “predestination” refers specifically to God’s decision, made in eternity before the world existed, regarding the final destinies of individual persons. In general, the New Testament speaks of the predestination, or election, of particular sinners for salvation and eternal life (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4, 5, 11), although Scripture also on occasion ascribes to God an advance decision about those who are finally not saved (Rom. 9:6–29; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4). For this reason it is usual in Protestant theology to define predestination as including both God’s decision to save some from sin (election) and the corresponding decision not to save others (reprobation).

It is sometimes asserted that God’s choice of individuals for salvation is based on His foreknowledge that they would choose Christ as their Savior. Foreknowledge in this case means passive foresight by God of what individuals will do apart from His foreordaining their action. But there are weighty objections to the view that election is based on passive foresight.
“Foreknow” in Rom. 8:29; 11:2 (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2, 20) indicates not only an advance recognition, but also an advance choice by God of His people. It does not express the idea of a spectator’s passive anticipation of what will happen spontaneously. God’s “knowledge” of His people in Scripture implies a special relationship of loving choice (Gen. 18:19).

Since all are naturally dead in sin (cut off from the life of God and unresponsive to Him), no one who hears the gospel will ever come to repentance and faith without the inner renewal that only God can impart (Eph. 2:4–10). Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (John 6:65, cf. 6:44; 10:25–28). Sinners choose Christ because God chose them first, and moved them to their choice by graciously renewing their hearts.

Though all human acts are free in the sense of an immediate self-determination, such acts are also the outworking of God’s eternal purpose and foreordination. We have difficulty understanding precisely how divine sovereignty and human freedom and responsibility are compatible, but Scripture everywhere assumes that they are so (Acts 2:23; 4:28 and notes).
Christians should thank God for their conversion, look to Him to keep them in His grace, and wait with confidence for His final triumph, according to His plan.

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