Predestination: A Matter of Divine Intention, not Predetermination

Predestination: A Matter of Divine Intention, not Predetermination

“Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” – Romans 9:11-12

These words penned by Paul, a giant among Bible writers, have sparked centuries of theological debate over predestination. Paul’s writings are not always easy to grasp, as even Peter acknowledged (2 Peter 3:15-16). Yet, amidst the sea of interpretations, a sober understanding of predestination is crucial to understanding God’s character and intentions.

The Ancient Greek Lens

The ancient Greek terms “proorizō” and “proorismos”, used in the context of predestination, bear emphasis. They suggest an intention or purpose rather than a predetermined outcome. This understanding comes from their consistent usage in ancient and biblical texts, indicating an intended result rather than a rigidly determined one (Acts 4:28, 1 Corinthians 2:1–10, Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:5–12). As we can understand from this perspective, God is a loving Father who respects human autonomy and the potentiality of free choice. This challenges the notion of God as an imposing figure enforcing His irrevocable will.

Countering Misinterpretations

Yet, some theologians have misconstrued these deep subjects to fit into their preconceived notions, advocating that Paul taught fatalism, or the doctrine of the predestination of man’s destiny, irrespective of his will or attitude. These interpretations, though, are more reflective of theological or philosophical viewpoints rather than grounded in rigorous biblical exegesis.

A Respecter of Persons?

For a balanced understanding of predestination, a few Bible facts deserve attention. Firstly, the Bible explicitly states that God is not a respecter of persons (Gal. 2:11 with Acts 10:34-36; Deut. 1:17; 16:19; 2 Sam. 14:14; 2 Chron. 19:7). He offers salvation to all, irrespective of race or colour (1 Tim. 2:3, 4 with Gal. 3:26-29). The invitation of the Holy Spirit and the Church is open to all: “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). The grace of God bringing salvation has appeared unto all men (Tit. 2:11), and Christ died for all (1 John 2:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:14).

The Doctrine of Predestination

The Bible doctrine of predestination is about God’s prearrangement and predetermination. It is not about God predetermining who will be saved and who will be lost. This erroneous notion arises from misreading Paul’s words in Romans 9:11-12: “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” – “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

The real essence of Bible election is not about flesh and blood (1 Cor. 15:50; John 1:12, 13) but about character. God’s foreordination is about character: “That we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4, 5). This is seen in the cases of Abel and Cain (Gen. 4) and Jacob and Esau. What mattered before God was their character.

Attitude matters to God: what is our attitude toward the will of God, expressed in His law? As the Psalmist says, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Ps. 119:165). We see this truth expressed when God tells Cain, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door” (Gen. 4:7).

This idea is consistent across the Old Testament. In Ezekiel, we find: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die…But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die” (Ezek. 18:20-28).

Predestination, Human Freedom, and Divine Love

The concept of predestination, then, shouldn’t be construed as a form of divine fatalism. It is not an ironclad enforcement of God’s will on human destiny, regardless of our choices or attitudes. Instead, it is God’s loving intention and plan for humanity to embrace salvation — an invitation extended to all and respecting our freedom to choose.

This perspective helps us appreciate the fullness of God’s character. He is not just the sovereign Lord of the universe but also a loving Father, deeply concerned about our well-being, patient and eager for us to choose the path of life.

As we navigate the complexities of our faith journey, let us keep this understanding at the heart of our contemplations: predestination underscores God’s unwavering commitment to our ultimate good and His respect for our freedom, not a predetermined script that negates our choices and personal transformation.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

In the end, God’s love and desire for our salvation are the threads that tie the tapestry of predestination. Let this inspire us to freely and joyfully respond tUpdateo His divine invitation.

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