Skip to content

On Predestination, Double Predestination and Limited Atonement

June 24, 2016

The word προορίζω proorizó “predetermine was used no less than six times in the New Testament (cf. Acts 4:28; Romans 8:29, 30; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:5, 11). The term was comprised of the preposition (πρό) “before” and (ὁρίζω) horizó to which the English word “horizon” was derived. Therefore, προορίζω literally means “before horizons.” The word ὁρίζω as a verb means “I define, determine, appoint, decree, I separate, mark off by boundaries; I determine, appoint, designate” and was found no less than seven times in the New Testament (cf. Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 10:42; 11:29; 17:26; 31; Romans 1:4).  It is right for one to think of the preposition (πρό) “before” in juxtaposition with (ὁρίζω) not in the sphere or domain of time (i.e. chronological succession of moments measured by and constrained to a point of origin (i.e. beginning period) and a point of cessation (i.e. ending period) but rather as God’s eternal decree. Eternity is not a measurement of time. Instead, eternity is static – that is, eternity is a fixed state. From the Word of God, predeterminism or predestination is always to be understood from the perspective of God’s eternal decree. Therefore, to think God’s thoughts after Him (that must be the desire of every single Christian), the best subject to begin in the discussion on predestination is the doctrine of God inseparably connected to the Glory of God (i.e. the Person of God – namely His Self-Existence in unity and harmony with all His attributes inseparably constrained to the work of God – namely “everything that God does will remain forever” cf. Ecclesiastes 3:14). Pointedly, it is not pride for one to think God’s thoughts after Him. Instead, it is an act of humility for one to think God’s thoughts after Him, because in so doing, one focuses attention on what God thinks not what man thinks – and in turn, one aligns one’s thoughts with the Word of God. If a person claims that thinking God’s thoughts after Him is prideful or could lead to pride then that person does not want to surrender their own thoughts to God and abandon their own opinions for the Word of God (cf. Isaiah 55:7-9).

The Doctrine of God and the Decree of God to Create Humanity

To start, the paramount attribute that defines God is His Self-Existence, and because He is Self-Existent all His attributes work at maximum capacity forever. All God’s attributes are Supreme because He is the One and only Supreme Being Who eternally exists in Three distinct Persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (i.e. God is One in Three distinct Persons, each Person is fully God and there is one God – cf. 2 Timothy 2:5). Each Person of the Triune God is one in essence/substance, co-equal and God is three distinct Persons (cf. John 10:30; 1 Corinthians 8:6). This is the unity of the Divine essence in three Persons and in this one essence are Three persons, yet so that neither is there a triple God, nor is the one essence of God divided. The reader is encouraged not to read this essay any further unless the reader fully believes and is willing to defend, die for, and never depart from the sound doctrine of the Trinity – namely, the truth that God the Father, Son, and Spirit, are one God, and yet the Son is not the Father, the Holy Spirit is not the Son and the Father is not the Holy Spirit. When Jesus said in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one” He taught that He is one in essence, one in nature, one in being yet distinct in Person. Therefore, in John 10:30 Jesus made a declaration of His absolute Deity. So there are three distinct Persons in one essence, not three qualities in one and the same person.  One God in Trinity and Trinity in unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor separating the substance.

To restate, God is Self-Existent and all His attributes work at maximum capacity forever. It is important to state that God is not a robot or a machine that can be taken apart and isolated in sections. Rather, God is a unity not a unit. The Unity of God refers to His Being, one and only, inseparably constrained to all His attributes. Because of God’s attribute of unity there is no dichotomy in God between His attributes. There is unity in God between all His attributes. The Unity of God means that there is one God and that the divine nature is complete, unbroken, undivided and indivisible.

In 1445 B.C., An Angel of the LORD appeared to a man named Moses in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush, on a mountain, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai (cf. Exodus 3; Acts 7:30-36). God spoke to the man Moses from the midst of the bush. At this miraculous event, Moses inquired of God’s name. God personally revealed His name to Moses when He said, “I AM WHO I AM . . . . This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations” (Exodus 3:14b; 15b). “I AM WHO I AM” not only reveals God’s name but also who God is, namely that God is Self-Existent and therefore possesses the attribute of eternality. Because YHWH is God’s name forever and His memorial-name to all generations, Exodus 3 teaches that God is perpetual and that God attributes to Himself alone divine glory, because He is Self-Existent and possesses the attribute of eternality; and thus gives being and existence to every creature. In order for one to be Self-Existent means that one has always existed without beginning and ending. In other words, to be Self-Existent means that there was never a point in which one came into existence and there will never be a point in which one will go out of existence, that is, cease to exist. This is why the historical narrative of the burning bush on Mount Horeb is one of the most memorable historical events recorded in the Word of God because it is where God revealed to man His name and the chief attribute that describes who He is, namely, Self-Existence. Inseparably constrained to this, that fact that God revealed His name to man also indicated that God is a Personal Being and not a force.

