My Thoughts on Predestination and Election
Anonymous asked you:Do you believe in predestination? I’d like to hear your opinion because I’ve heard a lot about it lately and wanted to gain some insight on it!
I do believe in predestination. However, it is not the Calvinistic/Reformed view of predestination that has almost become synonymous with the term. Predestination is a biblical term, not a Calvinistic term. Those who hold the Bible to be authoritative have to do something with predestination, because it is in the text. This is true for all related terms, such as election, foreknowledge, etc. I’m not any sort of authority on this, but this is just some stuff I have concluded in my research and study on this topic.
So, this is what I do with the texts. When I tell people that I’m not a Calvinist, they automatically assume that I have to be an Arminian. But I don’t see either ways to be the most in line with a sound hermeneutic and exegesis of the biblical passages that deal with it. The main problem that I find with both is that they make predestination an individualistic idea.
The thing we have to remember is that Paul, who is the one that mainly wrote on this topic in the Bible, was a Jew. His faith was not a totally invented one, but one that was simply reframed by the coming, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, Israel’s Messiah. So, if we want to look at how Paul was viewing election and predestination, it is best to understand how Jews at his time viewed it.
Anyone who is familiar with the Old Testament at all knows what election looked like in that setting. Israel was God’s chosen (elected) people and nation. God chose the corporate nation of Israel, not individuals out of that nation. Anyone who was a part of Israel was a part of God’s chosen people. Anyone who was not a part of Israel was, in turn, not a part of His chosen people. But the key was that God did not chose who would be a part of Israel. Even though it was largely predicated by nationality, race, birth, etc., from the beginning, God told them that anyone who wants to join can, so long as they keep the commandments and do the signs of the covenant. This is why Rahab (a non-Jewish woman) was part of this chosen people as well.
So then, we get to the New Testament and see the same type of language (chosen, elect, etc.), and for some reason, many people want to make it individualistic. They want to say that even though God laid out a clear model of what election was supposed to look like in the Old Testament and even though this was the model that Paul was familiar with, God decided to start electing individuals, instead of a corporate body. I don’t necessarily buy that.
Instead, just as Israel was the corporate chosen people of God, now the Church is the corporate chosen people of God. The Church is the true “Israel” of God. However, the Church is chosen in Christ, and whoever is in Christ is in the Church. Therefore, Christians are the ones who are chosen in Him.
Some point to Romans 9 saying that God chose Jacob over Esau, Moses over Pharoah, etc. However, this can simply be seen as eisegesis, drawing something from the text that Paul wasn’t necessarily trying to say in the first place. The whole point of Romans 9 was to address angry Jewish brothers and sisters in the faith on the inclusion of the Gentiles into the promise of God to Abraham. The point was that God can do what He wants (which explains why He chose to include Gentiles now). However, it is important to note a few things.
Firstly, it never says that God sent Esau to hell. It isn’t even necessarily speaking about salvation here, but simply God’s decision to choose Jacob to carry on the promise of Abraham rather than Esau (which subverted cultural norms, further proving that God can do what He wants). Secondly, the “hate” language that is used about Esau should not be taken as a literal hate. This type of language was a common linguistic tool, used to denote comparison, preference, and decision. This is why Jesus said that those who don’t hate their parents can’t be His disciple. Jesus did not mean that we were to literally hate our parents, but to choose/prefer Jesus over them. That our love for Jesus in comparison should be like hate. In the case of Romans 9, it is simply saying that God chose Jacob over Esau, thus “loving” Jacob and “hating” Esau. Thirdly, Jacob and Esau are to be seen as symbolic for a group of people. Paul is quoting a verse from Malachi when he says “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated.” And in that context, Malachi was referring to Esau as Edomites, those descended from Esau, and Jacob as the Israelites, those descended from Jacob. They represented a corporate group (further evidence for the corporate election). Thus, God’s decision to choose Jacob can be seen as His decision to choose Israel as a whole. And in the same way, God’s not choosing Esau is God not choosing Edom as a whole. This, again, doesn’t mean these people went to hell or were a part of the “non-elect.”
Additionally, Christ is the ultimate “Elect One”. In eternity past, the Son has been the recipient of the covenantal love of the Father. The Father, in other words, “elected” to love the Son. Therefore, if someone is in Christ, then they are also a recipient of the Father’s covenantal love, since they are in Christ. They receive all the same benefits and blessings which the Son receives from the Father.
And that’s where predestination comes in. Predestination does not have much to do with who is saved as much as it has to do with the blessings and benefits and results that come because of salvation. To “predestine” means to ordain beforehand. God, then, has predestined certain things for those who are in Christ, things that those who are not in Christ do not have. Look at Ephesians 1:3-6:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
If you notice, this passage is extremely Christocentric. The main focus is Christ, not us. It is emphasizing that these things are for those who are in Christ, not whether God has individually chosen us or not. Notice, for example, that it never says that God predestines whether we will be or will not be in Christ. Rather, it says, for those who are in Christ, this is what is predestined for you. Therefore, God has basically decided, “If you are in Christ, this is what I have decided that you will receive as a result.” These things include every spiritual blessing, being holy and blameless, adoption, His glorious grace, and much more that isn’t mentioned here.
Predestination is always spoken of in the positive. Never once does it say that God predestines someone for hell (or for heaven, for that matter). Predestination is about the blessings that we will receive once we are in Christ. Predestination is so beautiful because it is all about the promises of God and that He is faithful to give to the redeemed the things that He promised to give them. He doesn’t half way save someone. Once they have entered this covenant, corporate, chosen people of God, they will receive everything that God has promised, “every spiritual blessing”.
So, in summary, God doesn’t elect individuals, He elects a corporate body. God doesn’t decide who will and who will not be a part of this body. However, whoever is in this body is in Christ and is therefore a recipient of God’s covenantal love. Once this person enters the body, they receive all of the benefits and blessings that were predestined for them.
I hope this helps out!
Grace and peace.
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