Doctrinal Statements (1): Forgiveness
Of all of the doctrines of salvation resulting from the death of the Lord Jesus, perhaps the one that brings greatest delight is that of forgiveness. David acknowledged this when he wrote “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psa 32:1).
The word “blessed” in this context could literally be rendered as happiness, or the relief experienced when one knows that their sins are forgiven. Paul quotes this passage in Romans 4:7, as he describes the blessing of God which is extended to all and is appropriated on the basis of faith. In the Old Testament the idea of forgiveness is conveyed principally by words from three Hebrew roots, Strong’s #H3722, H5375, H5545. In the New Testament two main Greek verbs: Strong’s #G863 and G5483 along with the noun form, #G859, are used to relate to us the doctrine of forgiveness. In the Old Testament the word “pardon” is used, although this is never used in the New Testament. In the New Testament the word “remission” is used, indicating release from the sentence of sin. The word forgiveness is used in both testaments.
The act of God’s forgiveness means to release, to put away, or to let go. It is the taking away of sin and its condemnation, from the offender or offenders, by imputing the punishment and the righteous judgment of God upon a divinely provided substitute. As Chafer comments, “Divine forgiveness is never extended to the offender as an act of leniency, nor is the penalty waived, since God, being infinitely holy and upholding His government which is founded on undeviating righteousness, cannot make light of sin. Divine forgiveness is therefore extended only when the last demand or penalty against the offender has been satisfied.”1The principle of Hebrews 9:22 applies, “and without shedding of blood is no remission.”
Forgiveness is extended by God to sinners (Luke 7:48), to sinning Christians (1John 1:9), and to the nation of Israel (Num 14:11-20). God also expects those who have been forgiven to have a forgiving spirit toward those who have transgressed against them (Matt 18:21).
The God of Forgiveness
The question was asked by the scribes in the home in Capernaum (Mark 2:7), “Why doth this Man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?” As has often been pointed out they did not realize Who was standing in their midst. Through the healing of the paralyzed man, Christ proved Who He was and demonstrated to them that He possessed all the power of incarnate deity (Mark 2:10). It is the unique prerogative of God to forgive sins. The Scriptures constantly witness to a God Who delights in forgiveness (Ex 34:6-7, Psa 103:12). One of the most touching is in Nehemiah where a literal rendering of the Hebrew is “and Thou art a God of pardons” (Neh 9:17 YLT). Forgiveness is only possible because God is a God of grace and of pardon.
The Ground of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is not often linked directly in Scripture with the cross, although there are a number of occasions where this occurs. We read “In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph 1:7). In the upper room, as the Lord instituted the remembrance supper, He said “For this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt 26:28). Forgiveness or remission is more often linked in the New Testament with Christ Himself. “Him hath God exalted … to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 13:38). These, along with passages such as Ephesians 4:32, link forgiveness with an exalted Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. The work of Christ can never be separated from His person; forgiveness comes through all that He is and all that He has accomplished at the cross.
The Gift of Forgiveness
Forgiveness of sins, while based on the perfect satisfaction that the death of Christ has brought to God, is only available on the ground of repentance from sin and acceptance of Christ by faith. John the Baptist, Christ Himself, Peter, and Paul all preached the necessity of repentance. Paul indicates that he preached both to Jews and Gentiles, “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Repentance and faith are not merits by which we obtain forgiveness but are the means by which we receive the gift of God (Eph 2:8-9). This forgiveness is preached in Christ’s name (Acts 13:38), procured by His blood (Eph 1:7) and is obtained by faith (Acts 10:43).
The Greatness of Forgiveness
While the New Testament indicates things that accompany salvation, it is outside of the scope of this article to try to identify them comprehensively. However, such is the extent of forgiveness that it deals with all sin – past, present, and future. Paul reminds us that God has forgiven us all trespasses (Col 2:13 RV). Mr. Tom Bentley used to preach that God had put our sins out of sight (Isa 38:17), out of reach (Micah 7:19), out of mind (Jer 31:34), and out of existence (Col 2:13-14). What a God we have!
The Gospel of Forgiveness
It is interesting to note that Luke opens and closes his Gospel with references to forgiveness. “To give knowledge of salvation unto His people, by the remission of their sins” (Luke 1:77). He records the words of Christ as He commissioned His disciples, “and that repentance and the remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). No article on the forgiveness of sins would be complete without reminding our hearts that this is still our responsibility. We have a message to take to our friends and neighbors that guarantees the forgiveness of every sin, if they repent and trust the Savior. This should motivate us to reach as many as possible with this glorious message.
This subject should make us rejoice; as those whose sins have been forgiven, our response is to love much (Luke 7:47). The proof of this should be seen in our lives. To quote Paul again “and be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph 4:32).
1 Chafer, L. S. (1993). Vol. 2: Systematic Theology (271). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
Doctrinal Statements (2): Repentance
There are many misconceptions about the Biblical perspective of repentance. Sometimes repentance is simply presented as remorse. Others think that it is reparation for sins, while some sincerely believe that penance can deal with their sins. We hope to look at some of these misconceptions in this article.
The word “repentance” occurs in both Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament two main verbs cover the subject, nacham (Strong’s Hebrew #5162), which means “to pant, sigh, or grieve” (Exo 13:17), and shuwb (#7725), meaning “to retreat or turn back” (1Kings 8:47). The first word usually refers to repenting on the part of God, although there are occasions when it is used of men who have not repented (Jer 8:6). In the New Testament, again two main words are used, metanoia(Strong’s Greek #3341), meaning “to change the mind” (Matt 3:8) andmetanoeo (#3340), “to perceive afterwards” (Matt 3:2).
What is repentance?
In view of these examples the meaning of repentance is “to think afterwards or reconsider.” True repentance constitutes an inward change which is then manifested in a changed life (1Thes 1:9). It is a change of attitude which leads to a change in action. Repentance is not simply remorse for sin, although this may be included in the word. Many have been sorry for, or have regretted, their sins but have never truly repented of them (Matt 27:3). It is also possible for someone to change his mind in regard to a wrong position but then turn to something which is equally wrong. The Biblical principle of repentance is seen in 2 Timothy 2:25, “If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”
Repentance is presented in a number of different ways in Scripture. There is the repentance of sinners (Mark 2:17), national repentance (Judg 10:15-16), and the repentance of cities (Luke 11:32). In the book of Revelation chapters 2 and 3, five of the seven churches are called upon to repent (Rev 2:5). This also applies to individual believers who have sinned (2Cor 12:21).
