Ephesians 1:5

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by
Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will

It is not easy for the mind to dwell upon this term without it being influenced by the word "destiny." Destiny calls up the idea of fate, inexorable and unalterable, and so, we have this statement in the Westminster Confession:

"That the number of the predestinated to life, and of those foreordained to death, is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished."

It is difficult to see how anyone holding such a doctrine could ever preach The Gospel of Salvation, could ever contemplate the "plucking" or even "one brand from the burning," or why anyone should bother to preach at all. The overshadowing of the word "destiny" is plainly marked in this Confession, and many of the advocates of Calvinism are Necessitarians. In a letter to Archbishop Cranmer, the reformer Melancthon complained:

"At the commencement of our Reformation, the Stoical disputations among our people concerning FATE were too horrible."

The word "destination" may convey, in some contexts, the most fixed and unalterable of fates, while in another, it may be the attaining of a journey's end. To meet one's "Waterloo" may mean meeting one's fate; to be met at "Waterloo" or "Waterloo Station was his destination" can have no such element of "destiny" about it. We must, therefore, avoid importing any ideas into the doctrine of predestination that derives from the composition of the English word. The Greek word translated "predestinate" is a compound of pro "before" and horizo "to set bounds." In the N.T., horizo is translated as "determinate," "ordain," "limit", "declared". This word gives the English "horizon," which has no element of fate in its meaning but means simply the "boundary" where sea and sky appear to meet.

Predestination occurs twice in Ephesians, once it is "unto adoption" and once to an "inheritance" (Eph. 1:5, Eph. 1:11). This second occurrence falls into line with the usage of the LXX. Horizo in the LXX is found in the proximity of the words kleros and kleronomia, words that mean "the obtaining of an inheritance by lot."

"This shall be your west border" horion  (Num. 34:6). "Jordan shall be their boundary, horizo, on the east: this is the inheritance (kleronomia) of the children of Benjamin" (Joshua 18:20 LXX).

"See, that I have given to you (lit. "cast upon you") these nations that are left to you by lots (klerois) to your tribes . . . and the boundaries (or he shall be bound horizo) shall be at the great sea westward" (Josh. 23:4 LXX).

In the context of most of the references to horizo will be found words that mean an inheritance obtained by lot. Seeing that the Apostle has linked "predestination" prohorizo with "obtaining an inheritance" (kleroo), this O.T. usage must be recognized. Predestination, or "marking off beforehand," is what everyone does when he makes a will. Here, in the Will of the Father, we are permitted to see that "adoption" and "inheritance" are secured. That a human "will" is a permissible analogy, Galatians 3:15 and Galatians 4:1-2 will make clear, and no legatee under a human will have ever been heard to raise an objection on the lines of "fatalism." Those who were chosen in Christ before the overthrow of Genesis 1:2 were also "marked off beforehand" and, as the R.V. reads, were "foreordained unto adoption."

The same goal, "adoption," is associated with predestination in Romans eight. First, let us see the structure.

Romans 8:1-39

A  Rom. 8:1-4 No condemnation. God sent His own SON (huios)

B  Rom. 8:5-15 Led by Spirit of God. SONS now (huios)

C  Rom. 8:15-17 Spirit itself bears witness. SONSHIP (huiothesia)

D  Rom. 8:17-21 Suffering and glory. Manifestation of SONS (huios)

C  Rom. 8:22-28 Spirit Itself intercedes. SONSHIP (huiothesia)

B  Rom. 8:29.30 Conformed to the image of His SON then (huios)

A  Rom. 8:31-39 Who condemns? He spared not His own SON (huios).

Just as the chapter opens with a statement concerning the believer's immunity from condemnation, so it does with the same fact and upon the same ground, namely, the gift of God's Son:

"There is, therefore, now no CONDEMNATION to them which are in Christ Jesus . . . God sending His Own Son . . . CONDEMNED sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:1-3).

"He that spared not His own Son . . . who is he that CONDEMNETH? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:32-34).