The reason why God’s name “I AM WHO I AM” has the meaning of Self-Existence is because in the context of Exodus 3:14-15 God said, “This is My name forever.” The word “forever” in Hebrew is   עולם (o-lawm’) and means permanent, forever and ever, everlasting, all successive, eternity. Eternity is not a measurement of time. Eternity is forever. On the other hand, time is a measurement because it has a beginning and an end. According to Webster’s Dictionary time is defined as “a period during which something exists or continues: an interval comprising of a limited and continuous action, condition, or state of being: measured or measurable duration.”[1] God’s existence is immeasurable. His state of being cannot be measured.

God is the Creator (cf. Genesis 1-2). Man is the creature made in God’s Image (Genesis 1:26-28). Genesis 2:7 describes the event of God the Creator creating man when it reads, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Man as the creature, made in the Image of God, depends on his Creator God for existence. As creatures of the Self-Existent Creator God, each individual person has an immortal soul. In that sense man is eternal (with an immortal soul) but man is not self-existent (see Isaiah 48:2). There was a point in time in which man came into existence, but man will remain forever because man is a being which God created, and the Word of God says that everything God does remains forever (Ecclesiastes 3:14). God has written eternity on the hearts of all men (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

The Apostle John recorded in John 14:9 how the Self–Existent Infinite God is knowable when he recorded Jesus’ conversation with Philip; “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” What is more, in the Gospel of John the Lord Jesus Christ made specific claims to deity, identifying His Divine Nature with the “I AM” of Ex 3:14-15. For example, the seven “I AM” statements in John are as follows, namely, (1) “I am the bread of life” (6:35), (2) “I am the Light of the world” (8:12), (3) “I am the door of the sheep” (10:7, cf. v 9), (4) “I am the good shepherd” (10:11; cf. v 14), (5) “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25), (6) “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6), (7) “I am the true vine” (15:1 a). Concerning Jesus Christ’s Self–Existence, commentator Lenski claimed that the grammar of John 8:58 indicated Jesus’ Aseity when he wrote,

As the aorist sets a point of beginning for the existence of Abraham, so the present tense “I am” predicates absolute existence for the person of Jesus, with no point of beginning at all. That is why Jesus does not use the imperfect ἤμην, “I was”; for this would say only that the existence of the person of Jesus antedates the time of Abraham and would leave open the question whether the person of Jesus also has a beginning like that of Abraham (only earlier) or not. What Jesus declares is that, although his earthly life covers less than fifty years, his existence as a person (ἐγώ) is constant and independent of any beginning in time as was that of Abraham…. Thus with the simplest words Jesus testifies to the divine, eternal pre-existence of his person.[2]

God is infinite. The Infinite God is comprehensible and immanent. What is more, the Infinite God is transcendent, that is, He is beyond everyone and everything – so, in that sense He cannot be fully grasped yet He is a Personal Being who is knowable and in Whom all other beings depend on Him for their existence. God is independent and self-sufficient – He depends on no other being. He is the Creator of all and He owns everything (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 24:1; Nehemiah 9:6). Isaiah 40:28 reads, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable,” and shows how all these attributes of God (Eternality, Self –Existence, Creator, Omnipresence [All present at all places – there is no place where God is not], Omnipotence [All powerful], Omniscience [All knowing – there is nothing that God does not know]) are inseparably constrained to one another – specifically God’s Self-Existence and Him as Creator. This is why God is unique because only God can be Self-Existent and Infinite, and only God can be the Creator. Only God can be the Creator because if He were to create another god – that god by definition would be a creature. Isaiah 40:28 emphasized God’s incommunicable attributes – that is, those attributes that belong to God alone. This is important because God’s Eternality and God as the Creator are emphasized together in Isaiah 40:28. Some infralapsarians teach God’s primary purpose to glorify Himself was by His attribute as Creator. However, the Glory of God is the summation of all God’s attributes and all the attributes of God work at maximum capacity forever. Therefore, to state that God’s “primary purpose” to glorify Himself was by His attribute of Creator is to compartmentalize God by isolating one of His attributes independently from His other attributes. Instead, God’s attribute of Creator was exercised in harmony with all of His other attributes.

Moreover, there is no dichotomy in God between His attributes – all His attributes work at maximum capacity forever. Isaiah 57:15 “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.’” This is important because God’s Eternality and God’s attribute of Holiness are emphasized together in Isaiah 57:15. Supralapsarians teach that God’s primary purpose to glorify Himself was by His attribute of Holiness and Wrath (Anger) through double predestination and that double predestination logically preceded God’s decree to create humanity and then permit the fall of man to bring about His plan of double predestination. However, the Glory of God is the summation of all God’s attributes and all the attributes of God work at maximum capacity forever. Therefore, to state that God’s primary purpose” to glorify Himself was His attribute of Holiness through double predestination is another way to compartmentalize God by isolating one of His attributes independently from His other attributes. Instead, God’s attribute of Holiness was exercised in harmony with all of His other attributes.

