Untangling “Predestination” — Part 2

PROHORIZO—Specify beforehand/Designate beforehand

Peter’s healing of the lame man at the door of the temple triggered a succession of events leading to the only use of this word in the book of Acts. The healing brought the crowds, which occasioned Peter’s second public proclamation. This oration, in turn, moved the Jewish authorities to apprehend Peter and John and hail them before the leaders on the next day. That led to yet a third speech:

Acts 4:5-12

5Now it occurred on the morrow that their chiefs and the elders and the scribes gathered in Jerusalem, 6and Hannas, the chief priest, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and whoever were from the chief priestly race. 7And, standing them in the midst, they got ascertained, ‘In what power or in what name do you do this?’ 8Then Peter, being filled with Holy Spirit, said to them, 9‘Chiefs of the people and elders! If we today are being examined as to the benefaction to the infirm person, in what [power or name] he has been saved, 10let it be known to you all and to the entire people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, whom you crucify, whom God roused from among the dead, in this [name], this person stands by before you sound. 11This is the Stone that is being scorned by you builders, which is becoming the head of the corner. 12And there is no salvation in any other one, for neither is there any other name, given under heaven among humans, in which we must be saved’.”

After they were released without punishment, they returned and reported to the believers what the chief priests and the elders had said. Then comes the response of their listeners:

Acts 4:24-28

24Now, those who hear, with one accord lift up their voice to God and say, ‘O Owner, You Who make heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them, 25Who through Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father, Your boy David, are saying,

What perturbs the nations?

And why do the peoples mumble empty phrases?

26Standing by are the kings of the land,

And the chancellors gathered at the same place,

Against the Lord and against His Christ. [Psalm 2:1-2]

27For of a truth, in this city were gathered against Your holy Boy Jesus, whom You anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the nations and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever Your hand and Your plan designate beforehand to occur.”

And what was that? It was their crucifying of Jesus, plus God’s raising him from the dead climactically and conclusively, as Peter had just alleged in his preceding speech. This accords perfectly with the three relevant usages of horizo in Luke and Acts that we looked at above. And, as in Acts 2:23, this “plan” [boule] or strategy of allowing Jesus to get surrendered, abused, executed, but then raised to immortal Life is what was pre-designated or specific within Hebrew Scripture. Whatever details this “plan designate[d] beforehand” seem to be identical to the contents of the “specific plan” of Acts 2. This integral, inseparable, indissoluble event (a ‘Crossurrection’ as it were) by which God’s Son, Messiah, Lord, and Judge was historically designated is also pinpointed by John’s Gospel in rather unique words. John 6 teaches us most revealingly that no one can (has any power) to come to the Father except by his decreed drawing power. And what, pray tell, conveys that drawing influence to sinners who would otherwise die in their sins? We learn the answer from chapter 12: glorification/accreditation (i.e., the attracting radiance) of the crucifixion/ resurrection’ episodes. I cover these two passages at greater length below.

I shall treat the next two occurrences of prohorizo in reverse order, for reasons that will become clear.

1 Corinthians 2:6-10

6Yet wisdom are we speaking among the mature, yet a wisdom not of this age, neither of the chiefs of this age, who are getting discarded, 7but we are speaking God’s wisdom in a secret, which has gotten concealed, which God designates beforehand, before the ages, for our glory/credit, 8which not one of the chiefs of this age knows, for if they know, they would not crucify the Lord of glory [i.e., who accredits us with glory]. 9But, just as it is written, which eye did not perceive, and ear did not hear, and to which the human heart did not ascend—whatever God makes ready for those who are loving Him. 10Yet to us God reveals them through His Spirit, for the Spirit is searching all, even the depths of God.”

