1 Predestination in the Extremes of Calvinism and Arminianism
While teaching Ephesians, I have received several questions regarding predestination. This is a loaded term for Christians, as we come to it with preconceived notions. Both sides of the debate, taken to extremes, can lead one into heresy. Calvinism and Arminianism are two such heresies.
At the time of Augustine, it was Augustinianism versus Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism; this debate has raged for centuries. On the surface, to one unfamiliar with it, the debate appears to be about "fate" or "determinism" versus "free will." However, those more acquainted with it realize that it is an issue of justification and security. The debate, as a matter of intellectual curiosity, wouldn't hold our attention. However, many people are introduced to it from a desperate conscience.
Under “Arminian” teaching, plagued by fears that one could lose their salvation, the scriptural doctrine of Predestination is very attractive. The notion that God chose you and has secured a place for you in Christ, that He foreknew and has also destined you for glory, at first seems very appealing and seems to offer rest for the struggling conscience. But when taken to the extremes, you find that the assurance you were looking for is eventually undermined.
Because of the way it’s been framed, I think we have a misunderstanding of even the context of the word “predestination” from the Scripture. It’s only used five times, and when it is used, it speaks of sonship or our inheritance.
- Eph 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
- Eph 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
- Rom 8:29-30 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. (30) 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.
- 1Co 2:6-7 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: (7) But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
In Corinthians, there is the wisdom of God related to the riches of Christ, which were predestined for our glory. We have a glorious inheritance in Christ, which was a hidden mystery. God has given us the wisdom to understand that mystery. This wisdom is part of our inheritance. In Ephesians 1, Paul says we have obtained an inheritance, being "predestined according to the purpose" of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will. This has to do with inheritance and sonship. Ephesians 1:5 states that He chose us in Him to be holy and without blame before the foundation of the world, and in love He "predestined us unto sonship," to the praise of the glory of His grace.
This speaks to God's good pleasure, His loving eternal purpose. It is a purpose for His children, the many sons He is bringing to glory in Christ, who is the captain of their salvation. In Romans 8, Paul tells us that those whom He foreknew He also "predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son," that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Predestination is not only about redemption or salvation from the lake of fire; it is also related to sonship. Sonship is not just about being saved; it begins with regeneration. We have received the life of God into our spirit and have been made a new creature, born of God. Now, we are growing as His child, and the end of that process in this life is glorification (Romans 8:29), transfiguration (Philippians 3:21), rapture, or resurrection (all speaking of the same thing) (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). We will be brought into the presence of God as a co-heir with Christ to inherit the ages to come, on equal footing with Him to reign with Him as partakers of the divine life and nature.
The Greek Orthodox Church had a term for this: deification. We are not to be objects of worship, and Christ is the head of the Church. However, in glory, we will be like Him in every respect (1 John 3:2; Colossians 3:4; Romans 8:29-30). In Revelation 19, a brother came to John and spoke to him in a way that sounded like many "waters" (Revelation 19:6). This was the same voice that Jesus spoke with at the beginning of the letter (Revelation 1:15). John fell at his feet to worship him, but the person said, "Don't worship me; I am one of your brethren who has the testimony of Christ" (Revelation 19:6-10).
As members of the body of Christ, we will share His glory and reign with Him (Revelation 5:10). We will be sons of God, the difference being that He is the Only Begotten, having no beginning, while we have a definite beginning with our regeneration. He is the firstborn from among the dead, the first of the resurrection, and we are the fruit to follow. Our humanity will be transfigured and uplifted to the same status that He enjoyed prior to His incarnation in His divinity. This is what predestination is all about – just the beginning. In the ages to come, He will show forth the riches of His grace towards us.