Only one of three ideas concerning predestination can be true.

1. God did not pre-determine ANYTHING.

2. God fore-ordained SOME things.

3. God had predestined ALL things.

The first position is false; anyone who has a passing acquaintance with the Scriptures knows that God pre-determined some things. It is stated in the book of Revelation, for example, that the Lamb was “slain from the foundation of the world” (13:8). Obviously, God had a plan for redeeming mankind at the very time the earth was created, which means that He knew that human beings would fall and be in need of salvation. The only real choice, then, is whether God ordains all things that happen or just some things.

The position set forth here is that God has ordained SOME things rather than ALL. The first reason for this conclusion is that no Scripture teaches that God pre-determined all things. If He had, then I would of necessity have written this article, and you would be compelled to read it—unless God did not want you to see it, but that is precisely the problem with position number 3. God decided ahead of time what everyone would do. So why worry about anything? If I fail to complete this article because I want to go home and watch reruns of Gilligan’s Island, that was fore-ordained anyway—just as much as if I wrack my brain to communicate in the most effective manner I can that the third alternative is false. In other words, if everything is already scripted, then no matter what any of us does, it was part of the plan in the first place.

If position 3 is true, none of us ever really has a decision to make, and it is futile to invite people to obey the gospel (Matt. 11:28; Rev. 22:17). What was Paul thinking when he tried to persuade men (2 Cor. 5:11)? Did he not read his own epistles or comprehend them? After all, he is supposed to be the one who taught the third theory. If Romans 9 teaches that God fore-ordained all things, then why do we read these words in Romans 10:1: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved”? The obvious question to ask is: “Paul, if God has predetermined all things, why are you bothering to pray for people to hear and obey the truth?”

God did not predetermine all things but rather some things. In order to discover what those things are, our methodology is to look at the key words used in the New Testament that embody the concept of fore-ordination and see what they are used in connection with. One verb is proginosko (Strong’s number 4267), which means “know before.” The noun form is prognosis (4268). The other word is proorizo (4309), which means “determine before,” from the Greek verb horizo (3724), meaning simply “determine.” Below is a list of texts from the Word of God that tell us what God determined beforehand.

1. Romans 8:28-29. Verse 28 mentions those who love God, “who are the called according to His purpose.” Jesus taught that the Father draws people to Him through teaching. As the prophets declared, “‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:44-45). Those described in this manner are ones who love God—those whom God (as a group) foreknew (4267). He also predestined (4309) them to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). Paul does not say that God predetermined who would be a Christian and who would not—just that those who are Christians were ordained to be conformed to the image of Christ, which is what God wants them to be. One cannot be “saved” and go on his merry way. All Christians have the responsibility to grow spiritually in order to be like Jesus.

Verse 30 adds: “Moreover, whom He predestined [4309], these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” This verse simply illustrates the process by which those who are Christians eventually end up in glory. This predestined group is first called; when they respond in loving obedience to the truth, they are justified; when Jesus returns and they join Him in the air, they shall be glorified (2 Thess. 1:6-10).

2. God foreknew (4267) the Israelites (Rom. 11:2). Even if this text means that God selected Abraham and His descendants before He created the world, it does not prove He foreordained everything. Nor does it mean that they were saved as a result of His selecting them in advance. It is obvious from the generation that died in the wilderness (who lacked faith, according to Hebrews 4:2), that many died in rebellion against God and were lost. Later, they were attacked by enemies because of their sins, and eventually they were taken captive. This passage does not prove the third position.

3. In 1 Peter 1:19-20 we read of Christ “as a lamb without blemish and without spot,” Who was “foreordained [4267] before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you….” These verses show that God had planned the manner and the One through whom He would redeem mankind—and nothing more.

4. Peter told those present on the Day of Pentecost that Jesus was “delivered by the determined [3274] counsel and foreknowledge [4268] of God” to them to be crucified (Acts 2:23). This is the same plan as discussed in the preceding point.

5. In 1 Peter 1:2, the apostle addresses the brethren as “the elect, according to the foreknowledge [4268] of God the Father….” Does this description mean that God selected everyone individually to be a Christian? The remainder of the verse explains the meaning: “in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Christ.” Again, this verse does not mean that God handpicked ahead of time those who would be saved; but those who chose to obey were cleansed by the blood Jesus offered and were sanctified by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11). God had determined the church, the spiritual kingdom, ahead of time—not only that Christ would die for all—but that the obedient would become the elect and part of the body of Christ.

6. In Acts 4:28 Peter reiterated that the Jews and the Gentiles, in crucifying Jesus, were doing His purpose “determined before [4309] to be done.” This likewise refers to the salvation Jesus procured for all, according to God’s pre-creation plan.

7. 1 Corinthians 2:7 also refers to the same plan that God had “ordained” [4309] before the ages for our glory.”

