What follows are two articles designed to demonstrate that prophetic events happen as and when God says they will because He has sovereignly foreordained them to take place through the decsions of men – through hardening or openning the heart. The first article is given by me and mainly addresses God’s foreordination and omniscience in the fulfillment of prophecy (with emphasis on the Great Commission in 2 Peter 3:9 and Mark 13:10, 30). The second article is given by Michael Grace which was an article/post on the SGP web site — as he meditates upon reading Gordon Clark on the subject. Enjoy!
THE FAILED REDEMPTION OF ARMINIANISM, DISPENSATIONALISM AND A FUTURISTIC CALVINISM
BY: MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN
“Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure,'” (Isaiah 46:10).
Does God simply react to the “free will” decsions of man? Or are prophetic events fulfilled becasue God has foreordained all things to come to pass as and when He wills them to take place? It is my proposition that God knows what the future is BECAUSE He has ordained and sovereignly planned what will take place in the hearts and minds of men and women – either hardening or openning the heart.
“The manner in which God knows all things, is incomprehensible by us; we can say but little of it, ‘such knowledge is too wonderful for us’, Ps 139:6 we can better say in what manner he does not know, than in what he does: he does not know things by revelation, by instruction, and communication from another; or any way by which men come at the knowledge of things from others; for ‘shall any teach God knowledge?’ or ‘who has taught him?’ #Job 21:22 Isa 40:13,14 all things were known to God from eternity, when there were none in being to inform him of anything: besides, to suppose this, is not only contrary to his eternity but to his independency; for this would make him beholden to, and dependent on another, for his knowledge; whereas ‘all things are of him, for him, and through him’. Nor is his knowledge attained by reasoning, discoursing, and inferring one thing from another, as man’s is; who not only apprehends simple ideas, but joins and compounds them, and infers other things from them; but then this implies some degree of prior ignorance; or at best, imperfect knowledge, till the premises are clear, and the conclusion formed; which is not to be said of God: and this method of knowledge would be contrary to the simplicity of his nature, which admits of no composition, as well as to his perfection: nor does he know things by succession, one after another; for then it could not be said, that ‘all things are naked and open to him’; only some at one time, and some at another; which would also argue ignorance of some things, in one instant and another; and imperfection of knowledge; and would be contrary to his immutability, since every accession of knowledge would make an alteration in him; whereas with him ‘there is no variableness’; he sees and knows all things at once and, together, in one eternal view. In a word, he knows all things in himself, in his own essence and nature; he knows all things possible in his power, and all that he wills to do in his will, and all creatures in himself, as the first cause of them; in whose vast and eternal mind are all the original ideas of them; so that the knowledge of God is essential to him, it is his nature and essence…” (John Gill, A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, p. 778 Online Bible software).
OMNISCIENCE, FOREKNOWLEDGE, AND FOREORDINATION
God knows all things (He is omniscient) because He is the Sovereign creator of all things and has the power (omnipotence) to execute His predetermined will (foreordination and predestination) over His creation. The actions of created men do not take place because they are merely foreseen by God to be events certain to take place, but rather they are foreseen to be certain in God’s eternal omniscience because they are willed or foreordained by Him to take place. It is His all-sufficient will and His power to execute that will that makes His eternal knowledge exhaustive. Prophetic events both good and evil are sure to take place because God had determined them to be so. The fact that God knows all things implies certainty, and certainty implies foreordination. Stephen Charnock correctly stated, “As God sees things possible in the glass of his own power, so he sees things future in the glass of his own will.” (Stephen Charnock, “The Existence and Attributes of God” Vol.1, p. 433).
“The Arminian doctrine, in rejecting foreordination, rejects the theistic basis for foreknowledge. Common sense tells us that no event can be foreknown unless by some means, either physical or mental, it has been predetermined. Our choice as to what determines the certainty of future events narrows down to two alternatives – the foreordination of the wise and merciful heavenly Father [which is the teaching of Scripture], or the working of blind, physical fate [humanism].” [parentheses MJS] (Loraine Boettner, “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, P&R Publications, p. 42).