The main point this writer is making is this – to only focus on one of the attributes of God to the neglect of the others concerning the eternal decree of God is not rendering an accurate portrayal of the Being of God, the Glory of God and the Work of God – there is no dichotomy in God between His Being, attributes, and work. For the infralapsarian or the supralapsarian to claim “the primary way God glorified Himself in relation to the world was only through His attribute of Creation or only His attribute of Holiness” is to create a caricature of God that is not completely accurate because all of God’s attributes work at maximum capacity forever – and the glory of God is the summation of all His attributes. At this point, this writer absolutely stresses the absoluteness of the necessity to maintain, and be in fear of, the fullness of the sound doctrine of the Holiness of God as well as to maintain absolute fullness of the sound doctrine of God as Creator. This is absolution of Holiness and Creator – that is, God is Self-Existently Holy and Self-Existently the Creator. In no way does criticizing the supralapsarian school of the eternal decree of God diminish or minimize God’s attribute of Holiness. Instead, it is the supralapsarian scheme that diminishes God’s attribute of Holiness because it renders that particular attribute in isolation from the rest. God is absolutely forever Holy. It is the purpose of this writer to maintain the Holiness of God. The Holiness of God is the moral character of God. God’s Holiness is eternally invested with all His attributes – that is, the attributes of God are unified, interconnected, integrated, interrelated, and interdependent – namely, His Self-Existence, Self-Sufficiency, Independence (Aseity), Omni-benevolence, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Graciousness and Goodness, Holiness, Justice, Righteousness, Wrath (Anger), Transcendence , Immanence, Immutability, Impassibility, Impeccability, Incorporeality, Incomprehensibility, Infinity, Jealousy, Love, Mercy, Mystery, Oneness, Providence, Simplicity, Sovereignty, Veracity. What is more, the reader must know that a person has right thoughts about God when that person’s thoughts of God agree with what the Word of God teaches of Him – that is, when we think of His Being and attributes as the Word of God teaches. Thus thinking God’s thoughts after Him (e.g. predestination – the Eternal decree). Thinking about God rightly is to think about all of who God is concerning the unity and summation of all of God’s perfections.

Theodicy and the Decree of God to Permit the Fall of Humanity

The overall context of the book of Romans must be considered to draw out the authorial intent of one of the main passages at hand that is used by many to argue for double predestination (i.e. Romans 9:22-23 – which is discussed in length near the conclusion of this article). The overall theme of Paul’s epistle to the Romans is the righteousness of God and the righteous person shall live by faith (cf. 1:16-17). Therefore, Paul’s epistle to the Romans mainly focuses on soteriology (i.e. the study of salvation). For example, Romans 1:18-20 is about God’s charge against all men both Gentiles and Jews and as such concerns man’s need of righteousness. Romans 3:21-5:21 is about the righteousness of God in justification and Romans 6:1-8:39 is about the righteousness of God in sanctification. Romans 9 is about individual election and Romans 9-11 is about the Righteousness of God concerning Israel’s past, present and future. Most Israelites today are under God’s divine righteous judgment but in Israel’s future there they will be under the righteousness of God’s salvation of Israel (cf. Romans 11). The key word in Romans is δικαιοσύνη (righteousness) and is found no less than 34 times as a noun (cf. 1:17; 3:5, 21, 22, 25, 26; 4:3, 5, 6, 9, 11 x2, 13, 22; 5:17, 21; 6:13, 16, 18, 19, 20; 8:10; 9:30 x 3, 31; 10:3 x 3, 9:31; 10:3 x 3, 4, 5, 6, 10; 14:17). The verb form of righteousness δικαιόω (I make righteous, I defend the cause of) is found no less than 15 times in the book of Romans (cf. 2:13; 3:4, 20, 24, 26, 28, 30; 4:2, 5; 5:1, 9; 6:7; 8:30 x 2, 33). Romans is about the righteousness of God through the active obedience of Christ’s life (cf. Romans 5) and His propitiatory penal-substitutionary death on the cross for the sins of the elect (cf. 3:21-26) and His resurrection from the dead for the justification of the elect (cf. Romans 4:24-25; 10:9-10). Romans is about the imputation (i.e. charge; put to one’s account) of Christ’s personal righteousness to the account of the believing sinner. The righteousness of Christ is the basis of salvation and the requirement for salvation is faith in the personal righteousness of Christ alone to save one from the wrath of God, not works (cf. Romans 3:20-22; 30-31; 9:30-33). The believing sinner is then justified by faith alone in Christ alone and justification is the act that God performs in declaring His righteousness (i.e. the righteousness of Christ) to the account of the believing sinner, and as such the believing sinner is declared righteous before God and acquitted of all condemnation. God defends the believer’s position in Christ (e.g. “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” Romans 8:33-34). The evidence that salvation has taken place, that is the fruit of salvation, is a reflection of God’s work in a person in defending the believer’s position of righteousness in such a way that the believer defends God’s righteousness. For example, the apostle Paul (a justified person by faith in Christ) defended God throughout the entire epistle with rhetorical questions which he then answers for the purpose of defending the righteousness of God in all areas that are discussed in Romans (cf. 2:3-5; 3:5-6, 9, 27-30; 4:1-3; 5:1-21; 6:1-4, 15-16; 7:1-3, 7; 8:31-35; 9:14-15 emphasis added).