Paul had declared only a few verses earlier (2:2), “I decide not to perceive anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” For, as we saw in the horizo passages, this crucifixion was understood to be inextricable from the nexus of decisive events indicated “beforehand,” i.e., in prophetic Scripture. But here the horizon shifts from the intermediate written form which announced the designated event/person, and instead focuses all the way back on its conception “before the ages,” in the secret plan of transcendent wisdom and sustainable fruitfulness. This crucial (!) event, through which salvation could exclusively be secured, is here declared to have gotten strategically concealed so as to prevent its becoming known—the implication being that it might otherwise have been scuttled if Satan (along with his pawns in power) had caught on to that wisdom and stopped short of his characteristically foolish attempted murder of his arch rival for possession of Earth. Yet what “not one of the chiefs of this age knows” during “the times of ignorance” (Acts 17:30), God, happily, specifically “foreknew”:

Romans 8:28-30

28Now we are aware that God is working all together for the good of those who are loving God, who are called according to the purpose [prothesispre-placement’] 29that, whom He foreknew [proginoskopre-knew’], He designates beforehand, also to be conformed to the image of His Son, for him to be Firstborn among many brethren. 30Now whom He designates beforehand, these He calls also, and whom He calls, these He justifies also; now whom He justifies, these He glorifies [i.e., accredits as true sons] also.”

Here, finally, as in the following passage from Ephesians 1, the designation refers to something other than Jesus or the plan itself. Notice that the beneficiaries are “those who are loving God.” This fits nicely with the final words of the above 1 Corinthians passage. Moreover, both within this immediate context and elsewhere God “calls” people sons, “justifies” them as being legitimate sons and glorifies [“accredits”] them accordingly, via their own future resurrections, with the status of sons. It’s all about sonship, sonhood, or, to use the traditional term, adoption. And adoption, in turn, is closely associated with the idea and practice of inheriting property. The foregoing leads us naturally to the final and culminating passage containing prohorizo.

Ephesians 1:2-14

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, in Christ, 4just as He chooses us in him before the disruption of the world, us to be holy and flawless in His sight, 5in love designating us beforehand for sonship [huiothesia—‘son-placement’] for Him through Christ Jesus; in accord with the delight of His desire, 6for the praise of the glory/credit of His graciousness, which graces us in the Beloved; 7 in whom we are having the liberation through his blood, the forgiveness of offenses in accord with the wealth of His graciousness, 8which He lavishes on us; in all wisdom and prudence 9making known to us the secret of His desire (in accord with the delight, which He purposed [protithemi—‘pre-placed’] in him) 10to have an administration of the remainder of the eras, to head up all in Christ—both that in the heavens and that on the earth—11in him in whom we have gotten allotted also, being designated beforehand according to the purpose [prothesis—‘preplacement’] of the One Who is operating all in accord with the plan of His desire, 12that we should be for the praise of His glory/credit, who are pre-expectant [proelpizo] in Christ. 13In whom you also—on hearing the explanation of truth, the proclamation of your salvation—in whom on believing also, you are sealed [at baptism] with the Holy Spirit of promise 14(which is a surety of the inheritance of our allotment) to the liberation of that which has been procured, for the praise of His glory/credit!”

For good reason this chapter is regarded as a pinnacle of Paul’s revelation about the dimensions and contours of our salvation, waxing lofty about the splendor of God’s graciousness toward us in Christ. Therefore I have quoted at greater length. Paul starts by calling God “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” obviously because his fatherhood is the premise of our Lord’s sonhood, and, in turn, also of our own, since we are one in the Son. Here God’s own love for us is brought into the picture yet again, which as we know from 1 John is what prompts our reciprocating love for Him (significantly mentioned also in the 1 Corinthians and Romans passages, as we noted):

1 John 4:19

We are loving God, for He first loves us.”

Hence the initiative is God’s, not ours. Such love, thus demonstrated, has credibility and therefore creates trust. John enlarges on this theme in the most celebrated verse in the New Testament:

John 3:16-18

16For thus God loves the world, so that He gives His only-begotten Son, that everyone who is believing in him should not be getting destroyed but may be having life everlasting. 17For God does not commission His Son into the world that he should be judging the world, but that the world may be saved through him. 18He who is believing in him is not being judged; yet he who is not believing has gotten judged already, for he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.”