We also read of God repenting (Exo 32:14; 1Sam 15:11, 35). In these contexts this indicates a change from a course of action which the Lord said He would follow.
Should we preach repentance?
John the Baptist opened his ministry preaching repentance (Matt 3:1-2). When the Lord Jesus came into Galilee preaching, His message was “repent and believe the gospel”(Mark 1:14-15). At the end of Luke’s gospel, the Lord’s disciples were commissioned to preach among all the nations. The subject of their proclamation was “repentance and remission of sins,” to be announced in the name of Christ (Luke 24:47). We find that both Peter and Paul preached the same message (Acts 2:38, Acts 17:30). At the end of Peter’s life he was still convinced of the relevance of this message, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”(2Peter 3:9). Paul, in his address to the elders of the Ephesian church, the last church mentioned in the book of Acts, very clearly outlines what he preached, “testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). In the book that deals with the doctrine of the gospel, Paul again mentions repentance, “or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance” (Rom 2:4). This demonstrates that repentance had a central role in apostolic teaching and practice. The commission of the risen Christ mentioned in Luke 24:47 has never been rescinded. This means that its content should be clearly emphasized in our preaching.
Repentance and salvation
The question has been asked, “Is repentance required for salvation?” We have noted that in the Scriptures repentance is frequently linked with faith (Mark 1:15, Acts 2:38, 20:21). Repentance and faith are two aspects of the same experience. One denotes an agreement with God and turning from sin, the other a turning to God. This is what the Thessalonians experienced, “How that ye turned to God from idols (repentance) to serve the living and true God (faith) and to wait for His Son from heaven”(1Thes 1:9). There are occasions in Scripture where faith is mentioned alone, an example of this being Acts 16:31. When the jailer asked “What must I do to be saved?” the reply was given “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Why was repentance not mentioned? It was quite evident to Paul and Silas that the jailer had recognized his sinfulness and was under conviction of his sin. This is the reason why they announced the Lord Jesus as the object of faith.
Regret and penance are not repentance
We should note that regret is not repentance. Regret is a sorrowful attitude with regard to sin. Many times it is the result of being confronted after being caught and exposed. Some people think that if they manifest enough sorrow they will be accepted by God. This is foreign to the Biblical viewpoint of salvation. Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone (Rom 5:1).
The word “repentance” was replaced in the Douay-Rheims translation of the Scriptures by the word “penance.” The root meaning of penance is the Latin poena, which means “punishment.” Thus, through contrition and castigation, it is alleged that confession can be made to a priest and absolution can be granted. This is not only unbiblical but is anti-biblical in scope and practice.
In summary, repentance is a change of attitude which leads to a change of action (Acts 26:18). Anyone who has repented of their sins looks back to a definite moment, when their sins were forgiven. This is an experience which can never be forgotten (Rom 10:9). The beautiful words of James G. Deck illustrate this.
When first, o’erwhelmed with sin and shame,
To Jesus’ Cross I trembling came,
Burdened with guilt, and full of fear,
Yet drawn by love to venture near,
Pardon I found, and peace with God,
In Jesus’ rich, atoning blood.
Doctrinal Statements (3): Justification
In 1511 an Augustinian monk, disillusioned and disappointed with the corruption he was witnessing in the established church, visited the Sancta Scala (The Holy Stairs) in Rome. On his knees halfway up the 28 stairs the Scripture came to him with electrifying clarity, “The just shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17). He rose, stood to his full height, and slowly made his way down the stairs. The doctrine of justification became the pivot of what we know as the Reformation, leading Martin Luther to declare, “For when the article of justification has fallen, everything has fallen. This is the chief article from which all other doctrines have flowed.”
The demand for justification
The demand for justification is a consequence of the sentence pronounced in Romans 3:19: “All the world may become guilty before God.” In the argument which Paul has advanced in this book, he has identified the reprobate (Rom 1:19-32), the rationalist (2:1-16), and the ritualist (2:17-3:8). All are brought to stand before God, all have received the witness of creation (1:20), conscience (2:15), and the Scriptures (3:10). There are 14 indictments brought as charges against them (3:10-18). The Judge announces the sentence: all mankind, both Jew and Gentile, stand guilty before God.
It has often been noted that the question of Bildad the Shuhite, “How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?”(Job 25:4), was never fully answered until Paul wrote the book of Romans. The section from Romans 3:20 to 5:21 shows how the demand for justification is met and how the condemned can be declared righteous.
The definition of justification
Justification has been defined as “making a person righteous.” This is an incorrect view of this Bible doctrine. Those who teach this view see justification as a process and people are continually being justified, until at a final judgment before God a verdict is reached. Justification in the Bible is never viewed as making a person righteous. It is always viewed as declaring a person righteous. The moment a person accepts Christ by faith, he is declared righteous by God: “justified freely by His grace” (Rom 3:24).
The distinctiveness of justification
Justification is linked with sanctification. While they are distinct terms and should be distinguished they should never be separated. Justification declares a person righteous and happens instantly. Sanctification has a positional aspect (1Cor 6:11) but is also something which continues (1Thes 4:3, 7). A Christian can become more holy but can never be more justified. Justification does not change me personally, it changes me positionally. Justification relates to my position, sanctification relates to my practice.
The details of justification
As noted, Romans 3:24 makes it clear that we are “justified freely by His grace.” The word translated “freely” in this text is translated “for nought” in 2 Thessalonians 3:8. Justification is a gift, without payment. It is also translated “without a cause” in John 15:25. God finds no reason, no cause, and no basis in the sinner for declaring him righteous. The basis for justification is God’s grace.