“Some [Arminians] have gone so far as to tell us plainly that men had better reject foreknowledge than admit Predestination. Others have suggested that God may voluntarily neglect to know some of the acts of men in order to leave them free; but his of course destroys the omniscience of God. Still others have suggested that God’s omniscience may imply only that He can know all things, if He chooses, – just as His omnipotence implies that He can do all things, if He chooses. But the comparison will not hold, for these certain acts are not merely possibilities but realities, although yet future; and to ascribe ignorance to God concerning these is to deny Him the attribute of omniscience. This explanation would give us the absurdity of an omniscience that is not omniscient.” (Boettner, ibid, p. 43).
“Since God’s foreknowledge is complete, He knows the destiny of every person, not merely before the person has made his choice in this life, but from eternity. And since He knows their destiny before they are created, and then proceeds to create, it is plain that the saved and the lost alike fulfill His plan for them; for if He did not plan that any particular ones should be lost, He could at least refrain from creating them. We conclude, then, that the Christian doctrine of the Foreknowledge of God proves also His Predestination. Since these events are foreknown, they are fixed and settled things; and nothing can have fixed and settled them except the good pleasure of God, – the great first cause, – freely and unchangeably foreordaining whatever comes to pass. The whole difficulty lies in the acts of free agents being certain; yet certainty is required for foreknowledge as well as for foreordination. The Arminian arguments, if valid, would disprove both foreknowledge and foreordination. And since they prove too much we conclude that they prove nothing at all.” (Boettner, ibid. p. 46).
Speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 as an illustration that God takes pleasure in even His judgments, Gordon Clark wrote, “the fulfillment of any one prophecy requires control of the whole universe, lest something prevent its occurrence. When then God says, My counsel shall stand, he asserts omniscient control. This is his pleasure. He has arranged things so. He did not merely look ahead and see what would happen independently of him. Nothing is independent of him. He created all things. Thus the course of history from the past on to the things that are not yet done are parts of God’s plan; and God, declaring the end from the beginning, says, my counsel, my plan, my decree shall stand, and I shall do all my pleasure. Nothing that God wants done is left undone. If God had not wanted Jerusalem destroyed, he would have prevented it. Clearly he wanted it destroyed.” (Gordon H. Clark, “Predestination”, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., pp.50-51).
Clark also correctly stated, “If God did not determine them [‘them’ being sinful acts of men], then there must be in the universe a determining force independent of God. You can escape this conclusion simply by denying that God knows all things. This simple escape is simply an escape from God and the Bible.” (Clark, ibid. p. 45). Let’s take a look at the “escape from God and the Bible” that Arminians make.
ARMINIANISM AND GOD’S OMNISCIENCE
“Decisions not yet made do not exist anywhere to be known even by God. They are potential-yet to be realized but not yet actual. God can predict a great deal of what we will choose to do, but not all of it, because some of it remains hidden in the mystery of human freedom.” (Clark Pinnock, “A Case for Arminianism”, Zondervan Publishing House, p. 25). This is the conclusion of the Arminian view.
The Arminian will not bow to God’s sovereignty in His predestinating and foreordaining some men to salvation and ordaining others to judgment. In his rebellion to defend his “free will”, he is forced to deny not only God’s sovereignty but others of His attributes such as His omniscience. This is not a Scriptural view, nor is it a Christian one.
DISPENSATIONALISM AND RICHARD PRATT
Dispensationalists teach that Jesus was offering a literal nationalistic kingdom on earth. As the theory goes, He postponed the kingdom. Of course NO WHERE in the Gospel’s does Jesus mention He was offering a literal earthly kingdom but these men are bent on such a carnally minded “hope.” We read just the opposite of what dispensationalism reads into the teachings of Jesus, for He clearly taught concerning the kingdom of spiritual water, bread, that His Kingdom is NOT of this world, that it is “in” and “within” an individual etc. (John 4-6, 7, 18). Nothing of a postponed kingdom either! The rejection of Jesus by the first century Jews was God’s means of ordaining the establishment of the kingdom hardly postponing it!
Richard Pratt has essentially denied the sovereignty of God by regurgitating dispensational postponement views claiming the Second Coming was genuinely near in the first cetury but it allegedly got postponed because not enough people from the covenant community repented (in When Shall These Things Be?). No such teaching exists anywhere in the N.T.! The kindom was established within Jesus’ “this generation” time frame when He returned in A.D. 70 (Luke 21:20-32; Mark 8:38-9:1).