That means that the book of Romans is about Theodicy. Theodicy is a Greek term that literally means “God-just.”[3] Theo means “God” and dicy or dikē means “just.” The Greek root for just is found in the Greek word for righteousness, namely, “δίκαιος, ία, ιον.”[4] Δίκαιος is an adjective which is defined of God as, “just, righteous, a just judge” (cf. John 17:25; Rom 3:26).”[5] The same word is described of God the Son, the second member of the Trinity, namely the Lord Jesus Christ (God in human flesh), in 1 John 2:1 which reads, “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” In the Context of 1 John 2:1-2 it is Jesus who is an advocate with the Father against sin. Consequently, it is Jesus Christ who satisfies God the Father’s wrath toward sin. This propitiation is through the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.  Δίκαιος is also used to describe the excellent innocence of Jesus Christ in Lk 23:47. The Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate standard of righteousness and perfection.

The opposite of righteousness is the word “ἀδικία” (unrighteous) and it is described of fallen man in Romans 1:18. The alpha privative on “ἀδικία” indicates non- “dikē” or non- justice/righteousness. The word ἀδικία is used in 1 John 5:17a which reads, “All unrighteousness is sin”. Early in 1 John 3:4 the author defined sin when he wrote, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness”. In the next verse, the author identifies the Lord Jesus Christ as being the one who came to take away sins and the one who has no sin in Him when he writes, “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5; cf. Heb 4:15). Therefore, God is righteous and He will judge unrighteousness (i.e. sin). He cannot judge unrighteousness if He is not righteous and He is not righteous if He has any unrighteousness or created unrighteousness. To this effect, the Apostle Paul under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit made an explicit theodicy argument when he wrote, “But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world?” (Romans 3:5-6; see Isa 10:1-4). This is important because there are supralapsarians that teach God is the author of sin, in as far as He created sin for the purpose to display His glory through His attribute of wrath. One particular supralapsarian argued that God is the author of sin when he wrote, “What I’ll do is create something worthy of my wrath, something on which I can exhibit the glory of my wrath . . . I am not accusing God of sinning; I am suggesting that he created sin  . . . It was God’s desire to make his wrath known. He needed, then, something on which to be wrathful. He needed to have sinful creatures (R.C. Sproul Jr., Almighty Over All; Understanding the Sovereignty of God [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999], 52-7).”  It is blasphemous to suggest that God created sin. At least, Sproul Jr. tried to show how the lapsarian debate is connected to Theodicy. There are many supralapsarians that argue that their system does not suggest that God is the author of sin. On the other hand, it makes sense why supralapsarians try to argue that their system does not suggest that God is the author of sin because (1) they know that to suggest that God is the author of sin is blasphemous and (2) they have already compartmentalized God’s attributes so they compartmentalize doctrine and claim that theodicy is not innerconnected to the lapsarian debate. However, Sproul Jr. is honest to take supralapsarianism to its logical conclusion.

How does supralapsarianism compartmentalize God’s attributes? The supralapsarian view emphasizes that God’s primary purpose in relation to the world is to glorify himself by saving some people and damning others by displaying His attributes of Holiness and Anger (Wrath). However, in the attempt of the supralapsarian school to uphold the specific attributes of God’s Holiness and Anger (Wrath), the system actually denies the Holiness of God. For example, Psalm 5:4 reveals that the presence of evil does not abide with God, for sin is contrary to God’s nature, when it reads, “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You.” Why would God create that which is contrary to His nature? If God created sin then He approved of it, but then that would contradict Habakkuk 1:13a-b which reads, “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor.” After God created everything He said in Genesis 1:31a the following, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. . .” Moral Light has no fellowship with moral darkness (cf. James 1:17; 1 John 1:5). God could not have created sin because James 1:13 reads, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He himself does not tempt anyone.” In James 1:13, namely “μηδεὶς πειραζόμενος λεγέτω ὅτι Ἀπὸ Θεοῦ πειράζομαι ο γαρ Θεὸς ὰπειραστός εστιν κακῶν, πειράζει δὲ αὐτὸς ουδενα,” There is an alpha privative attached to the Greek word for tempted that describes that God cannot be tempted by evil. The word is ἀπείραστός and is an adjective nominative singular masculine that describes that God is not able to be tempted. The word ἀπείραστός is a hapax legomenon (i.e. a term that is recorded only once in the NT) and because it is only found once it has a unique theological significance, namely it is not a part of God’s nature to tempt. It is contrary to God’s nature to be tempted by evil. James 1:13 is found in the same context as 1:17 which reads, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” Within the same context as James 1:13 is the theological context of God described as unchangeable. This means that God is unchangeably not able to tempt anyone in light of His Self-Existence. Therefore, God could not be the author of sin related to the origin of sin or any present manifestation of sin.