The instrument or means of justification is faith. This is clear from Romans 5:1: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” Faith is taking God at His Word; it does not contribute to justification, nor is it meritorious on behalf of the sinner. Faith does not add anything to justification, nor is it a gift. It is simply the instrument which brings us into the standing of justification. In Romans 5:1-11 note the reference to “we have.” We have peace with God, a standing in grace, hope of the glory of God, we rejoice in our sufferings, we shall be saved through Christ and we rejoice in God. The words translated “rejoice” in verse two and “glory” in verse three literally mean “to boast.” This also links with verse 11 where the same word is translated “joy.” These show how much Paul enjoyed this cornucopia of Biblical truth.
The ground of justification is the blood of Christ. “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom 5:9). It is interesting to notice that we are “now” justified, but “we shall be saved.” Presently, we have already been justified, but we are also assured of salvation not only from tribulation wrath but also eternal wrath. We are justified at the cost of “His blood.” This signifies the sacrificial aspect of the death of Christ.
The display of justification
Most will be aware of Martin Luther’s famous quote regarding the book of James. He is quoted as saying “it is an epistle of straw.” He could not reconcile the justification by works spoken of by James and Paul’s description of justification by faith. “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Is there a contradiction between Paul and James on this subject? The simple answer is, “no.” James reminds us that works confirmed the faith of Abraham and Rahab. The works of both were the consequences of their faith, not the reason why they were declared righteous. Abraham was already a believer before he offered Isaac; likewise, Rahab was already justified before she received the spies with peace.
In conclusion, I was once guilty, under judgment to God. By faith in Christ, I have been declared righteous by God, my position has been changed irrevocably, and my destiny changed eternally. I rejoice to sing:
O joy of the justified, joy of the free!
I’m washed in that crimson tide opened for me;
In Christ my Redeemer, rejoicing I stand,
And point to the print of the nail in His Hand.
Doctrinal Statements (4): Righteousness
When considering the subject of righteousness it is important to notice its link with justification. We noted that justification means to declare a person righteous. Justification affects my standing. I was once guilty, but through faith in Christ I have been declared righteous by the highest court in the universe (Rom 8:1). In Greek, as in Hebrew, the words which we translate in English as righteousness and justification belong to the same word group. It is difficult to define either the Hebrew or Greek words in question by a single English equivalent. As W. E. Vine notes, “(dikatosyne, Strong’s #1343) is the character or quality of being right or just.” The words “righteous” and “righteousness” include the ideas of a right relationship and standing before God. This will lead to right actions in my life and anything that is right or just which conforms to the will of God.
Righteousness – The essential character of God
Righteousness is manifested in the essential character of God, as Psalm 97:2 intimates. “Clouds and darkness are round about Him: Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne.” The righteousness of God is as eternal as His person (Psa 119:142). His actions (Dan 9:14), rule (Jer 9:23-24), faithfulness (Neh 9:8), justice (Gen 18:25), and law (Rom 7:12), are all righteous. When the Lord Jesus prayed prior to entering into the Garden of Gethsemane, He addressed God as “Father” (John 17:1), “Holy Father” (John 17:11), and “O righteous Father” (John 17:25). It has often been pointed out that, in regard to His nature, God is holy, and in regard to His character, God is righteous. The way that the Savior addressed God is an example for us. When we pray, we should be conscious that we are speaking to the same God and we need to approach Him with utmost reverence.
Righteousness – Manifested in the Lord Jesus
In the Old Testament testimony is given to the righteousness of the Lord Jesus. We are reminded from prophets such as Isaiah, “By His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many” (Isa 53:11). He is called the “Branch of righteousness” (Jer 33:15) and “just” (Zech 9:9). Testimony is also given to Him in the New Testament; Pilate’s wife said “Have thou nothing to do with that just man” (Matt 27:19). The centurion at the cross said, “Certainly this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47). He is referred to as “the just” (Acts 3:14; 1Peter 3:18), “the righteous judge” (2Tim 4:8), and as the “righteous” (1John 2:1). As believers, we rejoice to consider One Who moved for God in a scene of defilement, Who in His own person was, and is, intrinsically holy and righteous.
Righteousness – As revealed by the gospel
From the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, we have tried by works or human effort to gain favor with God. Of the 14 indictments presented against mankind in Romans 3:10-18, the first of these reminds us, “There is none righteous, no not one.” We are defiled by sin and any effort of our own will never attain a righteous standing before God (Isa 64:6; Rom 10:3). We are reminded that salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:15). One of the major themes emphasized in the book of Romans is righteousness. The noun form (Strong’s #1343) occurs 36 times in the book. The book opens with three personal affirmations from Paul. “I am debtor” (Rom 1:14), “I am ready”(v15), and “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”(v16). He then proceeds to cite the reasons why he is not ashamed of the gospel. Inherent in this message is “the power of God unto salvation.” In this message the “righteousness of God is revealed” (Rom 1:17).
This phrase, “the righteousness of God,” has been interpreted in different ways. Some have suggested that it means the righteousness which God Himself exercises, or righteousness as an attribute or quality of God. These do not fit the context of Romans 1:17 or Romans 3:21, 22. “The righteousness of God,” expresses origin. Taken in this sense, it is a righteousness which comes from, and is provided by, God. As Leon Morris states, “In which case the whole expression means ‘a righteousness from God,’ ‘the right standing which God gives,’ a meaning which is required in Romans 3:21, 22; 10:3, etc. and is made abundantly plain by the use of the preposition in Philippians 3:9.” This righteousness from God is “received by faith in Jesus Christ” (Rom 3:22).
One of the errors taught by the reformers, and which is still perpetuated today, is that, by faith, we received the righteousness of Christ, and that the righteousness of His life is imputed to the believing sinner. This is unbiblical, as the phrase “the righteousness of Christ” is not mentioned in the Scriptures. Our standing before God is not based on the righteous life of the Lord Jesus, it is based on His atoning death. At conversion, we did not receive the personal righteousness of Christ; one person’s personal righteousness cannot be transferred to another. We have received a righteous standing before God, which was provided by God through the death of the Lord Jesus.
Righteousness – Marking the lives of believers
The New Testament makes it clear that a Christian’s life should be marked by righteousness. We are reminded “that we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:12). Righteous living should characterize the lives of all believers (2Tim 2:22). The results of such will be manifested in a coming day at the marriage of the Lamb (Rev 19:8-9).
