Romans 8:30 - Whom He Did Predestinate
Good News Magazine
July 1976
Volume: Vol XXV, No. 7
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Romans 8:30 - Whom He Did Predestinate
Lester L Grabbe  

Romans 8:30 — a definitive scripture of profound implications! In a single passage, the apostle Paul sums up the entire Christian experience from predestination to glorification. Each key word in this important passage is worthy of amplification. And that is exactly what this series of articles is designed to do. Four authors have collaborated to provide you with four important descriptions of these basic steps in a Christian's spiritual development: predestination, calling, justification, and, finally, glorification. We hope you will find these specially prepared articles valuable and enlightening.

   In the long centuries of church history, perhaps few other subjects have been debated over such an extended period of time as predestination.
   The word "predestinate" is found in only two passages in the Authorized Version Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:5, 11. Each time the underlying Greek word is proorizo. The word does not appear to be used before the time of Paul. Thus, he may even have coined it himself. Another way of translating it might be "ordain" or "decide upon beforehand."
   Each context in which the word occurs — Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 — contain a powerful and moving discourse on the Christian goal. It is God's purpose that Christians become very children of God.
   With such an awesome backdrop, no wonder predestination has been so fiercely debated!
   But is it true, as some Christians have believed, that God has already determined the good and the evil, the saved and the lost, the sheep and the goats? Is Christian life only a stage on which a prearranged farce is played out according to parts chosen at random? Or a puppet show with auto-controlled mannequins oblivious to true freedom of choice?
The God Who Acts. God's physical creation is only a part of the great historical drama. According to this magnificent script, Christ " was chosen before the founding of the world even though not revealed until the end of time" (I Peter 1:20, translations are the author's throughout). Even the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was in this plan since he was "the lamb slain from the time of the earth's foundation" (Rev. 13:8).
   The whole of the Bible is the gradual unfolding of this great prearranged plan. God worked with different individuals through the long millennia of time: Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and others. But much of God's working was tied up with physical promises to physical descendants. The nation of Israel became the focus of God's concern, to obey a6d live or disobey and die. It was never the former for more than a short period of time.
   There are many statements throughout the Old Testament — especially in the prophetic and wisdom writings — which take the most profound spiritual insight to appreciate. We are not surprised to find that few did appreciate them. On the whole, the prophets were scorned, ridiculed, ignored and rejected. The end result was corruption, conquest, captivity.
   Yet this was not the end of the plan. It was only another scene in one of the many acts. The curtain went down; it rose again to the Judaea of the post-exilic period. God had not forsaken the earth, but the great prophets no longer spoke to the chosen people. It was into this world that the leading actor came, though not as yet Jesus Christ Superstar.
   Jesus' sojourn on earth was as the humble carpenter from Nazareth who ended his physical life on a Roman instrument of execution. Yet it soon became apparent that this was not the end. First His disciples and later their followers saw that Jesus' death and resurrection only foreshadowed the final resolution of the divine plot.
The Christian Goal. At first tl:1e New Testament Church thought that Jesus would soon return as the conquering Christ and bring down the final curtain. As time went on, they began to see that much more was yet to come. But the writings of the early Church tell us of episodes yet to follow, even in our future.
   The final denouement is described in a number of passages. But few summarize better than one in Acts and one in Paul's writings: "So even the expectation of the creation longingly awaits the revealing of the sons of God" (Rom. 8:19). The very inanimate universe is, as it were, earnestly desiring the time when puny mortal man — and, yes, even the most humble, the very lowest, the Christian — becomes God's own divine son. Then will come the "time of restoring everything to perfection" as God had already promised long before (Acts 3:21 ).
   This is God's great plan it has not changed. The script has not been altered. The scenes yet to come cannot be rewritten. The basic outcome was decided long ago.
   Yet some things have been assumed about God's plan which have no basis in the stage directions of the original author. It is at this very point that the analogy needs to be changed lest it give the wrong impression. Christians are not robots who unerringly act according to a present pattern and speak only the words already recorded for them. Neither are they dumb figures on a chessboard to be manipulated unprotesting by the divine power.
