Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Baptists and Predestination

The Pastor’s Perspective
“Baptists and Predestination”
First Published: August 2, 2005

Last week, we began a brief consideration of the Bible’s teaching on predestination. We said that predestination means God’s eternal and sovereign plan or purpose of salvation. We also said that the Greek word that we render in English as “predestine” or “predestinate” is found in several times in the New Testament (for instance, Acts 2:23, Acts 4:28, Romans 8:29-30, 1Corinthians 2:7, Ephesians 1:5, 11).

We looked briefly at each of these passages and observed how they emphatically affirm the doctrine of predestination. Acts 2:22-24 clearly teaches that God’s predetermined plan was for Jesus to be betrayed by wicked men. In Acts 4:27-28 the early Christians openly acknowledging in prayer that God predestined/predetermined/preplanned for Jesus’ enemies to oppose him. Romans 8:29-30 declares that God predestined everything in life (even trials) to work for our sanctification. 1 Corinthians 2:1-10 asserts that God predetermined to reveal his wisdom to believers in Christ, but not to the worldly wise. Ephesians 1:5- 11 joyfully acknowledges and praises God that he has predestined us, not simply to salvation, but also to adoption as sons and inheritance in Christ.

But isn’t predestination just a presbyterian thing? Isn’t it just a presbyterian interpretation of Scripture that nobody else agrees with? No. In fact, there was a time when almost all Protestants heartily embraced the Bible’s clear teaching on predestination. Baptists, Congregationalist, Independent, Episcopal, as well as Reformed and Presbyterian churches all used to have predestination as a part of their corporate statements of faith. Don’t believe me? Well, check this out, from the Second London Baptist Confession:

Chapter 3: Of God's Decree
1. God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. ( Isaiah 46:10; Ephesians 1:11; Hebrews 6:17; Romans 9:15, 18; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5; Acts 4:27, 28; John 19:11; Numbers 23:19; Ephesians 1:3-5 )

2. Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions. ( Acts 15:18; Romans 9:11, 13, 16, 18 )

3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice. ( 1 Timothy 5:21; Matthew 25:34; Ephesians 1:5, 6; Romans 9:22, 23; Jude 4 )

4. These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished. ( 2 Timothy 2:19; John 13:18 )

5. Those of mankind that are predestinated to life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving him thereunto. ( Ephesians 1:4, 9, 11; Romans 8:30; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Romans 9:13, 16; Ephesians 2:5, 12 )

6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so he hath, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto; wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation; neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only. ( 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:9, 10; Romans 8:30; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:5; John 10:26; John 17:9; John 6:64)

7. The doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election; so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel. ( 1 Thessalonians 1:4, 5; 2 Peter 1:10; Ephesians 1:6; Romans 11:33; Romans 11:5, 6, 20; Luke 10:20)

How about that? That is what the Baptist ministers who founded the Southern Baptist Convention believed! And it’s the same thing our good friend Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky believes today. And we agree with them every step of the way. Because they are just affirming what the Bible teaches.

Next week, we take a look at the what the Episcopal Church has historically believed regarding predestination.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan




1 comment:

Michael Gormley said...

The statement, “I will show mercy to whomever I choose; I will have pity on whomever I wish” (Romans 9:15) seems to be saying that God blindly chooses to save some people.

This implies that God also blindly chooses to condemn others to hell. St. Paul has quoted Exodus 33:19 for that statement. The quote is following the Golden Calf incident of chapter 32. God chose Moses over firstborn Aaron. It was not blindly that God chose Moses, but because of Aaron’s sin in forming the idol for the people to worship. The inclusion of this story by St.

Paul in Romans 9 continues his motif of the firstborn being passed over in favor of the younger brother. In v. 9 Isaac is chosen over Ishmael and in v. 13 Jacob is chosen over Esau. St. Paul’s point is not that God predestines to heaven and hell, but rather that God will pass over the unrighteous firstborn (the Jews) in favor of the righteous younger brother (the Gentile).

God did not do this arbitrarily. He did this because the Jews hardened their hearts against the acceptance of Jesus. They refused to accept the obvious fact that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus spoke to the Pharisees on this very subject. “If you were blind there would be no sin in that. But 'we see’, you say, and your sin remains” (John 9:41).

“But you refuse to believe because you are not my sheep” (John 10:26). St. Paul then introduces the example of Pharaoh as one who refused to believe something that was obvious (vv. 17-18). Some have wrongly concluded that these verses prove that God arbitrarily makes some people hard-hearted against the Gospel.

It is important to note that when Scripture says that God hardened someone’s heart it means that God let that person suffer the consequences of his freely chosen action. “And Pharaoh seeing that rest was given, hardened his own heart, and did not hear them, as the Lord had commanded” (Exodus 8:15; see also 8:28 & 9:34).

God deals with individuals according to their decisions. If one refuses God then God may let that person suffer the consequences of his own freely chosen action. “And so God has given those people over to do the filthy things their hearts desire” (Romans 1:24 GNT [Good News Translation]).