Righteousness – In the millennial and the eternal state
It would be hard to conclude without mentioning that righteousness will mark the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. In this 1000 year period, “a king shall reign in righteousness” (Isa 32:1). In the millennium, righteousness will reign, however, in the eternal state, righteousness will dwell. “Nevertheless, we, according to His promise look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2Peter 3:13). As believers living in a world of sin and unrighteousness, we echo the sentiments of John, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).
Doctrinal Statements (5): Regeneration
Every generation needs regeneration.” C. H. Spurgeon’s pertinent statement is as true today as it was when the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England was filled to capacity to hear him preach.
The noun “regeneration” occurs on two occasions in the New Testament. The first in Matthew 19:28 and the second in Titus 3:5. This word does not occur in the Old Testament. In Matthew 19, the reference is to the future and is national. The Lord was responding to concerns of His disciples and He speaks to them about the millennial reign and His coming kingdom glory. He reminds them “in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Newberry margin). The reference in Titus refers to the experience of believers and is individual in its focus.
Regeneration – A new state
Regeneration is linked with at least three other terms in the New Testament: “quickening,” “new creation,” and “new birth.” All four refer to the same experience, and while we may use them synonymously each provides a slightly different emphasis with regard to salvation. Paul writes in Ephesians, “Even when we were dead in sins, [He] hath quickened us together with Christ, by grace ye are saved” (Eph 2:5). Quickening emphasizes the new life imparted to the believer in contrast to his former state of spiritual death. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,” presenting to us our new position. Prior to conversion we were viewed as being “in Adam” (1Cor 15:22); we are now “in Christ.” The third term “new birth” (John 3:3) not only emphasizes our new life, but also implies new links to others in God’s kingdom and family. Regeneration is distinct from all of these as it introduces us into a new state. As W. E. Vine notes, “The new birth and ‘regeneration’ do not represent successive stages in spiritual experience, but refer to the same event viewing it in different aspects. The new birth stresses the communication of spiritual life in contrast to antecedent spiritual death; regeneration stresses the inception of a new state of things in contrast with the old; hence the connection of the use of the word with its application to Israel in Matthew 19:28.”
Regeneration – The work of the triune God
In Titus 3:5 we read “He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” The antecedent to “He” is found in verse 4, “but after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared.” This is a direct reference to God the father. The title “God our Savior” is given to Him five times in the pastoral letters, the only other direct occurrence of the title occurs in the book of Jude verse 25. It delights our hearts to consider that our God is a Savior God; in this era He is not acting in judgment upon the ungodly, but desires the salvation of all men (1Tim 2:4).
We notice also the “renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly” (Titus 3:5-6). Some consider this to be a reference back to Acts 2 to the day of Pentecost, supporting this by the fact that the word “shed” in verse 6 is used in Acts 2:33, also being translated as “pour” in Acts 2:17-18. The context of Titus 3:5-7 links the “renewing” to conversion, so the phrase “shed on us abundantly” links to the same moment. The Holy Spirit is given richly, or abundantly, to each believer at the moment of their salvation (Eph 1:13, Gal 3:2). This makes it clear that we do not need another experience subsequent to conversion to receive the abundance of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
The Lord Jesus is also mentioned in Titus 3:5-7 as the agent responsible for the sending of the Holy Spirit. In the upper room He disclosed the coming of the Spirit to His disciples, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send Him unto you”(John 16:7). The descent of the Holy Spirit took place 10 days after the ascension of the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:1-4).
Regeneration – Internal spiritual cleansing
The believing sinner experiences cleansing of his sins “by the washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5), bringing him into this new state we are considering. An illustration of this washing is found in John 13. The Lord Jesus had laid aside His garments and stooped to wash the disciples’ feet. Peter, objecting to this, was told “if I wash thee not thou hast no part with Me” (John 13:8). Immediately Peter oscillates to the other extreme, “Lord not my feet only but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9). The Lord responds, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet” (John 13:10). Two different washings are in view in this verse, the first word means to bathe all over, the second means to wash part of the body. There is a once-for-all washing (Lev 8:6), which does not need to be repeated, this is what Titus refers to as “the washing of regeneration.” The second word presents to us the bathing required to wash away the defilement we contact on a daily basis in this world. At conversion we received internal cleansing from our sins, however our personal responsibility (John 13:10) is to keep ourselves clean from daily defilement through the application of the Word of God.
Regeneration – Anticipates a future inheritance
Titus 3:4-7 forms one sentence in the Greek text, in which seven things are delineated for us. The last of these presents to us our inheritance, “that, having been justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Darby). It is interesting to note that this passage links to Titus 1:1-3 and to Titus 2:11-14; in each of these we are given a look to the past, to the present, and into the future. Each mentions the subject of hope, “hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2), “looking for that blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), and in the passage we are considering, “heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). Regeneration has brought us into a new state and we have the prospect of future glory as those who are heirs (1Peter 1:4).
Doctrinal Statements (6): Reconciliation
In one of the most beautiful chapters of Scripture, Paul outlines the majesty of the truth of reconciliation. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, ‘Be ye reconciled to God.’ For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2Cor 5:20-21).
In the KJV the word “reconciliation” occurs in passages such as Leviticus 6:30 and 8:15, among others. The particular Hebrew word rendered as reconciliation in these passages is more accurately translated “atonement” (Darby). In light of this we will focus on references to the subject in the New Testament. In addition to the doctrine of reconciliation to God, the New Testament also deals with the subject of reconciliation between brethren (Matt 5:24) and between a wife and her husband (1Cor 7:11). There are four contexts in the Pauline corpus of the New Testament that deal with reconciliation to God. These are Romans 5:10-11, 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, Ephesians 2:16, and Colossians 1:19-22. This teaching is conveyed to us by the use of three words. These are katallasso (Strong’s #G2644) andkatallage (#G2643) meaning “to change or exchange,” along withapokatallsso (#G604) which means “to reconcile completely or to change from one condition to another.” This change refers to the restoration of a harmonious relationship between parties that had been at enmity. Therefore, the meaning of reconciliation is to change from hostility to harmony, enmity to amity, antagonism to accord.