This passage raises the issue about Jesus being a Judge, as we saw above in Acts 10 and 17. This passage does not deny him that role, it only clarifies how the timing plays out: Jesus was commissioned, the first time he appeared, with the objective of saving people, but if they decide to refuse the invitation and rebuff God’s love, they simply stay under God’s indignation and eventual destruction (i.e., death) that resulted from Adam’s sin—the divine ban from the Tree of Life. At the future Judgment, after the general resurrection of everyone, that sentence is sealed and delivered with finality. During the merciful interim, people have the God-given right/authority either to choose the destiny of sonship by believing in the wrath-proof Jesus or to resist the drawing power of the Story—which the Holy Spirit, let us remember, exhaled into Writing—about his exaltation by Cross and Resurrection. Simple options: life or death. Easy choice: choose life, for Heaven’s sake! Elsewhere, John gets more detailed about the inner workings of this intriguing process.

Paul’s Ephesians passage additionally brings up the theme of secrecy again, but clearly not as a factor intended to keep mankind in the dark under a permanent shroud of “mystery.” Much rather, as Paul clarifies in 1 Corinthians 2:7 above, only to prevent the chief powers of this age from sabotaging the ultimate strategy for their downfall before it could take effect. This wisdom entailed the utter nullification of Christ’s death at their hands by means of his powerful but unanticipated resurrection from among the dead, making possible at last the supreme historic demonstration on planet earth of God’s justness that rewarded with lavish graciousness the Faithful One who endured in obedience, and that in turn likewise “graces us in the Beloved,” Which is all to say that whoever stay in Jesus Christ (so leveraged by faith and baptism) receive a share in the reward he received by his obedience even through the hard discipline of an excruciating and wrongful death

John develops it in his first epistle:

1 John 5:9-12

9If we are obtaining the testimony of humans, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God, that He has testified concerning His Son. 10He who is believing in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; he who is not believing God has made Him a liar, for he has not believed in the testimony which God has testified concerning His Son. 11And this is the testimony, that God gives us life everlasting and this life is in His Son. 12He who has the Son has the life; he who has not the Son of God has not the life.”

To this logic Paul would add his own imprimatur:

1 Corinthians 1:21b, 27-31

21bGod delights, through the stupidity of heralding, to save those who are believing.” “27but the stupidity of the world God chooses that He may be disgracing the wise, and the weakness of the world God chooses, that He may be disgracing the strong, 28and the ignoble and contemptible things of the world God chooses, and that which is not, that He should be disgracing that which is, 29so that no flesh at all should be boasting in God’s sight. 30Yet you, from [ek] Him, are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, besides justness and holiness and deliverance, 31that just as it is written, ‘He who is boasting, in the Lord let him be boasting’.”

Yet someone might appropriately ask how exactly a person can be “from” [ek] God. The beloved disciple started explaining right up front, on the threshold of his Gospel:

John 1:12-13

12Yet whoever got [the Explanation], to them [the Explanation] gives the right to become children of God—to those who are believing in [the Explanation’s] name, 13who were begotten not from [ek] bloods, neither from [ek] desire of flesh, neither from [ek] desire of a man, but from [ek] [desire of] God.”

Notice how John ties together such vocabulary choices, highlighted by strategic repetition, into a strong multi-fold cord of explanation:

John 6:40, 44

40For this is the desire of my Father, that everyone who is beholding the Son and believing in him may have life everlasting, and I shall be raising him in the last day.”

44No one can come to me if ever the Father who sends me should not be drawing him.”

John 12:32

32And I, if I should be exalted out of the earth, shall be drawing all to myself.”

John 3:14-15

14And just as Moses exalts the serpent in the wilderness, thus must the Son of Mankind be exalted, 15that everyone believing on him should not be getting destroyed, but may be having life everlasting.”

Peter unloads more of the same at Pentecost:

Acts 2:29-36

29Men! Brethren! Allow me to say to you with boldness concerning the patriarch David that he deceases also and was entombed, and his tomb is among us until this day. 30Being, then, inherently a prophet, and having perceived that God swears to him with an oath, out of the fruit of his loin to seat One on his throne, 31perceiving this before, he speaks concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither forsaken in the unseen, nor was his flesh acquainted with decay. 32This Jesus God raises, of whom we all are witnesses. 33Being, then, to the right hand of God exalted, besides obtaining the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he pours out this which you are observing and hearing.