Sin is not eternal. Sin could not have been created by God. Sin had a point of origin and sin will have a distinct point of cessation (i.e. end). Sin’s origin occurred in the angelic realm (see discussion below in this article). Sin’s cessation will happen at the end when the devil and his angels are put in the lake of fire, that is the eternal fire prepared for them (cf. Matthew 25:41), as well as those of mankind whose names were not written in the book of life of the Lamb having been slain from the foundation of the world (cf. Revelation 18:3; Revelation 20:15). Everyone will spend eternity in one of two places. The elect will spend eternity with Christ in Heaven because He eternally exhausted God’s wrath towards their sin when He died in their place on the cross, Christ paying the debt they owed for their sin in penal-substitution and Him being raised from the dead for their justification. The non-elect will spend eternity in Hell fully exhausting God’s wrath toward their sin and paying God back for their sin forever. No one will be sinning in Hell but rather those there will be paying God back for their sin. Therefore, sin is either destroyed and comes to an end in the second death by God or sin was destroyed by the death of Christ (God in human flesh) on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. In agreement with Scripture and with this writer, the late biblical expositor James Montgomery Boice argued against the error and complete non-sense to suggest that moral evil is eternal when he wrote,

Where does sin come from if it does not come as the Bible declares . . . . To the knowledge of this present writer, in the whole history of ideas of the human race there have been only two other answers given, and one of them is not really an answer at all while the other is inadequate. The first answer is the eternality of evil. That is, evil has existed from the very beginning of things, just as good has existed from the beginning; therefore, all life is characterized by this mixture. But this is actually no answer because, as we can easily understand, it is simply a denial of the problem. It is the denial that sin or evil had a beginning.[6]

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is critical to the discussion concerning the eternal decree and Theodicy. In Genesis 2, the LORD God put the first man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep (cf. Genesis 2:15). In Genesis 2:16-17, the LORD God gave the man a commandment with a prohibition – “The LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’” Some believe that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a figure for potentially unlimited knowledge, it being a good tree, but man was not to eat it because it would result in man obtaining human autonomy (a law unto one’s self) and as such man would know unlimited knowledge apart from God. However, man did not receive unlimited knowledge after he transgressed the commandment (cf. Genesis 3:7; 22). It is true that the nature of the serpent’s temptation in Genesis 3 was a temptation to personal autonomy because that was the nature of the first sin in the angelic world – namely personal autonomy apart from God – thus one’s attempt to dethrone God’s reign over one’s self (c.f. Isaiah 14:12-16). However, the fruit was not the fruit of Sovereignty because the man and the woman did not become like God in Omniscience but rather lost their innocence by sinning against God’s command. God could very well be mocking the serpent’s temptation in Genesis 3:22b-d when the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil . . . .” The first man and woman were in a state of innocence and they lost their innocence when Adam sinned. Man could only obtain the knowledge of good and evil from the tree through experience, not Omniscience. Only God is Omniscient and has knowledge of good and evil but never evil through committing it because God is Self-Existently perpetually morally perfect – God cannot sin. God does not sin. God has never sinned. God will never sin. Therefore, the commandment prohibition from God for the man not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has three points:

  1. It is a command from God (therefore a violation of God’s command is sin cf. 1 John 3:4).
  2. Because the command is a prohibition it represents the Creator’s predetermined will for man to respect the limitations God had set for man toward evil (this maintains that God has decreed all things to come to pass, even that it was His permissive will to allow evil to enter into the creation – yet God is not responsible for sin. Instead, sin is the violation of God’s commandment. The responsibility for sin is with the creature who disobeyed not with the Creator who set the restriction toward evil).
  3. The warning and promise of death for disobedience (“for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die”). This represented God’s will to maintain His holiness and wrath – anger, wrought harmoniously with all of His attributes, to prescribe judgment to restrain evil and ultimately destroy evil – even the death of death through the death of Christ and Christ’s subsequent resurrection from the dead to provide deliverance to some from God’s judgment on evil.

