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A number of religious writers have talked about “predestination”. That word is found even in many bible-versions. Those things have caused some people to think that nothing can change their fate or destiny.
But, what do the words “predestination” and “predestine” or “predestinate” mean? And, more importantly, what does the Greek text of the relevant New Testament passages actually say and mean and refer to? This article takes a closer look at that matter.
The passages in question are Romans 8:29 and 30 and Ephesians 1:5 and 11. The reason why many bible-translators have put into those four verses the word “predestinate”, is simply that they have copied that from the Latin text of the Catholic Vulgate version which has praedestinavit and praedestinati in those passages.
It appears that the word combination prae-destino was rare in old Latin, but its verb part destino was used in such meanings as “to bind”, “to intend to buy”, “to appoint”, “to choose”, and so on.
In the four above-mentioned verses, the Greek NT text has proorizô. That word consists of the preposition pro and the verb horizô which in old Greek referred to such things as “binding”, “appointing”, “dividing”, “separating”, “marking out by boundaries”, “marking out for oneself”, and so on.
(A note: In old Greek, the meaning of the related noun horizôn was originally “limits”, “a separating circle”.)
Those four verses refer to the fact that in the first century, God marked out and separated for himself a group of people, for a special purpose.
In short: Romans 8:29–30 and Ephesians 1:5 and 11 refer to people whom God in those days gave his Holy Spirit. They were chosen for something special. They were a spiritual “first-fruits harvest” for God, here on Earth.
Here are the four relevant verses. In the parts which are highlighted, the Greek text has the verb proorizô whose meaning was explained above.
Ephesians 1:5 having marked us [a] out beforehand for adoption through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will (DBY, highlighting and note sign added)
Ephesians 1:11 in whom we [a] have also obtained an inheritance, being marked out beforehand according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his own will (DBY, note sign and highlighting added)
Romans 8:29 Because whom he has foreknown, he has also predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he should be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 But whom he has predestinated, these also he has called; and whom he has called, these also he has justified; but whom he has justified, these also he has glorified. (DBY, highlighting added)
a Please note that the words “us” and “we” in Ephesians 1:5 and 11 refer to Paul and the saints whom he was writing to. We who today read a copy of that letter, are not mentioned in it. (Even we are mentioned in some places in the Scriptures, but only indirectly, in regard to still future things. The articles nga020.htm and nga030.htm have some notes on this.)
Again: The old Greek verb proorizô did not really refer to “predestination” but rather to “marking out” and “separating”. The four above-quoted verses refer to the fact that in the first century, God chose and set apart a group of people, for something special.
In New Testament times, and to a degree even before that, God called a number of people to become a part of a very special group, but the called ones were not forced to heed that calling.
If they wanted to make it to the Kingdom, they had to hold on to their high calling. See for instance this passage:
2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble (NKJV)
“If you do these things” – the context shows what those things were:
2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (NKJV)
“Godliness”, “diligence”, “self-control”, “virtue”, “perseverance”, and more – this shows that the saints could not just sit down and lean back and say, “I am saved” or “I am predestined” – there was also “doing”, for them. Of course, this did not mean that they could “earn” salvation through “works”. God offered them salvation as a free gift, by grace. But, they faced a risk of missing out on that freely offered salvation, if they did not show interest in it or in Jesus who had paid for it. When they were offered that free gift, they had to grab hold of it, and then they had to act and live according to their high calling. If they did that, they would make it to the Kingdom.
The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the saints in Corinth that they had been “bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20 and 7:23). Consequently, he wrote to them, “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s”. In connection with this, Paul gave a long list of moral guidelines. (See those passages in your bible, along with their wider context.)
Also: The saints were to be doing good works. That is a central part of righteousness. The article nga080.htm has some notes on this.
The apostle Paul had been in Philippi and helped and guided the disciples there. When he had left that town and area, he wrote to them that when he was absent, they were to keep working toward their salvation.
Philippians 2:12 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation [b] with fear and trembling. [c] 13 For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. 16 Hold firmly the message of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run in vain or labor for nothing. (HCSB, note signs added)
b “Work out your own salvation” – some translations have “work toward your salvation”, or similar. Point: There was effort to be made. They could not just lean back and say, “we are predestined”, “we are saved”.
c The Greek text has the rhyming phrase meta phobou kai tromou whose literal meaning is “with fear and trembling”. It appears that Paul was simply telling those people to “make their calling and election sure”, just as Simon Peter did, see the earlier quoted 2 Peter 1:10.