Mankind was separated from God as the result of sin. In Colossians 1:21 we are described as being “alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works.” In Ephesians 2:16 there is mention made of enmity; this is the enmity or hostility between human beings and God. However, in Romans 5 we find a panorama of our hopeless condition, being described as ungodly and without strength (Rom 5:6), sinners (5:8) and enemies (5:10). It has been noted that the term “ungodly” describes our wickedness, “without strength” indicates our weakness, “sinners” identifies our wretchedness, and being “enemies” portrays our willfulness in disobedience against God. Reconciliation was required to bring estranged sinners back into fellowship with God.
When we think of reconciliation at a purely human level, whether in the political realm, an employment situation, or even a marital problem, two opposing viewpoints are considered. Mediators then decide if there is common ground to bring the two sides together. However, when it comes to the Biblical perspective of reconciliation, the focus is on one side. God did not need to be reconciled, but in His grace He is the One Who reconciles. This is clear from 2 Corinthians 5:19, “to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” This text is not establishing the deity of the Lord Jesus. The doctrine of His eternal and absolute deity is clearly taught in other portions of the Scriptures; it is agency that is in view. We could paraphrase the text as “God was, through Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” It was God Who initiated the great program of reconciliation; the basis on which He receives sinners is the death of Christ.
As intimated at the commencement of this article, we have the great privilege of representing our risen Lord as “ambassadors for Christ” (2Cor 5:20). In this capacity we are beseeching sinners, or making a plea to sinners on behalf of God, that they should be reconciled to Him. The context of 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 makes it clear that there is the potential in the death of the Lord Jesus to effect the reconciliation of all men. There is no basis in Scripture to restrict or limit what the Savior accomplished at Calvary.
A genuine bona fide offer of the gospel can be extended to all men without distinction or exception. As we preach the message of the gospel, dignity is required in the manner of our presentation, bearing in mind that we are proclaiming the message “in Christ’s stead.”
Ephesians 2:14-16 presents the elevated position we have received having been reconciled to God. As Gentiles we were not subject to the national privileges that Jews enjoyed; we had no prospect of a future inheritance, we had “no hope,” and we were “without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). Through the cross, Jews and Gentiles are brought into common ground as being members together of one body (Eph 3:6). This is confirmed in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” The context of Galatians 3 is different. However, the principle of the unity of Jew and Gentile is clear. Not only have we been reconciled to God but we are fellowheirs in Christ.
The result of reconciliation for the believer is peace: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). Peace is the actual state of reconciliation and this is what we presently enjoy. In Colossians 1:19-21, Paul presents the great truth of universal reconciliation, demonstrating that in a coming day the whole universe, things on earth and things in heaven, will be brought into accord to the mind of God. There is no mention in Colossians 1:20 of “things under the earth” (Phil 2:10), indicating that things in the infernal realm will be subdued but will not be reconciled. We look forward and anticipate that day of universal reconciliation which will be accomplished by our glorious Savior.
Doctrinal Statements (7): Propitiation
The pagan concept of propitiation had as its background “conciliation,” trying to earn appeasement from the gods or regain their favor. These pagan gods were presented as bad tempered, capricious, and mercurial, and as such they needed to be appeased. The Biblical presentation of propitiation is quite different. Mankind is not required to present something to God to acquire His favor; there is nothing that we could do to obtain this. Through what has been accomplished by the Lord Jesus upon the cross, God has been propitiated. His holy and righteous character has been satisfied with regard to sin, and His wrath towards mankind has been appeased.
The word “propitiation” occurs in the Greek version of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint, and often referred to as the LXX. One example of this is Exodus 25:18 where it is used in place of the term “mercy seat” which we could accurately translate as the “propitiatory, or place of propitiation.”
There are six occurrences of the term propitiation in the Greek text of the New Testament. These are found in Luke 18:13, Romans 3:25, Hebrews 2:17; 9:5, 1 John 2:2 and 4:10. In Luke 18:13 and Hebrews 2:17 the verb hilaskomai is used, (Strong’s #G2433). This means “to be propitious or merciful to, or to make propitiation for”(Vine). The nounhilasterion, (Strong’s #G2435), is used in Hebrews 9:5 and signifies the “propitiatory or place of propitiation” and is used of Christ in Romans 3:25. In 1 John 2:2 and 4:10, we find the noun hilasmos, (Strong’s#G2434), meaning “expiation, a means whereby sin is covered and remitted” (Vine). In view of the satisfaction which God has received from the death of Christ it has been suggested that propitiation can be succinctly defined as “mercy from a satisfied God.”
Propitiation and Expiation
In some English translations the word “expiation” has been substituted for propitiation. Is there a distinction between these two words? The English word “expiation” is derived from the Latin word expiare, the root of which means “to make pious” and implies the removal or cleansing of sin and guilt. The object of expiation is sin, not God; one propitiates a person, and one expiates a problem. God was propitiated with regard to sin. The dimensions of the cross and what the Savior has accomplished are so significant that it includes both expiation and propitiation. A distinction should also be made between propitiation and reconciliation. Hebrews 2:17 is better translated “to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Darby). As noted in a previous article God did not need to be reconciled; however He needed to be propitiated in respect to His wrath and with regard to His claims against sin.
Propitiation: the basis of justification
Paul declares that God’s purpose in respect of propitiation has been publicly demonstrated: “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom 3:25-26). As we consider this passage it brings to mind the mercy seat or place of propitiation in the Old Testament. The Lord had indicated to Moses that the mercy seat would be the place of meeting “and there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat”(Exo 25:22). This is illustrated on the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16. On that day two goats were taken; these two goats were one sin offering (Lev 16:5). One of them was killed and its blood was taken into the presence of God and was sprinkled by the high priest on and before the mercy seat. This propitiated God. The other goat represents substitution; the iniquities and sins of the people were confessed on its head. It was then taken by the hand of a fit man and let go into a land uninhabited. If the people of Israel afflicted their souls in repentance (Lev 16:29) they came into the good of what God had accepted in this sin offering. It is important for us to understand correctly the phrase, “through faith in His blood.” If we add commas to the text the sense becomes clearer. “Whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in His blood” (ASV). The blood speaks of the sacrificial aspect of the death of Christ. It is the blood of Christ which has propitiated God and given Him full and final satisfaction with regard to sin, and is the basis on which He justifies sinners. Our faith is not in His blood; we are justified through faith in a living Savior, the Christ of God (Acts 13:38-39, Rom 10:9).