Free Choice. Although God's basic plan is fixed, the part of the individual — your part and my part — has not been determined. To ancient Israel God said: "I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have put life and death, blessing and cursing, before you. May you choose life so that you and you r descendants will live!" (Deut. 30:19.)
   The choice which God gave to physical Israel now becomes the eternal choice of the spiritual Israelite. Granted, God has to make the first initiative just as he did with Israel: "No one is able to come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44). The New Testament makes it clear that God is not "drawing" everyone at this time.
   Those whom God calls have a tremendous reward in store for them, as described in such passages as Romans 8 and Ephesians 1. It is by the power of God's Spirit that they are able to live a Christian life pleasing to Him (I John 3:22-24). Our salvation is ultimately due to His grace, not our own good deeds (Eph. 2:8-9).
   Yet a Christian life is not a passive one. It should show good works as the fruit of God's Spirit (Eph. 210; Matt. 16:27; I Tim. 4:14). It must not be assumed that these good works are automatic for the Christian. On the contrary, he must exert himself and put forth his own effort to use the power God gives. Even Timothy had to be exhorted to use the special spiritual gift given to him (I Tim. 4:13-16). Further, it is possible for a Christian, even after receiving the Holy Spirit and experiencing God's calling, to fall away and reject God's offer (Heb. 6:1-8).
   Consistent with the choice which each Christian has is the fact that God does not know what each of us will eventually choose. God chose Abraham. Yet He tested him because only then did He really "know" of Abraham's unswerving character (Gen. 22:12). Some of those God chose to use repaid the offer, such as Jacob. Others went along for a time but eventually made the decision to reject God's grace. Saul is a sad example of how a good start does not guarantee a strong finish.
   In each case God did not know what they would do. They had free choice, and free choice rules out specific foreknowledge. Free choice means that one can choose wrongly. But there is no responsibility without risk, and there is no eternal life without the risk of eternal death.
Freedom Within God's Plan. As a means of understanding freedom of choice yet within certain limits, one can think of an officer on a ship. The officer was given his post as a free gift; he did not earn it. Yet along with the post came the ability to fulfill it. Once the ship gets under way, there is no way he can change its destination. Its goal is fixed and it steams inexorably toward it.
   Yet the officer has a great deal of freedom. He can work hard and carry out his duties well. If he does, he knows a great reward awaits him at the end of the voyage. Yet the duties are not easy: long watches, frequent storms, grueling physical labor. He can slack off and make it easier on himself, though he knows his commendation at the end will be less. He could stop work altogether. He could even actively oppose the rest of the crew.
   These are all choices he has. He has incentive to do well, and a counter incentive to take it easy. There is no way he can keep the ship from reaching its ultimate destination. But within the limits of the ship and the time of the voyage, his opportunity of choice is very great. And only he can make the choices — no one will make them for him.
   The Christian finds himself in a very similar role. He did not ask God to call him. But God did call him according to His plan — because He already intended to call a certain number even before the world began. Those that He does call, He "foreknew" in a sense even though it is not implied that specific knowledge of specific persons was involved. (The word, proginosko in Greek, can refer to general expectations, even of human beings, as in Acts 26:5. It does not by any means say that God caused specific spermatozoa to impregnate specific ova to produce specific individuals all down through history.)
   Once God calls a person, He gives that person His Holy Spirit upon the individual's repentance and baptism. This already requires certain decisions. At every turn in his Christian life, he must make decisions. He has the help of the Holy Spirit, but he also has the power to reject that help. He even has the power to give up God's calling and salvation completely. All the time he also has the pulls of his physical nature, as Paul so vividly describes in Romans 7 and the first part of Romans 8.
   Thus, there is indeed a type of predestination. God's basic plan includes the calling of certain individuals throughout the ages from the time of Jesus. But that by no means removes free choice or the power of the individual to act within the limits of God's plan. No one is predestined to be lost, even though some will not be called until later. (Read our free article "Is This the Only Day of Salvation?") Yet when one does have his chance for salvation, it is not automatic. He has all the help he needs; he does not have to use it, though. Yet God is always willing to work with him so long as he is willing to work with God.
   Therefore, never forget: "Beloved, we are God's children now even though it has not been revealed what we will be like [in the resurrection]. For we know that whenever Christ is revealed, we will be just like him and see him just as he is" (I John 3:2). What greater calling can possibly be imagined!

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Good News MagazineJuly 1976Vol XXV, No. 7