Progressively Predestined

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, July 14, 2015 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” ~Romans 8:28-30

Have you ever struggled with the idea of predestination? Predestination is the idea that events have been pre-planned by God, often believed to include who is saved and who is not. Having had a personal experience with this matter I have had to think it through quite thoroughly to discover what the Bible really says about predestination. For the next few chapters of Romans, predestination will be a heavy theme and I do not doubt that the other blog writers, as well as myself, will engage in some intense wrestling with these texts to accurately expose what the Bible teaches about predestination in the midst of Romans 8-11.

It must first be acknowledged that predestination is a Biblical reality. There are many passages in the Bible that make reference to predestination including the one listed above. Where controversy lies is in whether God unconditionally elects those who will be saved or if there is a choice of some sort that each individual gets to freely make. I think this passage in Romans 8 actually is a good starting point for understanding Biblical predestination.

One common theme throughout the Bible that scholars should always take notice of is that of progression. One of our professors from seminary pointed out a progression in the book of Isaiah: “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will SOAR on wings like eagles; they will RUN and not grow weary, they will WALK and not be faint.” Since my professor was an elderly gentleman, he noticed the progression better than we young bucks. He took comfort in the fact that although we would slow down, the Lord would never let us fall. Well, in Romans 8, starting in verse 29, we see the beginning of the predestination progression and it all starts with “those God foreknew.”

Those God foreknew, to me, clearly means those who God knew would believe the Gospel. Another interpretation would say that foreknew actually means those whom God loved in advance. In my opinion, this creates a lot of problems throughout Scripture that would result in many passages having to be reinterpreted in a rather cruel way. For instance, when Jesus is talking about helping the less fortunate, to the unfaithful one he says, “I never knew you.” If you interpret this the same way as these people interpret this Romans passage you could reinterpret Jesus’ words as I never loved you. Ouch. I guess that guy never stood a chance to begin with, huh? The interpretation of this Scripture is much easier to understand when you read the word as it stands, which means God knew of them in advance, not that he loved them in advance.

Then it says that he predestined those whom he foreknew. And it does not even throw us into the mess of the predestination controversy here, it tells us that he predestined us to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. This is a beautiful passage that is meant to instill us with hope as we are continually being sanctified or made holy, more like Christ. But he only predestines those whom he first foreknew. Then it says that those he predestines he also calls.

Being called is a hard one, but I think that Scripture is pretty clear that many who are called do not respond appropriately. When the resurrected Jesus confronts Saul/Paul he says something to him that is very interesting. Mind you, I do not see this wording in the NIV, but in the KJV Jesus says to Paul, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5). These ‘pricks’ are proddings. What Jesus is exposing is that the Holy Spirit was trying to get through to Paul and that Paul himself had been resisting the proddings of the Spirit. I would attribute these proddings to the hearing of the Gospel message and understanding the continuity between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Nonetheless, I think that called can be used in different ways. In a general sense, God calls all people to repentance and belief. But only those who believe are called out of the darkness and into his light.

Those he called he also justified. Once again, I think it is important to clarify that those he called are those who are called into the light and that although he justified the world through his sacrifice, it is only those who believe who are truly justified through faith. I do not believe it is saying that Jesus only died for certain people.

Finally, it says that those he justified he also glorified. I think this would be the prophetic, perfect version of this word, meaning that it is not something that has happened yet. All of the other actions are tasks that have already been accomplished. Glorification does not happen until we have crossed over into the next life. This is seen most clearly in the examples of Moses and Elijah, who dwell in heaven with our Lord, who visited Jesus when he was transfigured on a mountaintop (Luke 9:28-36). Moses and Elijah appeared in a glorified state.

The progression of this salvation process from foreknowledge to glorification should be recognized by anyone reading this text by now. The process starts as a “thought,” in a manner of speaking, and ends in providence. I hope that this post helps those who are struggling with the predestination controversy.

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