Propitiation for those in the family
The setting of 1 John is the family of God. John writes, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1John 2:1-2). Sin is never expected to be the habitual practice of the believer’s life; however we are not sinless (1John 1:8) and still have the potential to sin. Confession is required when we sin (1John 1:9) so that our communion with the Father can be restored. If we sin we have an advocate with the Father. The word “advocate” indicates “one who pleads another’s cause.” This is not dependent on the confession of our sin, as the Lord Jesus takes up our cause at the moment of our failure; interceding before the Father. The reason He can do this is because “He is the propitiation for our sins.” John indicates that the scope of propitiation is not only for those in the family, but also, provision has been made for “the whole world.”
In conclusion, through the death of Christ, God has been propitiated and His claims have been met. If we have accepted Christ by faith, having cried like the publican, “God be merciful (propitious) to me the sinner” (Luke 18:13), we too can rejoice in the words of the Savior: “This man went down to his house justified.”
Doctrinal Statements (8): Redemption
In current English usage the term “redemption” is associated with a transaction involving the release of a person or an item in exchange for some type or form of payment. This is also how the subject is presented in the Scriptures, with added dimensions which help us to grasp the concept of this important doctrine.
The subject of redemption occupies a major place in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, we learn about the redemption of people, property, animals, slaves, and also the nation of Israel. In the OT two main word groups are used to convey the idea of redemption. The first word is padah (Strong’s H6299; It has been suggested that this word is primarily used with regard to persons or the redemption of living things). The other Hebrew word is ga’al (Strong’sH1350). This word is translated in the OT as “revenger” (Num 35:19), “avenger” (Deut 19:6), and “kinsman” (Ruth 3:9). This is the word which Job used when he exclaimed, “I know that my redeemer liveth and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25). This particular word occurs over 100 times in the OT. Unger gives its meaning as “to redeem, deliver, avenge, act as a kinsman.”
Possibly the best known illustration of redemption occurs in the book of Ruth. In the fourth chapter of this book two separate OT laws converge. The law of the levirate marriage (Deut 25:5-10), and the law of the redemption of the land (Lev 25:14-17). Therefore, we are presented with teaching relating to redemption of both property and people. In Boaz we have a beautiful picture of our Lord Jesus Christ. Three things were required of a redeemer. He must be one who has the right of redemption, he must be willing and able to redeem, and he must also be free from the calamity which occasioned the need for redemption. Having taken a body, as a perfect man, Christ has the right of redemption as our “near kinsman.” He was both willing and able to redeem and because he is inherently sinless and holy He has the power to redeem those who are sold under sin (Rom 7:14).
Redemption and its power
In the New Testament there are again two main word families which convey to us the teaching of redemption. The word lutron (Strong’sG3083) and its cognates, means to “redeem to liberate or to ransom.” The other word family is agorazo (Strong’s G59). This word is derived from the word “market” and thus carries the connotation “to buy,” meaning to buy at the market or to redeem. The verb exagorazo(Strong’s G1805) is a stronger form of this word and means “to buy out of,” with the background picture being the slave market. The slave having been purchased will be set free, never to be placed into the market to be sold again. It is interesting to note that this word is used four times in the New Testament, and is the word used in Galatians 3:13 and 4:5. These passages indicate redemption from the curse and bondage of the law. Such is the power of redemption that we will never come under this curse nor are we liable to come under bondage to the law.
Redemption and its price
Peter indicates the price paid to redeem, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1Peter 1:18-19). Paul adopts similar language as he writes “In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph 1:7). As believers, we rejoice as we consider the many passages which indicate the price which was paid for our redemption: it was the blood of Jesus Christ (1John 1:7), the blood of the everlasting covenant (Heb 13:20), His own blood (Rev 1:5), the blood of His cross (Col 1:20), and as already intimated, it was “precious blood.”
Redemption and its purpose
Paul commences a section of 1 Corinthians with the words “All things are lawful unto me but all things are not expedient”(1Cor 6:12). He closes the section with the same words (1Cor 10:23). There are certain habits and practices of the world that can very easily become a habitual part of our lives and while we feel that these may be “lawful” we need to ask if they are “expedient?” Are they profitable? Paul gives the key in 1 Corinthians 6:20 and again in 7:23 that will guide us as we seek to establish what may or may not be profitable. In these two passages he writes “ye are bought with a price.” As believers, we need to remember that everything we are and have, belongs to the Lord Who has redeemed us. In light of this, we do well to remember Paul’s injunction “therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s”(1Cor 6:20).
Redemption and its pledge
As those who have been redeemed, we have received the holy Spirit which is the deposit or guarantee of future glory. Paul writes “In Whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in Whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory (Eph 1:13-14). The fact that we have received this pledge anticipates a future day of redemption for every believer (Eph 4:30).
Most who are reading this article will know that the beautiful expression “my Redeemer” does not occur in the New Testament. We are indebted to two men in the Old Testament for the use of this term: Job who we have already mentioned (Job 19:25), and David (Psa 19:14). We delight to join with them and sing
My Redeemer! O what beauties
In that lovely Name appear;
None but Jesus in His glories
Shall the honored title wear.
Thou hast my salvation wrought.
Doctrinal Statements (9): Sanctification
On the night of the Savior’s betrayal, just as He was about to face Judas and the multitude which were coming to arrest Him, the Lord Jesus prayed what has often been described as His “high priestly prayer.” He made several requests to the Father on behalf of His disciples. One of these was “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
The basic meaning of the verb “sanctify” is to separate, or to set apart. Sanctification is the action accomplished by God whereby He sets apart a person, a place, or an object for Himself. He does this so that He might accomplish His purpose in the world by means of that person, place, or thing. As we noticed when we considered justification, there is a very close link between the two doctrines. Justification is linked to my position, and although there is a positional aspect to sanctification it also links to my practice. Justification does not change me personally; this is the work of God in His sanctifying power. There are no degrees to justification. I can never become more justified. Sanctification has degrees; I can become more holy. Sanctification is a term which has both positive and negative connotations. It has often been pointed out that in the book of Hebrews, the term sanctification is linked with the word “purged,” speaking of something that has been removed (Heb 1:3). Sanctification is the positive aspect of the same truth showing that as those whose sins have been purged, we are set apart for God and fitted for His sanctuary (Heb 10:10, 19).