34For David did not ascend into the heavens, yet he is saying,

Said the Lord to my Lord,

Sit at My right

35Till I should be placing your enemies for a footstool for your feet’.”

36Let all the house of Israel know certainly, then, that God makes him Lord as well as Christ—this Jesus whom you crucify!”

Then later, before the Sanhedrin:

Acts 5:29-32

29Yet answering, Peter and the apostles say, ‘One must yield to God rather than to humans. 30Now the God of our fathers raises Jesus, on whom you lay hands, hanging him on a pole. 31This Inaugurator and Savior, God exalts to His right hand to give repentance to Israel and the pardon of sins. 32We are witnesses to these declarations, as well as the Holy Spirit, which God gives to those yielding to Him’.”

But now notice, parenthetically, the grim consequences, according to Paul, if the Savior had not gotten exalted by God raising him from having gotten hung on a pole until dead:

1 Corinthians 15:17

17Now if Christ has not gotten raised, vain is your faith—you are still in your sins!”

Here, two apostles have forged the crucial links between resurrection, exaltation, and atonement. Peter conveniently elaborates further in his first epistle:

1 Peter 1:18-25

“…18being aware that not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, were you ransomed from your vain behavior, handed down by tradition from the fathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a flawless and unspotted lamb, 20having gotten foreknown, indeed, before the disruption of the world, yet manifested in the last times because of you, 21who through him are believing in God, Who raises him from among the dead and is giving him glory/credit, so that your faith and expectation is to be in God. 22Having purified your souls by the obedience of truth, for unfeigned fondness for the brethren, love one another out of a true heart earnestly, 23having gotten regenerated not from corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the Explanation of God, living and permanent, 24because

All flesh is grass,

And all its glory/credit is as the flower of grass.

Withered is the grass,

and the flower falls off...

25Yet the Declaration of the Lord is remaining for ever.

Now this is the Declaration which is being brought to you in the Gospel.

Observe further in the previous Ephesians passage that God “chooses” us “inChrist (v. 4), who was exclusively and uniquely designated Son and Judge (Acts 10, 17, Rom. 1), so that Christ could “be Firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). God wanted lots of kids! And what was the rationale for his choice? Why, simply that after he announced his love so eloquently at the Cross (where he forebore from destroying his Son’s killers) and at the Resurrection (which proved that he obviously had the right and power and sufficient angelic troops to have pulled it off, but instead, in a grand cosmic surprise, instead lavished everlasting life on Jesus, plus gloryofficial or royal accreditationas his own Son, thus reversing his capital sentence after it was already an accomplished fact), some listeners actually took the hint and responded to such pre-emptive love by believing and falling in love with such a Being, naturally!

Launching from Peter’s reference to God’s foreknowledge concerning Christ in the above passage, which we first noticed at the outset in his speech at Pentecost in Acts 2:23, let’s now fold in two of Paul’s own remarks concerning objects of the divine knowledge:

1 Corinthians 8:3

3Now if anyone is loving God, this one gets known by Him.”

2 Timothy 2:19

19Howbeit, the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: The Lord knew those who are His, and, Let everyone who is naming the name of the Lord withdraw from injustice.”

Hmmm. So it would appear that both our getting known and getting designatedbeforehand”—i.e., our destiny as sons of God—is inextricably linked to Christ’s own having gotten foreknown and getting designatedbeforehand” as God’s Son. Evidently this title, although specified in previous prophetic Scripture, was only made evident and real in history by God’s unleashing the power of justice that raised him from the dead. What stupendous wisdom this demonstrated before the eyes of the watching universe! The vicious deed of the Cross uniquely allowed God to unload a vast wealth of graciousness on Jesus to pay him back for his losses, and some! Moreover, this blessing overflows to us “in Him” (v. 4), “in the Beloved” (v. 6). This is why God’s graciousness gets so much press and praise in the New Testament. Our enjoyment of it is purely a function of our being “inChrist and staying there! It takes effect by our believing the proclamation about his Cross/Resurrection and continuing to believe to the very end of the ordeals of our life. Our success is never presumptuously to be taken for granted. God granted us Jesus, yes; he even granted us the sin of killing him (!); but far more, he granted us the Holy Spirit which he repaid Jesus in abundance for bearing those very sins of abuse and execution. These are all gifts, to be sure. But our starting and continuing to accept these gifts is not automatically granted, for that would override the authority of will or ‘willpower’ or personal choice that God granted us constitutionally as creatures made in his own image—a trait he evidently honors as necessary not merely for our humanness, but equally for our maturation as sons of God, even at the risk of its painful and even prematurely fatal misuses. However, once we do believe his powerfully inSpired Story, he does grant additional power from his Spirit. Those who accept the inherently powerful Explanation of his historic graciousness in the Gospel are granted further graciousness via his Spirit! “Graciousness in exchange for graciousness” (John 1:16). So all who accept God’s Written Invitation by faith and get immersed, simultaneously get regenerated and born above in the New Jerusalem, where our new citizenship gets established. Notice how Peter draws these themes together in a mighty flourish of exuberance at the very start of the same chapter of his epistle that I cited above:

