Foreknowledge, Predestination, And Glory
By Allan Turner
The Father of Glory (Ephesians 1:17), the Lord of Glory (1 Corinthians 2:8), and the Spirit of Glory (1 Peter 4:14) were all three involved in a great endeavor to bring “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10). This plan, appropriately called the Scheme of Redemption, originated and culminates in eternity (Romans 8:29-30). In reading these verses, it is difficult to avoid the idea that this scheme is, in the mind of God, a “done deal.”
But not a done deal the way the Calvinists claim. Yes, the Greek word proorizo, translated in the KJV as “predestinate,” does mean, according to Strong's, to “predetermine,” “decide beforehand,” or “foreordain,” but this does not mean that God made a choice of those He would save independent of anything they would do of their own free wills, as the Calvinists teach. Instead, God decreed in eternity (i.e., He predestinated) that those who were going be saved would be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
Contrary to the determinists point of view, God did not choose individuals to be saved unconditionally. Instead, based upon His foreknowledge, He predestinated (or determined beforehand) those who would be saved conditionally (i.e., those who would be conformed to the image of His Son). As Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:4-5, “just as He [the Father] chose us in Him [Jesus Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (emphasis mine, AT).
Consequently, when the divine Logos came to this earth as the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 to “taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9), He did so for the ultimate purpose of redeeming those who would be the “many sons” and “many brethren” of Hebrews 2:10 and Romans 8:29. And, although the Father foreknew those who would be conformed to the image of His Son, the actual work of atonement was not limited to just these individuals, for it is not now, nor has it ever been, God's desire that anyone should perish (2 Peter 2:9). Even so, it is only those who are conformed to the image of His Son (i.e., those who are “predestined to...adoption as sons,” Ephesians 1:5) who will eventually be saved. Concerning these, Paul wrote, “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:30).
The ideas of“ universal salvation” and “once saved, always saved” are not taught in the Bible. However, the idea that God knows those who are His—not just now but forever—is clearly taught in God's word (2 Timothy 2:19; cf. Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; Romans 8:29-30). In fact, it is this group, who are also know by God individually, that Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 3:18, when he said: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” In other words, as we see the glory of the Lord (i.e., the fullness of His grace and truth, John 1:14), we are being transformed into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Without being “conformed” or “transformed” into His image, one can neither become a Christian nor remain a Christian. This image, disposition, or mind to which all true Christians must be conformed is perfectly explicated by the earthly existence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and is referred to in Philippians 2:5-8. Those of us who live in the flesh, like the Word who took upon Himself flesh, must humble ourselves, just as He humbled Himself. We must become obedient even unto death, just as He did.
With all this said, anyone who thinks this means that the Christian must live perfectly in order to be saved is seriously mistaken. Yes, Jesus lived perfectly sinless in all His doings (John 8:29,34, 46; cf. 1 John 3:5,8-9), and we believe it is this perfection that Jesus was referring to when He told Philip: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, `Show us the Father?'” (cf. John 14:6-11). And, as we have already learned, the Bible makes it clear that we must be conformed to the Lord's image; but the Bible teaches us just as clearly that the only way we can possess perfection is by the gift of righteousness (Romans 3:21-22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9).
Addressing this very point, Paul wrote to Titus: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).
Writing to the Ephesians about the same thing, Paul said: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:4-9).
Sinless Perfection Vs. Imputed Righteousness
As some grudgingly admit, walking in the light (1 John 1:7) is not sinless perfection. We say grudgingly, because after hearing a brother in Christ upbraid another for teaching that walking in the light is not sinless perfection, I talked with this individual about what I thought were his misrepresentations of the position of the other brother, who was not present to defend himself. After discussing the issue for awhile, I finally asked him this question: “Do you believe that walking in the light is sinless perfection?” After a long pause, he said: “No.” “But,” he continued, “it's dangerous for us to say so publicly because those in the pews, who are not as studied as we are, will take this and run off into Calvinism.” Brethren, I can assure you I was both shocked and sickened by the hypocrisy and clerical superiority I saw and heard that day.
Yes, like many others, I believe some have gone too far in their interpretation of 1 John 1:5-10. In fact, some believe and teach what I think is egregious error on this passage; but, this does not give me the right to misrepresent either this passage or what someone might have said about this passage.
When we read 1 John 1:5-10, it is clear that God is not just “in the light,” as verse seven points out, but “God is light,” as verse five indicates. This means that righteousness is not a standard by which God is to be judged—God is the standard! Sinful creatures that we are, we will always find ourselves coming up short of this standard (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16). It is true that when the Light of the world (John 1:9; 9:5) took upon Himself flesh and lived among us, He was perfectly righteous in all His thinking, saying, and doing. Nevertheless, as we, His followers, “walk in the light as He is in the light,” this will not be a perfect walk—we will make mistakes; we will sin. To deny this is to call God a liar (1 John 5:10). However, when we do sin—and the Bible says we will— we will confess our sin, if we are truly “walking in the light”(v. 9),and ask the Lord to forgive us (1 John 5:14-15), and then be confident that He has (v. 9; cf. 1 John 5:14-15).