8. The book of Ephesians also discusses the church, the group that was foreordained by God as recipients of the redemption procured by Jesus. Paul writes that God chose us (the saved, the redeemed, the church) “in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined [4309] us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:4-5). Once again, there is no predestination of individuals to be saved; rather, God fore-ordained all the saved (the church) to receive special benefits, which also require special responsibilities on our part.

9. Later, in the same text, Paul says to these same Christians that God has predestined (4309) them to have an inheritance according to His purpose (Eph. 1:11).

10. The death of Jesus was determined (3724) (Luke 22:22).

11. God ordained (3724) Jesus to be the judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42).

12. Paul repeats that Jesus was ordained (3724) to judge the world (Acts 17:31).

13. Jesus was declared (3724) to be the Son of God with power (Rom. 1:4).

14. Concerning the nations, “God has determined [3724] their preappointed [4384] times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).

15. Some have thought that individual predestination is found in Acts 13:48, where the text says: “And as many as had been appointed [5021] to eternal life believed.” Notice that this word is not related to the others that describe predestination or foreordination. Some scholars, such as J. W. McGarvey and Joseph Henry Thayer have pointed out that a more accurate translation of the verb would be that they were disposed to eternal life—that is, they were receptive. Just as many of the Jews judged themselves unworthy (Acts 13:46), these Gentiles were disposed toward eternal life.

These are the main passages that have to do with predestination. That doctrine has to do with Christ being the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world, and believers who are part of the saved, the body of Christ. God had a plan to save mankind, which was foretold by the prophets. That plan involved having the Jews and Gentiles together in one body (Eph. 2). God also planned that the saved would be conformed to the image of Christ, that they would be justified, and eventually glorified. But God never chose each and every individual to be part of the church; neither did He select anyone to be denied ahead of time—except those who are not disposed to hear and obey (who judge themselves unworthy). The desire of all should be to hear and obey the will of God (Matt. 7:21).


Roelf L. Ruffner

“Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom; but a man of understanding walketh uprightly” (Pr.15:21).

February 12, 2009, will be the two hundredth birthday of two important historical figures: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. The world plans to go all out in its remembrance of Darwin’s birth, especially in the scientific community; while Lincoln’s birthday will be scarcely recalled outside of the United States. This is a tragedy! When you wipe away all the mythology and hero worship of Lincoln which developed after his death, you find a remarkable human being who tried to do what was right and cared for his fellow man. Darwin, a former seminary student, left God and wallowed in unbelief which ended up in his infamous, still unproven theory of evolution.

Darwin’s theories became the underpinning of at least two vicious and murderous ideologies: Communism and Nazism. The Communists believe that, since man is basically an animal, they can extinguish as many lives as needed for “the good of the many.” Nazis, drawing from evolution’s “survival of the fittest,” viewed themselves as the superiorly evolved “master” race with all others being inferior and worthy of extermination like cockroaches.

Worse yet, Darwin’s diabolical theory became the main argument of atheism – the belief in nothing. Many have been enslaved to this malignant philosophy which makes men into instinct driven animals rather than fallen children of God.

Lincoln left no theories behind—just a wise and compassionate example. During his administration this nation suffered a tragic Civil War. History reveals that Lincoln tried to avert this war, but when it was thrust upon him, he sought to end it as soon as possible with victory. Mistakes were made, and many died on both sides, but victory was attained. Because of his love of America, even of those millions who loathed him, he planned a magnanimous peace. Unfortunately, an assassin’s bullet ended his plans. Many of those who followed only saw vengeance, and so they reaped decades of sectional bitterness and racial segregation.

The other great legacy Lincoln left us was the emancipation of the slaves. Lincoln’s proclamation did not immediately end slavery for many, but it did start them and their descendents down the road to freedom and eventually to liberty. American slavery was a horrid evil and blight upon this nation; the antithesis of what this country stands for. Most Americans believed the Bible back then or at least respected it. And the Bible teaches that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men” (Acts 17:26). Lincoln believed in this fundamental value of every human being as created in God’s image. Slavery flew in the face of this belief. I believe this is why Lincoln rose above his own racial prejudices and political instincts and signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It was the right thing to do. It was the American thing to do. I thank God he did it!

As we look at the flawed sinful state of this world, let us never forget that there has been only one perfect example in history – Jesus Christ. I am reminded of the amazement of the nameless Roman centurion as he witnessed the ultimate act of love and compassion at Calvary: “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matt.27:54).

And as the world recalls the lives of Darwin and Lincoln, let us not forget their legacy. One left an awful heritage of unbelief and barbarity; the other left a continuing inspiration of hope and compassion. This is why I choose to remember Abraham Lincoln on February 12th and relegate Charles Darwin and his theory to the dustbin of history.