This, then, is the beginning and end of the matter, even as it is the beginning and end of the structure-"His own Son." The next fact that emerges is that all who are thus blessed are "sons of God" too. The member marked B  Rom. 8:5-15 is full of references to the Spirit, the spirit of resurrection anticipating now in this life and in these mortal bodies, that glorious consummation when we shall in actual fact be "conformed to the image of His Son" in Resurrection Glory. And so the two corresponding members read:

B  Rom. 8:5-15 Led by the Spirit of God. SONS now (huios)
B  Rom. 8:29-30 Conformed to the image of His SON then (huios)

Added to this leading by the Spirit of God is His "witness" and His "intercession."

"The Spirit Itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Rom. 8:16).

"The Spirit Itself . . . maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Rom. 8:26-27).

This "witness" and "intercession" are closely associated with the fact that these sons of God are not yet in glory but here in the midst of a groaning creation. They are strengthened to suffer because of the glory that is to come; they are "saved by hope,"; and while they often know not what to pray for, they do know that all things work together for good. It is in this realm that the witness and intercession of the Spirit have their place. In the structure, it will be seen that the word SON gives place to SONSHIP, which is the word translated "adoption" in the A.V.:

C  Rom. 8:15-17 Spirit Itself bears witness. SONSHIP (huiothesia)
C  Rom. 8:22-28 Spirit Itself intercedes. SONSHIP (huiothesia).

This brings us to the center of the structure:

D  Rom. 8:17-21 Suffering and Glory. Manifestation of SONS (huios).

Until the reign of sin and death actually ceases, until creation itself emerges into the liberty of the glory of the children of God, the day of complete emancipation for the believer must still be future. For the present, it is enough that we have passed from Adam to Christ, that there is now no condemnation, that during this pilgrimage, we have the witness and the intercession of the Spirit, and that with all our ignorance of what to pray for, we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.

We commend this outline to the prayerful interest of the reader, believing that, as it is based upon the occurrence of words used by the Holy Spirit and not upon headings of our own devising, it does "divide aright" this precious portion of The Truth. It shows us the seven great sections into which the subject matter falls and provides us with well-defined bounds for our subsequent studies.

Turning to the section that speaks of predestination, we read:

"For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified" (Rom. 8:29-30).

The analysis of the passage is simple and is as follows:

A  PREDESTINATION-Conformity. Steps leading to

  • B  PURPOSE-Christ. Firstborn among many brethren

A  PREDESTINATION-Glory. Steps leading to.

But before we can appreciate its magnificence, we shall have to arrive, with some certainty, at the meaning of several of the words used.

Foreknowledge. How are we to understand this word? The word proginosko, to foreknow, occurs five times in the N.T., and the noun, prognosis, twice, making seven references in all. The passages are as follows:

  • "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).
  • "My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the beginning" (Acts 26:4-5).
  • "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate" (Rom. 8:29).
  • "God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew" (Rom. 11:2).
  • "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (1 Pet. 1:2).
  • "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Pet. 1:20).
  • "Ye, therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before" (2 Pet. 3:17).

It will be observed that the usage subdivides this list into three groups. (1) God. It is used of God in connection with Christ and His sacrifice for sin. (2) God. It is used of God in connection with His people, who are called the elect or the chosen. (3) Man. It is used of man in the sense of knowing beforehand or of having previous information. The grouping of these occurrences may be made more evident if set out as follows:

Reference to Christ and His Sacrifice (Acts 2:23)

B  Reference to man and his previous knowledge of facts (Acts 26:4-5)

C  Reference to the elect people of God (Rom. 8:29; 11:2, 1 Petr. 1:2)

A  Reference to Christ and His Sacrifice (1 Petr. 1:20)

B  Reference to man and his foreknowledge as a result of Scriptural testimony (2 Petr. 3:17)
To Know Beforehand