It was God who gave them salvation (lasting life), but they had to hold on to that salvation, and they had to live according to the high calling which God had given them.
More, regarding “running the race” towards salvation:
Philippians 3:10 My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. 12 Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you also. (HCSB)
Notice Paul’s words, “not that I have already reached the goal”, verse 12. In other words: There was a need for Paul and the saints in general, to keep pressing on, so that they would make it.
There are many things that people might connect to the concept “predestination”. Often, that includes a concept of belonging to an exclusive group, “the elect”, “the chosen ones”, “the first-fruits”, and so on.
Some preachers have tickled their followers’ egos, by causing them to think that by following the preacher and joining his church, they became a part of “God’s first-fruits” – a part of “the 144000”, or something similar. But the facts are, of course, that it was the saints [d] who were the “first-fruits”, the 144000 of Revelation 14. It was they who were specially marked out and separated, for a special purpose. (The article nta030.htm has some notes on the 144000 and the great multitude, and the difference between those two groups.)
Likewise, some preachers have copied the old Catholic “true church” dogma and modified it and used it for causing people to believe that their church (the preacher’s) is “true”, “original” and “uncorrupted”, “the true church of God”, and that those who follow the preacher and join his church are “the chosen ones”, “the elect”, “predestined”, and so on. But, those things are mind-manipulation through ego-tickling. Again, the facts are that the group whom the New Testament talks about as separated or “marked out” ones, consists of the saints. [d] The article naa010.htm has some notes on the “true church” dogma. The article nba020.htm takes a closer look at such things as “calling”, “election” and “sanctification”.
Then, some preachers have combined the Catholic “true church” dogma with the Baptist, Millerist “church eras” dogma, and applied both things (in modified forms) to their own churches. The article naa030.htm sorts out that matter.
d In this article, the word “saints” refers to those who received the Holy Spirit in biblical times, first century CE or earlier. See also the article nga030.htm.
The Latin text of the Catholic Vulgate version has in Romans 8:29–30 and in Ephesians 1:5 and 11 the words praedestinavit and praedestinati. Many bible-translators have copied and used those Latin words, in anglicised forms, instead of properly translating the Greek text of the New Testament. This has led to misunderstandings.
In the Greek text of those verses, the relevant word is the combination pro-orizô. The part orizô (horizô) referred to such things as “binding”, “appointing”, “separating”, “marking out by boundaries”, “marking out for oneself”, and so on.
In short, the meaning of the four above-mentioned verses is that in the first century, God marked out and separated (chose) for himself a group of people for a special purpose. He set them apart and gave them his Holy Spirit, and betrothed them to his son Jesus. That is what the verb proorizô refers to, in the Greek text of Romans 8:29–30 and Ephesians 1:5 and 11.
Here, it is good to keep in mind that those verses do not talk about people of our day. One must not make the mistake that when one reads the Bible, one thinks that all the “nice” things in that book somehow apply to the reader. For, that simply is not so. One does not become marked out by God and separated for a special destiny, by reading about people who were that. One does not become a saint, by reading about the saints.
The saints were a “first-fruits harvest” for God, here on Earth. In what we today view as “end time”, there will be another “harvest”, the great, innumerable multitude. The article nta030.htm has some notes on the 144000 (the first-fruits group which was formed in the first century) and on the great multitude which is a group that is going to be formed in the future. – There is also the matter of resurrection; the article nba080.htm considers that subject.
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
Please send or mention the address to this site to others. You can also link to these pages. The address to the table of contents page is biblepages.net/articles.htm
Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa090.htm
Easy keys to deeper understanding of the Scriptures. → nga020.htm
What does the word “saint” mean and refer to, in the Bible? → nga030.htm
What does the word “righteous” really mean? What does the Bible say about righteousness? → nga080.htm
What happened to the saints? Why is there no record of their doings, after the middle of the first century? → nga040.htm
Who are the 144000 and the great multitude of Revelation 7? And, who are the first-fruits or virgins of Revelation 14:1–4? → nta030.htm
Matthew 16:18, “I will build my assembly, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it”. What and where was the ekklêsia or assembly which Jesus said he would form? Was it an earthly religious organisation as some claim, or something else? → naa010.htm
“Church eras” – do they exist? Are there seven “eras of the church”, as some say – “Sardis era”, “Philadelphian era”, “Laodicean era” and so on? → naa030.htm
What does the Bible say about calling, election and sanctification? → nba020.htm
What does the Bible say about the matter of resurrection? → nba080.htm
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