Now, although no flesh has any cause to glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:29), because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), as we become obedient to Christ, we do receive a “righteousness of God” that is not our own (Romans 1:17; 3:21-22; 10:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9). The New Testament refers to this as imputed righteousness (Romans 4:11, 23-25). Some—the Calvinists are nortorious for this—have mistakenly thought that the righteousness imputed to the obedient believer entails Jesus' perfect life. In other words, many wrongly think that God no longer sees our sins when He views us. According to this doctrine, when God looks at Christians, He only sees the perfect doings of Jesus while He was here on this earth—perfect doings which have now been imputed or accredited to us. This view is completely false! The righteousness imputed to the obedient believer is not derived directly from the Lord’s perfect life; instead, our imputed righteousness derives from the fact that Jesus' death satisfied the debt we owed for our sins (Romans 5:18). In this way, and this way only, we, “the ungodly” (Romans 4:5), have been justified (Acts 13:39; Romans 3:24; Galatains 2:16; Titus 3:4-7). If God has so justified us, who is it that can bring a charge against God's elect (Romans 8:33)?
But—and here is another critical point—although we are no longer under a system of perfect law-keeping for justification, we are “under law toward Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:21). As we follow Him as absolute Lord of our lives (Acts 2:36; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:6; etc.), we are under obligation to be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29). As we do so, we become involved in those works (i.e., righteous deeds) God previously prepared for us: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesi ans 2:10). By doing so, we are able to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). In fact, the Bible teaches that the Lord redeemed us from “every lawless deed” and purified us as His own special people that we might be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). These good works reflect the glory of God, just as Jesus of Nazareth reflected the glory of God in the works He performed while here on this earth.
Today, as we develop the mind of Christ, we reflect God's glory. Although the reflection of this glory is not perfect, as it was in the case of Jesus of Nazareth, it is glorious nevertheless. Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Notice that Paul wrote, “from glory to glory.” We believe this expression means that as we follow Jesus as Lord, we are being transform- ed from the glory we now reflect in Christ to the glory we will eventually have in heaven. Now, neither this passage nor any others in the Bible teach that once we have been saved from our past sins by our obedience to Christ, we will always be saved. On the contrary, like Jesus, we too must be faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10). The Bible teaches that a child of God can be eternally lost (Hebrews 10:26-31; 2 Peter 2:20-22; Revelation 3:5). At the same time, the Bible teaches that the same foreknowledge that allowed God to know His plan for redeeming man would not fail (Acts 2:23), is the same foreknowledge that allowed Him to know beforehand that “many sons” would be brought “to glory” through His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:10). We believe that the “to glory” in this verse is equivalent to the “to glory” of 2 Corinthians 3:18. Consequently, it refers to the eternal glory that we will one day share with our glorified Lord (Romans 8:18-23; 2 Corinthians 4:17-5:5; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 3:4; 1 Peter 5:1-4, 10). These passages, of course, refer to the glorified human body (i.e., the “it” of 1 Corinthians 15:42-44) of which Jesus now partakes and which we, if we remain faithful unto death, will one day share.
Jesus, The Man, The Firstborn Among Many Brethren
Contrary to what some among us believe, Jesus did not quit being a man when He returned to heaven, but continues even now in heaven as a “man” (1 Corinthians 15:48; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 10:12-13) who, as our Mediator, lives to make intercession for us (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). In this regard, it is interesting to note that in Colossians 1:18 Jesus is referred to as the “beginning, the firstborn from the dead.” “Beginning” here, we think, has reference to Jesus being the “Beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14), which is not referring to the old creation, which the Lord, as Logos, was very much involved in, but the new creation which exists only in connection with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). Therefore, we believe this expression (i.e., “the beginning”) refers specifically to His position as the “firstborn from the dead,” which, in this case, means not only preeminence but also first in occurrence.
Jesus' resurrection was the first ever of its kind. He is the only one who has been raised from the dead, never to die again (Acts 13:34; Romans 6:9). But, the time is coming when His saints will be resurrected and glorified as well (see again Philippians 3:20-21). Therefore, Jesus' resurrection and glorification may be viewed as the beginning of the “new heavens and the new earth” of 2 Peter 3:13. The process (cf. Romans 8: 29-30) — which will be accomplished when death has been totally destroyed by the resurrection of all the dead and the glorification of those justified by the precious blood of our Lord — has already begun! In His revelation to John, the Lord from heaven says: “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:17-18).
Without The Resurrection, We Have No Hope
Jesus' resurrection is not only the beginning point of God's new creation; it is actually the very foundation of it. The power of His endless, indestructible, or indissoluble life (Hebrews 7:16), is the life upon which all life depends (John 5:21, 26; 14:6; Acts 3:15; Galatians 2:20; etc.). It infuses into our souls, sustains a living church in the midst of a lost and dying world, and offers hope for the new creation to come (cf. Acts 23:6; 1 Corinthians 15:19; Ephesians 1:17-22; Colossians 1:5; etc.). It is this the apostle Paul refers to as, “the power of His resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). It does not surprise us then that in the midst of a description of the nature of the resurrected body, Paul refers to Jesus as the second and last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45-49). Jesus, our elder brother (Galatians 4:4-7; Hebrews 2:10-11; 12:1-8), as the result of His resurrection, is the beginning of a new family that, unlike those of the first Adam, will be like Him. When we are raised, we will bear His likeness, “that He might be the firs tborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). Again, this is the reason for our hope (1 Peter 1:3; 3:15). Consequently, at this very moment, “...we all, with unveiled face, beholding in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). In 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Paul said it this way: “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
As we conclude this study, it should be pointed out that the resurrection
of Jesus Christ is the guarantee of the judgment that will one day take
place upon all those who reject Him, for God “...has appointed a day on
which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.
He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts
17:31). “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2
Corinthians 5:11a). Finally, with Peter, we say: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of
persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and
hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:10-13).