Commentators are divided in their treatment of the meaning of the "foreknowledge" of God. The Calvinist sees the word as a synonym for predestination. Others see it as an indication of love and favor. Apart from theological necessity, the word means to know beforehand, without responsibility, as to the event. Dr. Liddon says of the earlier suggestions, "the New Testament use of the word does not sanction this (not even Rom. 11:2, 1 Pet. 1:20), or any other meaning than to know beforehand". To us, creatures of time and space, such knowledge borders upon the impossible. Indeed, some, like Jonathan Edwards, have boldly said, "It is impossible for a thing to be certainly known, to any intellect, without evidence," and have come to the conclusion that the foreknowledge of God compels Him, the Most High, to decree, foreordain, and unalterably fix every act and word that He has foreknown. It is extraordinary that any should thus presume to say what is or is not possible to The Lord, nor can such avoid the logical conclusion of their argument, that God must be, if they are right, the author of sin, a conclusion diametrically opposed by the Word of God, and odious to the conscience of His children.

Time is the measure of motion, and in our limited state, the idea of a timeless state expressed by the title I AM is beyond our comprehension. A very crude illustration, however, may be of service in arriving at some understanding of the matter. Suppose the reader is standing at a small table upon which there are books, paper, ink, and pens. As he stands, he comprehends the whole table and contents as one; there is neither a first nor a last. The articles could as well be enumerated from the left hand as from the right. Now, further, suppose that an ant has crawled up one of the table legs and that he visits each article in turn. To the ant, there will be a definite sequence because the element of time is introduced, and, resultantly, there will be a first and a last, and moreover, there will be a limit to its vision. Also, if a spider crawls up the opposite leg, its enumeration and experience would be reversed. But God, as it were, sees all at a glance; He knows the end from the beginning. With us, the future is hidden from our eyes because of our human limitations.

We shall be wise, therefore, to leave the word foreknowledge to mean just what it says and no more. The infinite knowledge of God makes it impossible that He shall not know who will preach and who will teach; where they will go, and when they will go; who shall hear, who reject, who accept, and who be left without a word of The Gospel. The one great demand upon all who hear The Gospel is that they believe the testimony of God concerning His Son. Whoever so believes passes into all the blessings purchased by the blood of Christ. Whoever does not believe makes God a liar (1 John 5:10). If there were any idea of preordination in this, refusal to believe would be as much a part of God's pre-determinate decrees as is the election to glory, and it would not be possible to make God a liar by so refusing His testimony. Further, in the passage before us, foreknowledge is differentiated from predestination, for we read, "whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate." If we alter the word "foreknow" to any word bearing the sense of predetermining or predestining, the sentence ceases to have meaning, as, for example, if we read, "whom He did foreordain He also did predestinate."

We, therefore, understand the passages before us to declare that God, Who is not under the limitation of time and space as we are, and needs no external evidence to attain unto knowledge, knows all things, past, present, and future; knows them perfectly and completely and can therefore act with absolute certainty where, to us, all would appear in a contingent light.

 No Fatalism

Those who were foreknown of God were also predestined to conformity to the image of His Son. Here is another term that demands care in application.

The word "predestinate," as we have already observed, is a translation of the Greek prohorizo. The word horos, from which horizo is formed, does not occur in the N.T., but it has the well-established meaning of boundary or limit, as in the word horizon. This word, in turn, is from horao, to see, boundaries generally being marked to make them visible and conspicuous. Those whom God foreknew He also marked out beforehand for a glorious end-conformity to the image of His Son.

There are three related words that should be considered together, and each of these three commences with the prefix pro in the original.

  1. Purpose (prothesis). Something set or placed before the mind, a proposition.
  2. Foreknowledge (proginosko). To know beforehand, and
  3. Predestinate (proorizo). To mark off beforehand.