GOD’S WILL THAT NONE SHOULD PERISH AND THE GREAT COMMISSION “MUST” BE FULFILLED BY JESUS’ “THIS GENERATION” – 2 PETER 3:9 AND MARK 13:10, 30.
The 2 Peter 3 text is very clear that God was not willing (Greek Boulomai) that His elect (in context, the “beloved” Jewish and Gentile) “any” and “all” should perish. This is the strongest word in the Greek language to communicate the determinative will of God. Peter’s theology is consistent–God would not delay or be slow nor was His decretive will to save and judge sinners in an “at hand” “ready” “be saved from this crooked and perverse generation” time frame–to be postponed! Everything was going as planned and decreed by God! To argue any other way is to align oneself with the mockers of Peter’s day, deny inspiration, adopt a liberal view of interpreting Scripture, and deny ones own Calvinism—selah. Peter goes on to say that God’s longsuffering was “salvation.” None of God’s elect that He had sovereignly foreordained unto eternal life “perished” or were “appointed to wrath” in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D.70. To be an Arminian preterist and teach otherwise is to teach God failed and continues to fail in His redemptive purposes and essentially is to deny ones preterism—selah. This is a fundamental flaw to the “sovereignty” of God arguments that Don Preston uses against futurists who postpone Christ’s kingdom plans either in His first or Second Coming, as God “altering” His kingdom plans. Don states, “His Son would not fail! IF YOUR THEOLOGY SAYS THAT GOD FAILED, YOU NEED TO CHANGE YOUR THEOLOGY!”
And yet Don gives the following propostions in his book on 2 Peter 3 and based upon an Arminian theology is forced in teaching: 1) Christ died potentially for the entire race, 2) it is God’s sovereign will to save them, BUT 3) their “free will” “alters” God’s redemptive will and plans! As much respenct as I have for Don, I believe he needs to be consistent in his sovereignty of God arguments within his preterist beliefs, and become a Calvinist, or be consistent in his Arminianism and become a Universalist like Max King. If Christ died for all mankind and it is His will to save all of them then as Don says, “your theology says that God failed, and you need to change your theology!” If Christ saved believers and it was His will that they not perish then or today (pre or post A.D. 70), but some did and continue today to loose eternal life in the new-covenant age to come, then as Don says, “your theology says that God failed, and you need to change your theology!” Its really that simple. http://treeoflifeministries.info/index.php?view=article&catid=3…
Don in the past has made some good comments on Jesus’ command, “And the gospel MUST first be published among all nations.” (Mark 13:10). But let’s take a good look at the definition here of dei – “necessity established by the counsel and decree of God, especially by that purpose of his which relates to the salvation of men by the intervention of Christ and which is disclosed in the Old Testament prophecies.” The prophecy of the Great Commission could not be fulfilled according to the “counsel” “decree” and “purpose” of God without Him determining the rejection and acceptance in each individual response to that gospel proclamation! It was to be fulfilled within a determined specific generation AD 30-70, among very real individuals fulfilling prophecy – Judas and say Paul. The cross would never have come about without God decreeing and planning Judas rejection and the GC could never have been fulfilled unless the conversion of Paul took place – “WHEN IT PLEASED GOD to reveal His Son in me…”
It is much more than just understanding that God decreed the Great Commission and that nothing would stop it being fulfilled by AD 70. We must bow before a sovereign God in understanding God determines Human decisions as a necessary element FOR PROPHECY (such as the Great Commission) TO BE FULFILLED. It is simply not enough to say that God foresees what will happen and THEN He makes a plan around what man will or will not do.
God determines Human decisions — NECESSARY FOR PROPHECY TO BE FULFILLED
From PREDESTINATION by Gordon H. Clark
The material above shows clearly that God plans, decrees, and controls all events.The world goes on just as God pleases.This general principle is logically sufficient to justify predestination. But emphasis on one type of event seems psychologically required. The trouble is that some people concede that God controls large historical trends and yet at the same time fail to understand that this requires control of human decisions.This illogical quirk leads these people to deny that
God decrees and causes each individual choice.
But the Bible is not only explicit; its examples are numerous. First, some Old Testament verses will be quoted.
Deuteronomy 2:30 says,
“Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into your hand.”