1 Peter 1:1-6

1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the expatriates of the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, the province of Asia, and Bithynia, 2chosen according to the foreknowledge of God, the Father, in holiness of Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ [i.e., the objective for choosing them]:

May graciousness and peace be multiplied to you!

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to His vast mercy, regenerates us into a living expectation, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from among the dead, 4for the enjoyment of an allotment incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, kept in the heavens for you 5who are garrisoned by the power of God, through faith [in the powerful Gospel!], for salvation ready to be revealed in the last era, in which you are exulting…”

In passing, we observe that only Peter writes about God’s foreknowledge concerning Christ (and that to kick off Pentecost!). Both Peter and Paul write about God’s foreknowledge of believers, the chosen, as well as about His designating beforehand both Christ and those whom God graciously chooses in Christ because of their foreknown faith. Bear in mind that such faith is not manufactured by any human effort but is generated solely by learning the Proclamation about God exalting his only-born Son by justly raising him from unjust death and, through his ascension, to the pinnacle of royal glory/credit at God’s right hand. There was no lack of eye-witnesses and corroborating testimony of different sorts, including miraculous, prophetic, visionary, and angelic. This Report is uniquely invested with the power to draw and conciliate sinners to God by evoking staunch faith that can endure the storms of life, whether temptations, afflictions, persecutions, what have you. Hence, what God is in fact “foreknowing” is the natural regenerative effects of his own incorruptible, living, and permanent Seed—the Declaration of the Gospel as originally inspired by the Holy Spirit and now inscripturated for candid human review and global circulation.

That Story is the invariable factor in the formula; the ground condition is the variable factor. Here we can be reminded of Jesus’ parable of the soils/grounds in Matthew 13:3-23. The Seed is one and unvarying (although it is only fair to factor in the troublesome element of diverse and conflicting traditions of translation and interpretation which invariably seem to get dragged alongside like a ball and chain), yet receptivity of the Good Seed is dependent on the prior quality and condition of the ground—symbolic of human hearts. A good farmer knows her soils. Even so, she also knows that some excellent seed will be lost in various ways and not bring its expected fruit, no matter how diligent she may be to practice proper cultivation and conservation. So also, God certainly knows his soils. Therefore he also foreknows those that will not resist, devalue, get deprived of, or suffer destruction of his quality Seed, but will respond positively, appropriately, to his powerful (but not too overwhelming) Gospel by falling in love with him. God foreknows those that love him.

Meanwhile, back in Ephesians 1:11 Paul writes about the “purpose” (prothesis—‘pre-placement’) which God “purposed” (protithemi‘pre-placed’, v. 9) in Christ, according to which we were “designated beforehand” (v. 11). The very form of the Greek word strongly hints that it refers to nothing other than this very “sonship” (huiothesia‘son-placement’)!

The “plan” (v. 11) of God’s desire also makes its appearance in this passage as it did in Acts 2 and 4. And although it necessitated the shame of his own Son, it issued in “many sons” who eventually would be “for the praise of His glory/credit” (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14)—the diametric opposite of that humiliation!—and therefore would make it all worthwhile. From his toil of soul he shall see descendents and be satisfied by such knowledge (Isaiah 53:10-12).

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