Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:3–14; ESV).
The historic Christian doctrine of predestination (election and reprobation) have long been controversial. In the ninth century, Gottschalk was beaten and confined to his monastery for daring to repeat what Augustine had written against the Pelagians and semi-Pelagians. Today, the same thing happens figuratively to evangelicals who stumble upon the ancient (e.g., Ignatius of Antioch, Augustine), medieval (e.g., Gottschalk, Aquinas), Reformation (e.g., Luther, Zwingli, Melanchthon, Calvin, Bucer, et al), and post-Reformation doctrines of election and reprobation (predestination). In an age when Pelagianism is practically the reigning orthodoxy among modern Evangelicals, the doctrine of predestination can seem shocking and yet it is the teaching of Scripture and an ecumenical doctrine. The Council of Ephesus (AD 431) condemned Pelagianism as heresy against the universal (ecumenical, catholic) faith. The Second Council of Orange (AD 529) denounced the Pelagians as heretics.
They confessed that because Scripture teaches that God has, from all eternity, elected some and reprobated others. In Ephesians 1, Paul teaches predestination. We were “chosen” (ἐξελέξατο) in Christ, “from the foundation of the world.” In both vv. 5 and 11 we are said to have been “predestined” (προορίσας in v. 5 and προορισθέντες in v. 11). So, that seems rather clear. There is no indication in this text that our election or predestination was conditioned upon anything God foresaw in us. The indication from the text is that God chose us “in Christ” and “in love” from all eternity unconditionally.
Romans 9:11–13 really nails this point:
…though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (ESV)
Election (as distinct from reprobation) is said here to be unconditioned by anything in Jacob. God elects fallen, sinful creatures. What sort of creatures? Fallen creatures. As Augustine, said, God elect us out of a “lump of sin.” Paul said that, after the fall, we were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1).
Election is a marvelous doctrine, confessed by the ancient fathers and by the Reformed churches today.
- How Did We Come To Faith?
- Heidelminicast: Belgic Confession Art. 16—The Doctrine Of Election
- Canons Of Dort (8): There Is Only One Kind Of Election
- The Synod Of Dort On Election, Conditions Of Salvation, And Fruit (1)
- The Synod Of Dort On Election, Conditions Of Salvation, And Fruit (2)
- The Green Lantern v Paul on Election
- Grace And Election In The Late 90s AD
- Calvin on Covenant and Election
- Thomas and Rome on Predestination
- Canons Of Dort (11): The Doctrine Of Predestination Is Edifying And Should Be Taught Wisely
- Canons Of Dort (13): The Doctrine Of Predestination Is A Mystery
- Does Covenant Theology Change Our Doctrine Of Predestination?
- John Owen’s Judgment On Amyraut’s Brief Treatise On Predestination
- Vermigli On The Causal Relations Among Predestination, Vocation, Justification, And Good Works
- Arminius’ Claims About The Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism On Predestination
- New in Print: Calvin’s Doctrine of Predestination
- Resources On Romans
- Augustine, Four Anti-Pelagian Writings. The Fathers of the Church, V. 86. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1992.
- Boettner, Loraine. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub, 1932.
- Calvin, John. Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God. London: J. Clarke, 1961.
- Calvin, Jean. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Edited by John T McNeill. Translated by Ford Lewis Battles. The Library of Christian Classics, V. 20-21. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961. See book 3.
- Gottschalk. Gottschalk and a Medieval Predestination Controversy: Texts Translated from the Latin. Mediæval Philosophical Texts in Translation, No. 47. Milwaukee, Wis.: Marquette University Press, 2010.
- Jansenius, Cornelius. The Predestination of Humans and Angels: Augustinus, Tome Iii, Book Ix. Translated by Guido Stucco. Early Modern Catholic Sources, Volume 4. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2022.
- Klooster, Fred H. Calvin’s Doctrine of Predestination. 2d ed. Baker Biblical Monograph. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977.
- Luther, Martin. Martin Luther on the Bondage of the Will: A New Translation of De Servo Arbitrio (1525) Martin Luther’s Reply to Erasmus of Rotterdam. Westwood, N.J: Revell, 1957.
- Peterson, Robert A. Election and Free Will: God’s Gracious Choice and Our Responsibility. Explorations in Biblical Theology. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub, 2007.
- Phillips, Richard D. What Are Election and Predestination? Basics of the Reformed Faith. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub, 2006.
- Perkins, William. Golden Chain in The Works of William Perkins. Vol. 2. Edited by Joel R Beeke and Derek Thomas. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014.
- Pol, Frank van der, ed. The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective: Historical and Theological Investigations of the Synod of Dordt 1618–1619. Refo500 Academic Studies, Volume 51. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2019.
- Venema, Cornelis. Chosen in Christ: Revisiting the Contours of Predestination. Reformed, Exegetical and Doctrinal Studies. Fearn, Ross-shire: Mentor, 2019.
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