But wait a minute. Someone, reading over the previous verses, might wish to remark that God does not cause the events there referred to, but that he merely permits them to happen. Such a remark ignores God’s omnipotence and sovereignty. It presupposes that there is some force in the universe independent of God; no doubt God could counteract this force, but he does not; and the force or agent causes some event entirely apart from God’s causation.
Now, it is true that Daniel 11:36 does not say explicitly that it was God who determined what should be done.Yet who else could?
It is also true that Isaiah does not say explicitly that God does everything: Isaiah merely says God does everything he wants to. So also, when Job 23:13-14 say that
“the Lord performs the thing that is appointed for me,”
there is no explicit assertion that God appoints and does everything for everybody. But how could it be otherwise, if the verses are to fit into the general argument of their context?
What troubles certain Christians is the idea that God causes evil events. Some Christians even want to withdraw some good events from God’s power.When Dr. Billy Graham preached in Indanapolis, I went to hear him.Toward the end of the service he asked people to come forward and a crowd came.With them before him evangelist Graham addressed the large audience still in their seats and delivered a five or ten-minute diatribe against presbyterianism. Don’t pray for these people who have come forward, he said.You may have prayed for them before, and that is good.You can pray for them later on, and that will be good too. But right now prayer is useless, for not even God can help them. They must accept Christ of their own free will, all by themselves, and God has no power over the will of man. Of course, this is full-fledged Arminianism.
But most Christians are more perturbed about God’s causing evil events. The first verse of this subsection says explicitly that God hardened the heart of Sihon, King of Heshbon. Perhaps Pharaoh should have been used for this point. When Pharaoh is mentioned, some people grudgingly admit that the Bible says God hardened his heart, but make the quick comeback that the Bible also says Pharaoh hardened his own heart.This, however, is not very effective as a comeback. Admittedly God often acts through human instrumentalities.The important question, therefore, is whether or not God is the cause of these instruments.
Now, in the book of Exodus the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is mentioned eighteen times, plus one more verse that applies to the Egyptians in general. Exodus 421; 7:3,13; 9: 12; 10: I, 20,27; I I: 10; 14:4, 8 all say that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.The extra verse says the Lord hardened the hearts of the Egyptians (Exodus 14: 17). This is eleven times out of nineteen. In Exodus 7: 14,22; 8: I 9; 9:7,35 no explicit mention of who hardened Pharaoh’s heart is made.This is five times. The other verses, three in number, 8:15,32 and 9:34, say that Pharaoh hardened his heart.Who then, in the face of eleven statements that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, can deny that God is the cause of this hardening? Not only is this statement made three times as often; but it is made three times before the other statement is made even once. After all, who runs Egyptian affairs, Pharaoh or God?
Naturally Pharaoh also hardened his own heart, for God often uses human instrumentalities in certain situations. But the ultimate, original, and first cause is God.
Now, after this digression on the parallel case of Pharaoh, we can return to the less-well-known case of Sihon, King of Heshbon, whose spirit the Lord made obstinate for the purpose of delivering him into the hands of Moses. We can indeed return to the verse, Deutevonomy 2:30, but we can hardly say anything further, except that there is no statement that Sihon hardened his own heart.The immediate conclusion, therefore, is that the hardening ofhuman hearts is within the scope of divine activity.
Later on in the Bible 1 Samuel 16:14 says,
“But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.”
This verse indicates that Saul’s previous policies, victories, and successes in unifying Israel had been accomplished through the Spirit of the Lord. The Holy Spirit had given him wisdom and strength. Now the Holy Spirit leaves Saul. At the moment no inquiry will be made into the question whether Saul had been regenerate and was from this point on unregenerate. The Holy Spirit may dwell with a man, especially a divinely selected King of Israel, with several results.What is clear here is that the Lord sent a spirit to Saul to trouble or terrify him.
That this is not an altogether singular occurrence will be seen in the next passage. In 1 Kings 22:20-23 the inspired author writes,
“The Lord said,Who shall persuade Ahab that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead.. ..
And there came forth a spirit and stood before the Lord and said, I will persuade him.. . . I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he [the Lord] said,You shall persuade him and prevail also: Go forth and do so.”
This passage asserts that the Lord wanted Ahab to attack Ramoth-Gilead and be killed there. Ahab himself also wanted to attack Ramoth, for he expected to capture it from the Syrians. All the false prophets, knowing the king’s desire, told him what he wanted to hear and prophesied success. Jehoshaphat, however, the King ofJudah, who was to accompany him in battle, wanted a prophecy from the Lord. Micaiah, a true prophet, but a man Ahab hated, was found and brought.