In the Scriptures, food (1Tim 4:5), marriage (1Cor 7:14), the temple and the altar (Matt 23:17, 19) are both spoken of as being sanctified. There are also certain things which are described as being holy, including: prophets (2Peter 3:2), women (1Peter 3:5), men (2Peter 1:21), priesthood (1Peter 2:5), and apostles (Eph 3:5).
In the New Testament sanctification is linked to the triune God. It is accomplished by God (1Thes 5:23), on the basis of the death of the Lord Jesus (Heb 13:12) and is brought about through the power of the Spirit of God (Rom 15:16). We will consider four aspects of the doctrine of sanctification as it is presented in the New Testament.
The age we are living in has correctly been described as the age of the Holy Spirit. One of His functions in this era was explained by the Lord Jesus: “He will reprove the world of sin” (John 16:8). This is what Peter speaks of when he writes, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1Peter 1:1-2). Peter makes clear that the Holy Spirit moved in such convicting power that it brought these people to the moment of obedience. They experienced salvation through appreciation of the value of the blood of the Lord Jesus. This was all in keeping with God’s foreknowledge. One of the things which should be emphasized in our gospel preaching is the reality of conviction of sin produced by the Holy Spirit. Conviction of sin is one of the features marking those who have experienced true conversion to God.
This is what the believer experiences the initial moment they trust Christ as Savior. Paul confirms this as he writes: “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1Cor 1:30). This aspect of sanctification then, is that relationship with God into which we enter through faith in Christ (Acts 26:18). This is why Paul wrote to those at Corinth as those who are “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints” (1Cor 1:2, Darby). At conversion I was washed, sanctified, and justified “in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1Cor 6:11).
While there is a positional aspect to this doctrine, it is also presented in Scripture as being something that continues. This aspect of sanctification is God’s will for the believer (1Thes 4:3) and touches all aspects of the believer’s life, including marital relationships (1Thes 4:4). Progressive sanctification is not something that is natural to us even as those who have been justified, but is something in which we continue as we are taught. This is accomplished by the Word of God (John 17:17, Psa 119:9). Paul mentions this as he writes, “for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness” (Rom 6:19). In the past we yielded ourselves to “iniquity unto iniquity” and in the context of Romans, one would think that the subject of righteousness would be emphasized – “righteousness unto righteousness.” However, it is the desire of the Spirit of God that believers be conformed not only to the character of God, righteousness, but also to the very nature of God, holiness (1Thes 3:13).
This is God’s ultimate purpose for us. We are reminded, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1John 3:2). “As He is” reminds us of One Who is righteous, pure, and sinless (1John 2:29, 3:3, 5); we shall be like Him. In Romans we learn that God’s purpose is that we should “be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29). While we will be completely changed and conformed to Him in that day, God’s purpose is that Christ will have the first place in rank, honor, and dignity “among many brethren.”
At conversion all believers are positionally sanctified, we are presently being sanctified by the power of God through His Word, and we will yet be sanctified and perfected in glory into the very image of His Son.
Doctrinal Statements (10): Adoption
Our perception of this subject is influenced by how we understand and view adoption in the twenty-first century. In our culture, adoption refers to one of two ways by which children enter a family; the second being by birth. These are mutually exclusive; if you have entered a family by birth you cannot enter by adoption and vice versa. As believers we have experienced both birth and adoption. In Scripture, each term conveys distinct spiritual teaching.
Adoption as it is presented in Scripture refers to position or being placed as sons in God’s family. In a Biblical setting the son was in marked contrast to the slaves; the son held the place of honor in the home but the slave was looked upon as being inferior. In our culture a child becomes a member of a particular family when they are adopted. Parents who adopt children confer love, care, and attention upon them. However, they are disadvantaged by the fact that they can never impart their own nature to the child they have adopted. When we were begotten by God through the “new birth” we came into God’s family and kingdom, and we were made partakers of the divine nature (2Peter 1:4). At conversion, in addition to being God’s children (John 1:12-13, Darby), we received the elevated status of those who are the “sons of God” (Rom 8:19).
The word adoption is not used in either the Hebrew or Greek translations of the Old Testament. Although the word is not used, the concept and teaching of adoption is presented there. This can be seen in a number of Old Testament contexts. In the book of Exodus the nation of Israel is spoken of as being God’s son (Exo 4:22); this is echoed in Hosea 11:1. This was a position of privilege which was not enjoyed by other nations. This same principle of sonship is also seen in the Davidic lineage and kingship (2Sam 7:14, 1Chron 28:6), through the promises which God gave concerning Solomon. Elsewhere in the Old Testament we have individuals who were adopted personally, this appears to be the case with both Moses (Exo 2:10) and Esther (Esther 2:7). If they were legally adopted it would have been according to the respective laws of Egypt and Persia.
The Greek word for adoption huiothesia (Strong’s #G5206) means to “place as a son” and is only used by Paul in the New Testament. There are five occurrences of the word in his letters which are primarily addressed to readers from a Gentile or Roman background. These five references are Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5, and Ephesians 1:5.
Our place as sons
Adoption in a Roman background did not usually involve an infant or young child, but instead took place when a child reached the age of 12 or 14. At this point his character was already developed and the traits and qualities of his personality could be identified. When he was adopted he lost all rights in his old family, but gained all the rights as a fully legitimate son in his new family. He received a new father who had the same control over him as over his biological children. It has also been suggested, that under Roman law when a boy was adopted he could never be disowned; the adoption bond could never be broken.