To end, the parameters established by the Creator for man to respect – that is, the commandment not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, showed God’s Sovereign will and man’s culpability to be held morally and legally responsible for transgressing the commandment (cf. Romans 5:12-14). When Adam sinned, the paradise and innocence was lost; everything changed. Mankind’s current post-fall condition did not exist when Adam was originally created.

The late five point Calvinistic systematician Louis Berkhof denied that God is the author of sin when he wrote the following,

God’s eternal decree certainly rendered the entrance of sin into the world certain, but this may not be interpreted so as to make God the cause of sin in the sense of being its responsible author . . . . In light of all of this it would be blasphemous to speak of God as the author of sin. And for that reason all those deterministic views which represent sin as a necessity inherent in the very nature of things should be rejected. They by implication make God the author of sin, and are contrary, not only to Scripture, but also to the voice of conscience, which testifies to the responsibility of man.[7]

Next, the argument that suggests that God “needed, then, something on which to be wrathful. He needed to have sinful creatures (p. 57)” denies God as necessary being – that is, the only being in which all other beings depend on Him for their existence. The reason why this denies God as necessary Being is because it makes God dependent on man to make decisions concerning His eternal decree. Therefore, to suggest that God “needed, then, something on which to be wrathful. He needed to have sinful creatures (p. 57)” is anthropocentric, that is theology that places man at the center.

High five point infralapsarian Calvinism argues that God is not the author of sin. Instead, High five point infralapsarian Calvinism argues that it was according to the standard of God’s will to allow sin to enter into the creation, thus maintaining that God is sovereign over sin and sin could not have occurred unless God decreed it so – yet He is not its culpable Creator. In other words, sin could not have entered into the creation unless God allowed sin to enter into the creation, yet God is innocent and judges fallen angelic beings and fallen man responsible. Sin is not a pre-existent eternal thing. Sin is not material. On the other hand, sin is an unprincipled, dishonorable, immoral, corrupt decision that resolves itself volitionally (i.e. the act of the will) resulting in the exercise of the will evidenced by a visible action. The Apostle John defined sin as lawlessness when he wrote the following through inspiration by God the Holy Spirit– “everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).

If God did not create sin, then where did sin come from? The Word of God teaches that sin originated in the angelic realm and then with man. The derivation of sin (i.e. origin of sin) must be qualified by a distinction between two classifications in the creative order, namely the angelic order and the order of mankind. The Word of God explains how sin originated in both of these two orders and the distinction between the subsequent consequences for each. Concerning the former order the Word of God offers insight to the origin of sin in the angelic realm. Isa 14:12-15 describes the first sin in the Angelic realm when the text reads,

How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, To the recesses of the pit.

In the overall context of Isa 14, it referred to a human king of Babylon upon whom God pronounced judgment. Within the taunt against Babylon, God moved from the physical ruler of Babylon to the spiritual ruler of Babylon who was influencing the human ruler. Likewise, in Ezekiel God pronounced judgment on the physical king of Tyre (Ezek 28:1-10) as well as the spiritual ruler who was influencing the human king of Tyre (Ezek 28:12-19). Some might argue that because of the prophetic literary genre of Isaiah and Ezekiel that the language of “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning” (Isa 14:12a-b) and “You were in Eden, the garden of God . . . You were the anointed cherub who covers” (Ezekiel 28:13 a-b; 14a) was figurative. However, in Gen 3:14-15 God pronounced judgment on the physical serpent first (v. 14) and then on the spiritual serpent who influenced the physical serpent (v. 15). All three of these examples are oracles of judgment delivered from God on an unrighteous fallen angelic being.

The unrighteous fallen angelic being judged in Gen 3:15; Isa 14:12-15; and Ezek 28:12-19 is identified as Satan the devil. Revelation 12 records the history of the dragon in which Satan is identified as follows; “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” The description of Satan as a serpent is a direct reference to Gen 3:15. The angels who fell with the devil fell because they joined with him in his rebellion. Ezekiel 28:16 explains the devil’s ability of persuasion when the text explains that, “By the abundance of your trade You were internally filled with violence, And you sinned; Therefore I have cast you as profane From the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the stones of fire.” This referred to the origin of sin, namely that the cherub who was originally blameless (cf. Ezekiel 28:15) wanted to make himself like the Most High (Isa 14:14b). Morally, he turned from righteousness to unrighteousness by volition of his will (cf. Ezekiel 28:15). Satan wanted to dethrone God and when he attempted to do so he led one third of the angels to fall (cf. Rev 12:4). Louis Berkhof offered the biblical answer to the origin of sin when he wrote the following;