First Micaiah agrees with the false prophets – perhaps half-heartedly or in some way disclaiming responsibility. His manner was evident for the king said,”How many times shall I adjure you that you speak unto me nothing but the truth in the name ofJehovah?” Being thus put under oath, Micaiah predicted death for Ahab. Micaiah even told Ahab that God had sent an evil spirit to him to entice him to his death. In spite of such plain speech, Ahab attacked Ramoth-Gilead and was killed, for Ahab could not resist the lying spirit whom God sent. Ahab could not resist because God had decreed,”You shall persuade him and prevail also. In the sequel God directed the flight of an unaimed arrow to the aperture in the joints of AhabS armor, and he died. Now, note, it was as easy for God to control Ahab’s decision as it was to control the unaimed arrow.
It is most probable that some persons, reading all this, will deny that the Bible says any such things; or they may, after checking in the Bible to see that the quotations made here are accurate, complain that these remarks give a very one-sided and hence distorted view of what God does.
The first group of people are those who think that because they are Christians (of some sort), anything they believe must be sound Christian doctrine simply because they believe it. They believe, for what reason it is hard to say, that God is not the first and ultimate cause of all things because he just cannot be the cause of evil.This point of view is, of course, utterly Antichristian; the Bible contradicts it from cover to cover; and their profession of faith is no reason for supposing that their beliefs are Biblical.
The second group of people are better informed.They have read the Bible and at least grudgingly admit that God is the cause of everything. But they complain that the material here covered is one-sided and therefore constitutes a distortion of the Biblical position.This complaint has indeed a certain initial merit. It is true that the material of this chapter is one-sided. Whether it is therefore a distortion or not is a different question. In whatever way any book begins to explain any subject, its opening argument must be one-sided, for the simple reason that all sides cannot be printed on the same page.The side that has been given in the last several pages is the side that most needs to be given.
No noticeable group of people who believe in God at all denies that God causes good events, even if some deny that God causes all good events.The popular and widespread misunderstanding of the Bible consists in denying that God causes evil events. Therefore, this fact must first be established by numerous examples from all parts of Scripture. This is not where the matter will be left. If the account of predestination stopped here, one could rightly say that it was not only one-sided but also distorted.The culminating and most immediate object of predestination is the salvation of believers. Faith is the gift of God, and God chooses, elects, or predestinates those to whom he will give faith.This idea, and its concomitants, will not be omitted from this explanation of predestination.And then it will be seen that the whole is not so one-sided after all.
Nevertheless, in order that the happy side be properly understood and not misconceived in an un-Biblical background, the present series of verses must continue a little longer.The aim is to show that God causes all things – all bad things and all good things.
The next verse is 2 Chronicles 25:16, which says,
“Then the prophet forebare and said, I know that God has determined to destroy you.”
The prophet had just been upbraiding King Amaziah for his idolatry. The King said he had heard enough, and if the prophet did not want to be beaten up, he should keep quiet. So the prophet ended his speaking with the statement, “I know that God has determined to destroy you.”
The next instance of God’s determining and causative activity is not necessarily a causation of evil. It is a collection of events, some of which may be evil and some good.The verse is Job 14:5, which says,
“His days are determined; the number of his months are with you; you have appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.”
This verse refers to the life span of every person. “Man that is born of a woman is of few days.. . .” How long a man lives, the number of his months, is decided by God. If God has decided that Moses or Joe Doaks should live fifty-nine years, three months, and eleven days, that is it.That is the boundary or limit beyond which he cannot pass.
AfterJob comes Psalms, and Psalm 102.25 :says,
“He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtly with his servants.”
This is a reiteration of what was found in Exodus, and it brings us back to the title of this
subsection.The subsection has really been aiming at two slightly different things. The main one is that God determines the choices that men make. But since men often make evil choices, some attention has also been given to the fact that God causes evil. Here the evil thing is a human choice. The Psalmist is referring to the Egyptians whom the Lord, years after the death of Joseph, caused to hate the Israelites. Hatred is a mental state, a choice, possibly an emotion. It is not merely, mainly, or even at all an overt action. It may result in overt actions, but the hatred itself is entirely mental.This mentality is what God caused in the Egyptians. God made them think that way.The verse says plainly that God turned their heart to hate his people.
