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A number of religious writers have talked about “predestination”. Many bible-versions contain the word “predestine”. Those things have caused some people to think that nothing can change their fate or destiny.
But where do the words “predestination” and “predestine” come from, 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 “predestine” or “predestinate”, is simply that they have copied that from the Latin text of the Catholic Vulgate version which has praedestinavit and praedestinati in those verses.
It appears that the word combination praedestino 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.
The translation “predestine” which is copied from the Latin Vulgate version, can easily confuse and mislead a casual reader.
In the four above-mentioned verses, the Greek NT text has proorizô, combined 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 “limits”, “a separating circle”.)
Here are the four relevant passages. In the parts which are highlighted, the Greek text has the verb proorizô which refers to “marking out” and “separating”.
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. (In this article, the word “saints” refers to those who received the Holy Spirit in biblical times, first century CE or earlier.) 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 rga032.htm and rga022.htm have some notes on this.)
In short: The four above-quoted 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. Those verses 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.
In New Testament times, and to a certain extent 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 1:5 […] 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 one of the central parts of righteousness. The article rga083.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 Verse 2, “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 saved”, “we are predestined”.
c Verse 2: 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 with its context. 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)
Please note that Paul wrote, “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.
Some churches might cause their members to think that they belong to an exclusive group – “the elect”, “the chosen ones”, “the true church” or similar – and that they are “predestined”, through their membership. 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 – the people who received the Holy Spirit in biblical times, first century CE or earlier – who are the “first-fruits”, the 144000 of Revelation 14. It is they who were specially marked out and separated, for a special purpose.
(The article rta032.htm has some notes on the 144000 and the great multitude of the book of Revelation, and the difference between those two groups. The article rba022.htm takes a closer look at such things as “calling”, “election” and “sanctification”.)
A note: 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 which the New Testament refers to as “marked out” or separated, consists of the saints, the people who received the Holy Spirit in the first century CE or earlier. The article raa012.htm with its appendix has some notes on the “true church” dogma. – Some preachers have combined the originally Catholic “true church” dogma with the Baptist, Millerist “church eras” dogma, and applied both things (in modified forms) to their own churches. The article raa032.htm has more on that matter.
Romans 8:29–30 and in Ephesians 1:5 and 11 refer to the fact that in the first century, God marked out (chose) and separated 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.
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. It 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 which is mentioned in the book of Revelation. The article rta032.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 rba082.htm contains a study on that subject.
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
Please tell others about this site. Please also link to it. The address to the table of contents page is biblepages.net/contents.htm
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → rsa092.htm
On the King James version. The story behind king James’ bible, including the men who were involved in producing it. → rsa032.htm
Easy keys to deeper understanding of the Scriptures. → rga022.htm
On the word “saint” and what it means and refers to, in the Bible. → rga032.htm
What happened to the saints of the New Testament? Why is there no record of their doings, after the middle of the first century? → rga042.htm
What does the Bible say about calling, election and sanctification? → rba022.htm
Who are the 144000 and the great multitude of Revelation 7? Also, who are the first-fruits or virgins of Revelation 14:1–4? → rta032.htm
On what the Bible says about the matter of resurrection. → rba082.htm
Matthew 16:18, “I will build my assembly, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it”. What and where is the ekklêsia or assembly which Jesus said he would form? Is it an earthly religious organisation as some claim, or something else? → raa012.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? → raa032.htm
What does the word “righteous” really mean? What does the Bible say about righteousness? → rga083.htm
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