Sin originated in the angelic world. The Bible teaches us that in the attempt to trace the origin of sin, we must even go back of the fall of man as described in Gen 3, and fix the attention on something that happened in the angelic world. God created a host of angels, and they were all good as they came forth from the hand of their Maker, Gen 1:31. But a fall occurred in the angelic world, in which legions of angels fell away from God. The exact time of this fall is not designated, but in John 8:44 Jesus speaks of the devil as a murderer from the beginning (kat’ arches), and John says in 1 John 3:8, that he sins from the beginning.[8]

It takes childlike faith to accept a biblical Theodicy that vindicates God. The Christian believes with a childlike faith that God is not the author of sin but rather understanding that it is Satan that is the author of sin. Childlike faith is the prerequisite to having a correct understanding of Theodicy because Jesus said the following in Luke 10:18-21 when the text reads,

And He said to them, ‘I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.  Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.’ At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, ‘I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.’

Childlike faith, not human wisdom, is the prerequisite for understanding that the origin of sin began in the angelic world because in the context of explaining the fall of Satan, Jesus gave praise to God the Father for revealing this unseen spiritual history and reality to unlearned grown adults. The people identified by Jesus as infants in Lk 10:21 are adults who have not been educated by man-made systems of higher education, those systems that seek to rationally give an answer to the problem of moral evil but fail to understand it because God has hidden it from them.

The origin of sin in the human race is recorded in Gen 3. The spiritual serpent used the physical serpent to tempt Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that God had commanded Adam not to eat from (cf. Gen 3:1-7). The serpent succeeded in deceiving the woman (2 Cor 11:3; 1 Tim 2:14). She ate the fruit, gave it to her husband with her, he ate and that was the first sin. The first Adam was our representative (Vicar-federal headship) in the Garden and because of Adam’s sin, God judged the entire human race by imputing Adam’s sin to the entire scope of humanity. To impute means to charge or credit to one’s account.[9] Imputing sin is not the same as being the author of sin. Original sin was credited to every single person’s account who has ever lived on this earth except the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the One who was to come, namely the Seed of the woman (Gen 3:15), born of a virgin and conceived by the God the Holy Spirit, and the Second Adam (Rom 5:15c-e, 16c, 17c-d, 18b, 19b, 20c, 21c).   Also, Adam was the seminal head of the entire scope of humanity. This means that Adam, being the first man, contained the entire human race in his loins or semen. Therefore, sin is very much a part of man’s status and nature (Gen 3; 6:5; 1 Kgs 8:46; 2 Chron 6:36; Ps 51:5; 58:3; Prov 20:9; Ecc 7:20; Jer 17:9; Jn 2:25; Rom 3:9-12; 23; 5:12-15b, 16a-b, 17a-b, 18a, 19a; Eph 2:1).

Augustine of Hippo argued against a false model of Theodicy known as Dualism. Dualism teaches that “good and evil are coeternal opposites, either originating in a common first principle, or eternally existing as opposite principles.”[10] Concerning the nature of God, Augustine refuted the Manichaeans when we wrote, “For sins, which do not preserve but vitiate nature are not from Him; which sins, Holy Scripture in many ways testifies, are from the will of those sinning.”[11] R.C. Sproul explained Augustine’s answer to the problem of evil when he wrote,

To avoid the ontological necessity of evil, Augustine turned to free will. God created man with a free will, in which he also enjoyed perfect liberty. Man had the faculty of choosing what he wanted. He had the ability to sin and the ability not to sin. He freely chose to sin out of his concupiscence (an inclination that leans to sin but is not sin). As a result of the first sin, man lost his liberty but not his free will. He was plunged, as a divine punishment, into a corrupt state known as original sin, losing the ability to incline himself to the things of God…Fallen man is in bondage to sin. He still has the faculty of choosing, a will free from coercion, but he now is free only to sin, because his desires are inclined only toward sin and away from God. Now, ‘the ability not to sin,’ is lost and in its place is ‘the inability not to sin.’[12]

There must be a distinction between the will of man pre-fall and post-fall. Augustine is absolutely right concerning this matter. Pre-fall man’s will was in perfect harmony with the will of God because man freely chose to live according to the only will, namely God’s will. Post-fall man’s will is in bondage to sin and freely choses sin. James Montgomery Boice explained the problem of sin as it relates to the will in fallen creatures when he wrote,

Before Satan’s fall there was only one will. It was God’s will; it was perfect. After Satan’s rebellion there were two wills—Satan’s and God’s—but, of course, only one of the two was perfect—God’s. When Adam and Eve were created there was an immediate problem as to which of the two they would follow. Satan thought he would get Adam and Eve to follow him. Although he got them to rebel against God, he did not succeed in getting them to follow his will. So, there now were four wills, each going its own way and only one of them (God’s will) remaining perfect…. Today there are billions of wills, which explains the constant conflicts in the human race. But it is still the case that only one, the will of God Almighty, is perfect and totally desirable.[13]

God is Sovereign over evil and uses it to accomplish His purposes. Concerning the way things are Post-fall, it was God who had decreed calamity (cf. Isa 45:7). However, there is a distinction between moral evil and what man calls physical evil (e.g. wars, famines, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.) Post-fall, calamity is the consequence for moral evil. Nevertheless, God uses evil to accomplish His purposes for good as is the case in Gen 50:20 where Joseph told his brothers who wickedly sold him into slavery the following; “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive”.