Although evil and hatred have received some emphasis in this discussion, for this is what many people miss when they read the Bible, God also causes good decisions, even turning hatred to favor. For
“the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked” (Exodus 12:36).
Here God completely altered and reconstructed the mental attitude of the Egyptians. Obviously he controls what people think.
The next verse contains a little puzzle that need not now be solved, for one of the points remains unaffected.. Proverbs 16:1 says,
“The preparations of the heart in man and the answer of the tongue is from the
The American Revised Version, the French, and German translations have it: “The plans of the heart belong to man; but the answer of the tongue is from Jehovah.”At first sight the KingJames translation makes excellent sense, and it fits in perfectly with the course of the present argument.Thus the verse would mean that the Lord controls both what a man thinks and what he says. However, because there is a question about the translation, it would be unwise to select one that is alternative simply because it fits the present argument so well.The present argument is so abundantly buttressed that it does not need a doubtful support. The other translation might seem to say that regardless of what a man thinks on his own initiative, God controls the words he speaks; so that he may intend to deny a request for a loan, but finds himself granting it in speech.This surely cannot be what the verse means; but whatever the whole meaning may be, the idea is included that God controls what a man says.
The next verse again is not specifically a case of evil, but either good or evil as circumstances indicate. It is, however, a specific assertion that God controls men’s thoughts. Proverbs 21: I says,
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord as the rivers of waters: He turns it whithersoever
This verse states the general principle, and a particular example is found in Ezra 7:6, “And the king [of Persia] granted him [Ezra] all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him.” God controls all governmental policies and decisions. Not only did God cause
Pharaoh to hate the Israelites, he caused Cyrus to send the captives back to build Jerusalem. He also caused Adolph Hitler to march into Russia, and he caused Lyndon Johnson to escalate a war inVietnam. God turns the mind of a ruler in whatever direction he wants.
If now we have hesitated to say that Proverbs 16:1 asserts that God controls a man’s thoughts as well as his speech, Proverbs 21:1 says so clearly. God controls the thoughts, plans, and decisions of men. Next is Isaiah 19: 17, which says,
“And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt.. .because of the counsel of the Lord of hosts, which he has determined against it.”
There is nothing particularly new in this verse; it is just one more that attributes to God the determination to bring trouble upon a nation.
Jeremialh 13: 13-14 are similar but fuller:
“Thus says the Lord, Behold I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the lungs that sit upon David’s throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with drunkenness. And I will dash them one against another.”
Here the destruction determined is not directed against a nation merely mentioned by name and in general, but specifically against individuals. God will fill these persons with drunkenness and dash them one against another.
To conclude this series of verses in the Old Testament, it is appropriate to quote Lamentations 3:38:
“Out of the mouth of the most high proceeds not evil and good?”
Here Jeremiah confronts the objector who thinks that God sends good only and not evil.This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the divine nature and activity. God is the original cause of everything. Out of his mouth proceed both good and evil.
It is now time to turn to the New Testament, and once again a series of verses will be selected, beginning in Matthew and going toward the end. With the exception of the first verse, they all contain the word and the idea of determination.
The first verse contains the idea but not the word itself. Matthew 26:53-54 read,
“Do you think that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently [immediately] give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?””
Thus it must be” are the important words. Jesus had just been betrayed. Peter, so we learn from John, drew his sword and cut off the ear of a servant.Then Jesus rebuked Peter and told him that he, Jesus, could summon twelve legions of angels; but if he did so, how could the Scriptures be fulfilled which said,Thus it nust be?The word tlius includes the betrayal by Judas, the arrest, and by implication the trials and the crucifixion.These things had to be as they occurred.
One should think carefully about the implications of prophecy with reference to the extent of God’s causative activity. It is not the act prophesied that alone in its individuality is fixed and determined by God’s decree. All the details that preceded the event and made it both possible and actual had to be included, for otherwise the event would not have happened. Judas was chosen for his reprehensible role, but in anticipation Judas’ parents had to be chosen. Does anyone think that God could have chosen Judas and could have prophesied that thus it must be, without knowing who Judas’ parents were to be? If thus it must be, then it was determined that the high priest should employ a certain man as a servant and send him out that night.The man could not have fallen sick in the afternoon and taken to bed, for it must be thus.At the same time Jesus chided the officers.Why did they come upon him at night with a traitor? Could they not have arrested him in the daytime when he was teaching openly in the temple? This, of course, indicates the cowardly character of the priests, but the priests were cowards and the officers came at night and “all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”
The next six verses all contain, at least in Greek, the word determine. They each indicate some aspect of God’s determination.