In all of this we can automatically see the spiritual counterpart; we have been placed as sons into God’s family not because of our character or qualities but in spite of what we were in our sins. We have received all of the rights of our new family, and have come under the rule of a new Father Who has publicly acknowledged us as His own, and has conferred on us the rights of sonship to His property and interests. The wonderful thing is that we can never be disowned, God has given to us eternal life (John 10:28).
Our privilege as sons
As those who have been placed as sons we have received the “Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom 8:15). In this context Paul is describing the character of those who are the sons of God. They mortify the deeds of the body (Rom 8:13), they are led by God’s Spirit and have a relationship with God and call Him “Abba, Father” (8:15). The Holy Spirit is a witness with their spirit that they are the “children of God.” Many have misused this passage in a supercilious way to indicate direction from God in their lives. Some have gone so far as to say, “I was led by the Spirit to make that choice.” This leading is not some directive from God so that we will know how to order our personal lives. It is indicating that those who have been placed as sons are led into a close, personal, loving relationship with God Whom they can now address in prayer as Father. The work of the Holy Spirit denotes our privilege as sons; He is a witness in the believer (1John 5:10), to the believer (Heb 10:15), and with believers (Rom 8:16).
Our prospect as sons
In Romans 8, while adoption has a present aspect it is also viewed as something that we wait for and which will be manifested in the future. Paul writes “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom 8:23). We have received the “firstfruits of the Spirit.” This means that we have received the Holy Spirit as a pledge of future glory and this is the guarantee of the redemption of our bodies.
James G. Deck captured something of this prospect when he wrote,
Abba, Father! all adore Thee,
All rejoice in heaven above,
While in us they learn the wonders
Of Thy wisdom, power, and love;
Soon before Thy throne assembled,
All Thy children shall proclaim,
Glory, everlasting glory,
Be to God and to the Lamb!
Doctrinal Statements (11): Predestination
Of all the doctrinal statements presented in the New Testament, the subjects of predestination and election are among the most confusing to believers. One of the reasons for this is that we have been conditioned by the teaching and viewpoint of Reformed Theology. We need to examine the subject as it is presented in Scripture, not in light of the writing of the church fathers or as set forth by an organized system of theology.
To understand the meaning of predestination we need to distinguish it from other Bible terms, principally election and foreknowledge.
The term election (ekloge Strong’s G1589) in the New Testament means “those who are chosen out or selected,” and is always viewed as being unto divine blessings. Paul, speaking of those of this Church age who are “chosen in Christ,” says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 1:3). As William Kelly states, election is the “choice of saints for heavenly blessedness.”
Foreknowledge (proginosko Strong’s G4267) means “to know before” and speaks to us of God’s prescience. The word is used to denote divine prescience concerning the person and work of Christ (1Peter 1:20), God’s knowledge of Israel (Rom 11:2), and of believers (Rom 8:29). It is also used of those who knew Paul and his manner of life before conversion (Acts 26:5). This is the word Peter uses to warn believers to be prepared beforehand for the error which will be presented by false teachers (2Peter 3:17).
Predestination (proorizo, Strong’s G4309) is distinct from both election and foreknowledge, and is derived from two Greek words pro, meaning “before,” and horizo, meaning “to mark out a limit.” Thus the word carries the idea of something beforehand and something at the end or termination. Predestination is God marking out a limit, boundary, or terminus in advance. Our English word is derived from the Latinpraedestino, which was used by the translators of the Latin Vulgate. The Greek word occurs six times in the New Testament (Acts 4:28, Rom 8:29, 30, 1Cor 2:7, Eph 1:5, 11).
The length of this article limits the extent to which we can deal with the references from Acts 4:28 and 1 Corinthians 2:7. The passage in Acts makes it clear that even though the political and religious powers were responsible for the crucifixion of Christ, it was God in His divine counsel Who had determined beforehand the death of our beloved Lord. The purpose of God can also be seen in 1 Corinthians 2:7. God determined the epoch in which His wisdom would be known, He marked out this boundary before all the ages.
When considering the subject of predestination, our first response is to ask “who will be predestinated?” A careful consideration of the other three passages of Scripture shows that the emphasis in predestination is not on persons, but to that to which they are predestined. W. E. Vine, commenting on the distinction between foreknowledge and predestination, writes: “Foreknowledge has special reference to the persons foreknown by God; predestination has special reference to that to which the subjects of His foreknowledge are predestinated.”
As we consider these three important passages we learn that to which God has predestinated us. We are predestinated unto the position of sons. Paul states, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself” (Eph 1:5, NASB). As we read the letter to the Ephesians we are reminded that we were “sons of disobedience”(Eph 2:2, NASB). When the New Testament uses the word “sons” it is emphasizing character. We were once marked by disobedience as we served sin and Satan. God has marked out that those who have trusted Christ will be placed as His sons; what honor and dignity is ours.
The same chapter indicates that our position as sons marks us out for an inheritance: “In Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph 1:11). Our position “in Christ” links us to an eternal inheritance. Once we had only hell and the lake of fire as our portion. The purpose of predestination is that we will be “to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:14).
Paul also reminds us, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29). Those who are being referred to in this text are “them that love God.” God has marked out or determined the boundaries for these people, He has purposed that they will be conformed to the image of His Son. John Nelson Darby caught the spirit of the passage in his beautiful hymn,
And is it so? we shall be like Thy Son!
Is this the grace which He for us has won?
Father of glory, thought beyond all thought,
In glory, to His own blest likeness brought.
O Jesus Lord, who loved us like to Thee?
Fruit of Thy work, with Thee, too, there to see
Thy glory, Lord, while endless ages roll,
Thy saints the prize and travail of Thy soul.
God’s ultimate purpose is that His Son will be first in rank, honor, and dignity, as firstborn among many brethren.
Schools of Systematic Theology present the subject of predestination as being the divine decree of God marking out particular people unto salvation and eternal life. Those who are not the subjects of this electing choice are predestinated to everlasting punishment. As we have already considered, this is not how the Bible presents this doctrine. The Biblical portrayal of predestination has nothing to do with sinners and eternal life. It has, rather, to do with God’s purpose of future blessings for those who are His saints. God has marked out that those who accept Christ by faith will be placed as His sons; as such we are heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17), and will ultimately bear the image of the heavenly (1Cor 15:49).