c) 2012' name='copyright'/>Michael DeShane Hinton: September 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015


Five verses in the New Testament speak of predestination:

for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:27-28 ESV)

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:30)

he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (Ephesians 1:5)

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, (Ephesians 1:11)

The Acts passage cited above reflects what Peter said on the Day of Pentecost:

this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23 ESV)

The dilemma presented by predestination is free will, our personal moral responsibility before God.  Peter seems to indicate that God’s sovereignty and our free will can coexist, for in the same breath he both holds the Jews responsible for killing God’s Son and says it was God’s plan that they do it!

How might those two ideas be reconciled?

The solution proposed by this study is that God ordains what happens but not who does it.

Now, that may seem strange since we have the names of people, like Herod and Pontius Pilate, and elsewhere in this regard, Abraham, Jacob and Esau, and Pharaoh, that seem to be chosen by God to accomplish the divine purpose regardless of their own willing or previous work.

But their names are a mnemonic device that reminds Jewish people of what happened in the unfolding plan of their own election.  Each persona appears at critical stages in salvation history.  References to them in the New Testament, along with Paul’s conversion narrative, indicate the next great saving events: the Advent of the Lord and the Mission to the Gentiles, who are elect in Christ.

In the case of the Lord’s crucifixion Peter had to explain it not as a defeat or a set-back but as part of a bigger plan that actually advances the cause of God.  Therefore, on the Day of Pentecost he offered a chance to repent to the very ones that God had used to offer propitiation.  As a group they did what God needed done but as individuals they can escape judgment for doing it.  As Peter said, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

In the case of Paul’s apostleship among the Gentiles he needed to show that God’s plan for universal redemption exists “apart from the law,” so he spoke of Abraham’s call 430 years before the law was given (Galatians 3:17).  In fact, all his examples of predestination occurred before the law was given.  It fits his polemic about justification by grace through faith for Gentiles: TO WIT, God can enter covenant with Gentiles if he wants; who are we to question his sovereignty?  Use of plural pronouns (those, us, and we) in his verses on predestination show that he is speaking of himself and his Gentile converts as a group and as a historical phenomenon that needs justification.

All these early church fathers believed in free will:

The idea of individual predestination first appeared in Augustine of Hippo (354-430) and it was not well received by his contemporaries.  Vincent of LĂ©rins called it “a most disturbing innovation, quite out of line with ‘orthodoxy,’” which Vincent defined as that body of belief which is held uniformly by the universal church.

Another contemporary, Julian, Bishop of Eclanum, expressed that Augustine was causing trouble because he “brought his Manichee ways of thinking into the church ... and was denying St. Paul's clear teaching that God wills all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). The Manichees were a cult to which Augustine originally belonged.  They taught that “the nature of man can be corrupted to the point that his will is powerless to obey God's commands.”