The whole testimony of the Scriptures is to the effect that God has a purpose before Him, according to which He works and, in accord with that purpose of peopling heaven and earth with the redeemed, He foreknew everyone who would respond to the call of grace and accordingly marked them off beforehand for the various spheres of glory that His purpose demanded. If we believe that God fixed unchangeably from all eternity, whosoever should in time believe, then however much we may hedge and cover the fact, there is but one logical conclusion, a conclusion that, in days gone by, has driven many to the edge of despair. That conclusion is that He Who absolutely and unalterably fixed the number of those who should believe, just as surely fixed unalterably the number of those who should not believe, a conclusion so monstrous that it has only to be expressed to be rejected:

"How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard?"
The Goal Of Predestination

In the original, the word "conformed" in Romans 8:29 is summorphos, which is made up of sum, "together with," and morphe, "form." The English word "form" is from the Latin forma, which is but a translation and transposition of the letters of the Greek morpha or morphe. While the word morphe indicates visible shape, its usage, both in its simple form and as a compound, compels us to see in it a resemblance that is much deeper than mere outward conformity. We have, for example, in Romans 2:20, "a form of knowledge," and in 2 Timothy 3:5, "a form of godliness," which was merely external and "formal." In Mark 16:12 and Philippians 2:6-7, we have the word used in the account of the appearance of The Lord to His disciples on the way to Emmaus and in the exhortation based on that most wonderful condescension, when He laid aside the "form" of God by taking upon Him the "form" of a servant. In combination with the preposition meta, we have the familiar word metamorphosis, a word used in the study of insect development to indicate the change from pupa to perfect butterfly, a wonderful illustration comparable with the argument based on the sowing of seed used by the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 15.

Again we find the word in Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2, where it is translated as "transfigured." In Philippians 3:21, future resurrection glory is in view, the word "change" being metaschematizo, and the words "fashioned like" being summorphon.

The primary meaning of "form" is uppermost in most of these references. We note the change from that which is external to that which is within in Galatians 4:19 when the Apostle says, "my little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you," and again in Romans 12:2, where we have the two words suschematizo and metamorphoo translated "conformed" and "transformed" respectively. The difference between the two words may be better appreciated if we remember that morphe deals more with organic form and schema with external appearance.

"And be not conformed to this age, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2).

Here it is most evident that the transformation is internal and not merely outward and visible. Again, in 2 Corinthians 3:18, the words "changed into the same image" must not be construed to refer only to a future resurrection likeness but to present spiritual anticipation. Lastly, the words occurring in Philippians 3:10, "being made conformable unto His death," refer to the present spiritual transfiguration that anticipates "conformity to the body of His glory" on that day (Phil. 3:21).

With this thought, we return to Romans 8:29. Conformity to the image of His Son is to be both a present experience and a future hope; the one associated with the "renewing of our mind" now (Rom. 12:2), the other, associated with the "redemption of our body," then (Rom. 8:23). In Romans 8, sonship is here and now essentially associated with Resurrection, the "spirit" of sonship being expressed in Christ-likeness, while literal sonship itself ("adoption," Rom. 8:23) will be expressed in complete likeness to The Glorified Lord, in the body as well as in spirit. God's goal for His children should also be consciously their goal. To be like Christ, the Son is to satisfy all that Scripture demands in holiness, righteousness, wisdom, and acceptance. All growth in grace and all advances in knowledge must be submitted to this one standard conformity to the image of His Son. We have borne the image of the earthly; we look forward to bearing the image of The Heavenly in Resurrection Glory (1 Cor. 15:49), the teaching in this passage being associated with the two Adams. While in Romans 8:29, the subject of the two Adams is in the foreground (see Rom. 5:12-8:39 as a whole), a closer family figure is used of The Lord, namely, "that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren." The following passage in Hebrews 2 vividly comments on this truth:

"It became Him, for Whom are all things, and by Whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren. . . . Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same" (Heb. 2:10-14).

The reader will remember that the structure of Romans 8 as a whole throws into prominence the words "son" and "sonship." Whether it be deliverance, life, peace, growth, or victory, the spirit of sonship must never be forgotten. To attempt an entry into the position of Romans 8 in any other spirit is to court disaster. The Lord foreknew us, and He predestinated us to the glorious goal of conformity to "the image of His Son." May He see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied in some measure now, even as He shall be fully satisfied when we shall stand in all the Glory of His Resurrection before God our Father.

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