Questions and Answers

by A.E. Knoch

Is predestination only for believers?

Predetermination, or rather, designating beforehand is a scriptural thought, which should be considered in its contexts to determine its scope. That it is applied to the saints cannot be questioned (Rom.8:29,30; Eph.1:5,11). But it is also applied to the acts of evil men, especially at the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 4:28). Paul, in Ephesians, puts us on the right track when he calls attention to the fact that we were designated beforehand according to the purpose of the One Who is operating all in accord with the counsel of His will (Eph.1:11). Predetermination is only one aspect of God's larger purpose. There is a double harmony in this verse. The pre-determination agrees with the purpose, and that agrees with the counsel of His will. The latter two are concerned with all which is headed up in the Christ, both that in the heavens and that on the earth (v.10).

The same agreement is seen in connection with pre-designation in the conclusion of the first part of Paul's epistle to the Romans. We are aware that God is working all together for the good of those who are loving Him, according to the purpose that, whom He foreknew, He designates beforehand...(Rom.8:28,29). God cannot confine Himself in His working to the saints alone because they are vitally affected by their environment, sinners as well as saints, things as well as persons. Consequently, while only those who love God are spoken of as designated beforehand for special blessing, this involves a previous purpose in regard to all as well as them. And the purpose must have been formed in God's mind before its execution or it would lack the essential sense conveyed by the elements of the original word, BEFORE-PLAcing.

The divine process, expressed in human terms, but refined by divine usage, is this: God wills to reveal Himself. He takes counsel with Himself, as there was none other. As a result, He forms a purpose or plans all to the consummation. Some are chosen or selected and designated beforehand to be associated with Him in the execution of His purpose, and have a special place in His plan. What is true of them is not said of all, and should not be attributed to them. All will be saved, but only those chosen have eonian salvation. Only the members of the government in the United States are elected. The rest of us are not elected to be private citizens. Neither are the bulk of mankind chosen not to be saints. Saints alone are selected according to His purpose.

God is not a man, so we cannot reason from our standpoint to His. Yet a wise man will act more like God than a fool. As I did much of the work myself on the first house I built, I made no detailed plans, thinking I could save myself that effort. But experience taught me the folly of this. So, when I built my last house, I had an architect make detailed drawings from my full sketches. Alterations, while building, are vexatious and expensive. That is doubtless why God's plans show so much detail. Of course it could not all be revealed to us because of our limitations. But some prophecies of the future are most minute in their descriptions, and these are only samples of God's foreknowledge.

What a marvelous revelation it was for our hearts when we first saw that God had a purpose, or plan! He knows all beforehand because He created all and operates all according to the counsel of His will. This word, purpose, is the one which tells us of God's activity in respect to all things before they enter the sphere of His operations. Nothing is left to chance. And the purpose is based upon counsel, not guesswork, and conformed to His will. He has a definite object in view, and has planned all beforehand, so that He will be All in all at the consummation. Let us keep this order. God's will leads to counsel, and counsel presents a plan or purpose which is for all, and not till then are election and predesignation introduced for some.

Is this not fatalism?

It is the very opposite of fatalism. For the greater part of a year I lived among a people who attributed everything to kismet or Fate. Its effect is quite the reverse of a joyous submission to a God Who is operating all for our welfare. They had not the least idea why things were as they are, or that they were cooperating for their benefit. Many were submissive, but depressed, hopeless and despondent, and some were quite sure that fate was against them and always would be. I object to the word fatalism on philological grounds. It ought to be fate-ism. But I would not change it, for its effect is fatal and deadening. The result of seeing God's hand and heart in even the most trivial of our experiences, in contrast, is a continual solace for the bitterness of our existence and fills the heart with continual joy and rejoicing, even in the severest strokes of apparent misfortune. It is an elixir of life and happiness.

What a puzzling task it would be to sort things out into essential and otherwise! Theologians could make this an eternal battle-ground, such as the age of responsibility, or just how much must the sinner hear in order to become a Christ-rejector, etc., etc. When I lose something, I almost subconsciously leave it in the hands of God lest it disturb my work, and manage without it meanwhile, if possible. In almost every case it turns up of itself, and I am thankful that its loss did not disturb my spirit, as it ordinarily would have done.

Is it not a sorrowful sight to see how the saints, who have believed for their own salvation, refuse to believe in His glorification? Almost all reject some phase of it. Some refuse to believe that all is for Him and denounce the reconciliation of all. Others will not give Him His place as the One through Whom all is being operated today. Still others, such as we have been considering, have difficulty in accepting the basic truth of the beginning, that all is out of Him. May He be gracious to us in our feeble efforts to grasp His glories, and grant that we give to Him the praise that is His throughout the times eonian!

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