Luke 22:22 says,
“The Son of man goes, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!”
This verse is Christ’s prediction, while still seated at the table in the upper room, that Judas was about to betray him.To be noted is the fact that what was about to happen had been determined. It was not Judas who determined what was to happen. Judas no doubt intended to betray Christ, but he might have failed. It was not he who controlled all the circumstances.
Only God can determine the future. God determined how the Son of man should go.
Similarly the next verse, Acts 2:23, says,
“Him being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.”
The verse is similar in thought, but more explicit. In the preceding verse it was necessary to conclude that the determining power was God by eliminating every other possibility. Here not only is God explicitly mentioned, but there is added emphasis in the words “determinate counsel and foreknowledge.”
This indicates deliberate planning. As this event, the death of Christ, was foreordained, so too every event is foreordained because God is omniscient; and no detail, not even the number of hairs on one’s head, escapes his foreknowledge and deliberate counsel. Everything is a part of his plan. Of everything God says, “Thus it must be.”
Perhaps the most explicit and most emphatic verse along these lines is Acts 428. Acts 4:27-28 read,
“For of a truth against your holy child Jesus, whom you have anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, in order
to do whatsoever your hand and your counsel determined before to be done.”
Note the amount of particular detail in this passage. The context of the two verses is a spontaneous prayer on the part of a company of believers to whom Peter and John reported their experience with the Sadducees.The people thank God for the deliverance of the apostles. They glorify God as creator.They acknowledge that he spoke through David concerning the enmity of the heathen against God. And they particularize this enmity in the recent crucifixion of Christ.”Of a truth,” they say in their prayer,”in this city” (a phrase omitted in the King James Version), “against your holy servant Jesus” (servant, rather than child, in reference to Isaiah 42: I; 43 : 10; 52: 13, and similar verses) “whom you have anointed” and set apart for a specific purpose,”Herod and Pontius Pilate came together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel to do whatever your hand and your counsel foreordained to happen.”
Here it says in the one word “whatever” that God foreordained or predetermined the crucifixion of Christ with all its attendant circumstances. Explicitly mentioned circumstances were the two men, Herod and Pontius Pilate.
One cannot suppose that God from all eternity foreordained the crucifixion to happen on a certain date – the fulness of time, not when his hour had not yet come (John 7:30,8:20), but only when his hour had come (John 13: I, 17: I) – and then hoped that someone would turn up to crucify Christ. Quite the contrary, Herod and Pontius Pilate were individually included in the eternal plan; and because they were so foreordained they came together to do whatever God had before decided.
The word is “foreordained” or “predetermined.” Must not they who say that God does not foreordain evil acts now hang their heads in shame?
The idea that a man can decide what he will do, as Pilate decided what to do with Jesus, without that decision’s being eternally controlled and determined by God makes nonsense of the whole Bible.
Verses enough have now been cited, but, to make the array more massive, a few verses of lesser importance will be added. Ads 10:42 gives another instance of God’s determining decision.The verse says,
“It is he (Jesus] which was ordained of God to be the Judge of living and dead.”
No comment is needed.
The next passage is Acts 17:24-26, which says,
“God.. .has determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation.”
One is more impressed by the force of this verse if one has studied the wanderings of peoples. Most high-school students know of the invasions from Asia which swept over Europe around the seventh and eighth centuries. They may also remember the barbarian invasions during which Rome was sacked in A.D. 410. Later the Normans invaded France, and the Angles invaded England. It is also said that the inhabitants of France or Gaul emigrated to Galatia. And why is it that Lithuanian peasants can understand simple sentences in Sanscrit? Though it may take careful scholarship and long research to trace the paths of these migrations and to fix their dates, the cause of them all, in date, in geographical limit, and in the human decisions that initiated these movements, is the decree of God.
It is God who decided which peoples should move, when they should move, and precisely where they should choose to stop moving. Let these verses suffice for the moment.