The Blessing of Guidance - Part 4 of 4 (series: Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
The unique knowledge of God that enables Him to know all events, including the free-will acts of people, before they happen.
God’s foreknowledge is much more than foresight. God does not know future events and human actions because He foresees them; He knows them because He wills them to happen—“My frame was not hidden from You. When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139:15-16). Therefore, God’s foreknowledge is an act of His will.
Divine and unalterable determination of the salvation or damnation of human beings even before they are created.
It expresses one aspect of divine sovereignty whereby the Creator not only creates but also foreordains. It became a subject of theological controversy when pitted against the humanistic and Pelagian doctrine of free will because they are in theory irreconcilable. Neither predestination nor unlimited free will has been established to everyone’s satisfaction, but the sovereignty of God is such a dominant concept in Christian theology that it does not leave much room for the operation of human-will to cancel divine determinism and foreknowledge.
Predestination has been the center of attention of two of the most brilliant minds in Christian history: Augustine and Calvin.
Augustine laid out the classic formulation of predestination when he taught that: 1. Human will is enslaved to sin. 2. Grace is needed to choose God. 3. Grace is enduringly available only to the elect of God. Augustine was only reaffirming scriptural teachings, especially Romans 8:28–30 where Paul talks of the salvation of those “who are called according to His purpose.” In Ephesians 1:3–14 Paul talks of election “according to the measure of Christ’s gifts.” In John 10:29 Jesus tells the Jews that “no one is able to snatch My sheep out of My Father’s hand.” The Augustinian position was upheld by the Synod of Orange in 529. However, when Gottschalk tried to extend this doctrine to mean that God actively willed the nonelect to be damned, the Synod of Quiercy in 849 rejected it as unscriptural.
The Scholastics tried to reconcile predestination with reason, but with only a measure of success. For them, predestination could coexist with apparent human free will because God was outside time, and for him all things are present and there is no past and future. However, this solution was attacked by Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and others who questioned how God’s love can be harmonized with his predetermination and how God can be sovereign if he cannot change his own will. Augustinians held that predetermination was a requisite for an ordered universe. Generally, the Reformers were Augustinians and viewed the church as a community of the elect rather than as a community of sinners in need of salvation. Calvin rejected belief in the universal saving will of God. Nevertheless, a reaction to Calvinism set in as Arminius and his followers dismissed predestination as robbing Christianity of its evangelical element.
John Wesley, the fiery Methodist preacher, supported Arminianism because missionary work was meaningless if people are already predetermined
to be saved or condemned. George Whitefield, an equally great evangelist, however, remained a Calvinist to the end. Meanwhile, the controversy raged in the Catholic Church as well. The Council of Trent leaned toward a semi-Pelagian position. Luis de Molina formulated a doctrine known as Molinism, which tried to give free will a role in personal salvation, while Cornelius Jansen promoted a very rigid form of Augustinianism. Jesuits favored the former and Dominicans the latter. The controversy overflowed into science and social sciences when it was discovered that there are scientific laws that are as deterministic as predestination in affecting human genes and conduct. If heredity and environment have rigid laws, how can human beings be punished for actions or conduct over which they have no control? THUS, PREDESTINATION REMAINS NOT SO MUCH A DOCTRINE AS A MYSTERY.
Saints are people who have been separated from the world and consecrated to the worship and service of God. Followers of the Lord are referred to by this phrase throughout the Bible, although its meaning is developed more fully in the New Testament. Consecration (setting apart) and purity are the basic meanings of the term. Believers are called “saints” (Rom. 1:7) and “saints in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:1) because they belong to the One who provided their sanctification.
When Christ returns, the saints will be clothed in their “righteous acts” (Rev. 19:8), because they will have continued to live in faith through God’s power (1 Sam. 2:9) and Christ praying for them (Rom. 8:27). The saints are also those to whom the privilege of revelation (Col. 1:26; Jude 3) and the task of ministry (Eph. 4:12) are committed.
There are some things a believer is absolutely sure of. He knows, for instance, that God is in control. He believes that an invisible hand is always on the world’s tiller and that wherever providence may drift, Jehovah steers it. That re-assuring knowledge prepares him for everything. He looks over the raging waters and sees the spirit of Jesus treading water, and he hears a voice saying, “It is I, be not afraid.” He knows too that God is always wise, and, knowing this, he is confident that there can be no accidents, no mistakes; that nothing can occur which should not happen. He can say, “If I should, by God’s will, lose all I have, it is better than having all those temporary things. The worst calamity is the wisest and the kindest thing that could happen to me if God ordains it.” “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” The Christian does not merely believe this as a theory, but he knows it in fact. Every event in a believer’s life has worked out with divinely blessed results; and so, believing that God rules all, that he governs wisely, that he brings good out of evil, the believer’s heart is assured, and he is enabled to calmly meet each trial as it comes. The believer can in the spirit of true acceptance pray, “Send me what you will, my God, so long as it comes from you; there never was anything wrong that came from your table to any of your children.”