God will judge sin to be sure and He cannot judge sin righteously if He is the author of sin because He said in Proverbs 17:15, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD”. So, there is a great dilemma, namely this – how can wicked man be saved from the wrath of God? The answer to that question and the solution to the problem of evil is found at the cross of Christ. The crucifixion of Christ was the most heinous act of injustice in the history of the world. Concerning Jesus Christ, the only one who lived an innocent sinless life, Peter said to the Jews in Acts “you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23c). Yet the first part of the same verse read, “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.” (Acts 2:23a-b). God sent His Son Jesus Christ to the Cross but He holds the lawless men responsible for His murder. In so doing, God maintained and demonstrated His righteousness (Romans 3:25) and maintained and demonstrated His love (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10) when Jesus satisfied God’s wrath toward sin in vicarious penal-substitution for everyone who would believe in Christ for eternal life (i.e. the elect). It is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone not works that man is saved from the wrath of God toward sin. God commands men to turn away from sin (Prov 3:7) but in no way is God the author of sin.

The Decree of God to Predestine/Elect Some Fallen Humans to Salvation and Eternal Life and Predestine Others to Damnation and Everlasting Punishment in Hell

The Word of God teaches that God has predestined and prepared some from humanity for eternal life (cf. Romans 9:23; Ephesians 1:5; 11). Also, the Word of God teaches that those who have not been predestined and prepared for eternal life have been prepared for eternal judgment and destruction (cf. Proverbs 16:4; Ephesians 9:22). Man will remain forever in eternity in one of two places. Consequently, each individual person will answer to their Creator when their time has finished on Earth when they die. After that, individual persons will spend eternity in either Hell or Heaven. To this effect, Holy God has written His Law on every man’s heart (Romans 2:15). As the Creator and Holy God, He has appointed man once to die and then to enter into eternity in which He will exercise His Divine right as final Judge, perfectly consistent with His divine eternal decree to sentence each individual person to spend eternity in Heaven or eternity in Hell.

There have been three major views related to the order of the eternal decree of God – namely, supralapsarianism (e.g. double predestination and limited atonement), infralapsarianism (e.g. double predestination and limited atonement) and Amyraldism (single predestination and unlimited atonement). This discussion has been formally referred to as the Order of the Divine Decrees Debate. This debate is important for many reasons. First, the correct position is drawn from the Scriptures and therefore the correct position is a Christian doctrine. Paul argued by inspiration of God the Holy Spirit that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Likewise, sound doctrine is inseparably constrained to sound living because the standard of sound teaching is fixed to the standard of godliness (cf. 1 Timothy 6:3). Second, the Christian should pursue thinking God’s thoughts after Him because the Christian has the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Also, thinking God’s thoughts after Him is for the mature and evidences that one is following the Apostle Paul’s instruction in Philippians 4:8 – because, God’s thoughts are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise. Third, God is Self-Existent and therefore you cannot compartmentalize Him by isolating His attributes as if there was a dichotomy in God between His attributes or between His Word and His Character. To this effect, you cannot compartmentalize His doctrine either through the suggestive theory that a doctrinal triage exists with primary, secondary and tertiary doctrines of importance.

The three main positions concerning the order of the Divine Decree are listed as follows:

Three Main Views:[14]

Supra-lapsarian Double Predestination/Limited Atonement

Infra-lapsarian Double Predestination/Limited Atonement

Amyraldism – Single Predestination/Unlimited Atonement

(1) The decree of God to predestine/elect some creatures to salvation and eternal life and some other creatures to damnation and everlasting punishment in hell.

(2) The decree of God to create the world and humanity in it.

(3) The decree of God to permit the Fall of humanity

(4) The decree of God to provide salvation through Christ’s atonement (limited) for the redemption of the elect.

(5) The decree of God to send God the Holy Spirit to apply salvation (the righteousness of Christ) to the elect.

(1) The decree of God to create the world and humanity in it.

(2) The decree of God to permit the Fall of humanity.

(3) The decree of God to predestine/elect some fallen humans to salvation and eternal life and predestine others to damnation and everlasting punishment in hell.

(4) The decree of God to provide salvation through Christ’s atonement (limited) for the redemption of the elect.

(5) The decree of God to send God the Holy Spirit to apply salvation (the righteousness of Christ) to the elect and leave the reprobate to their deserved fate.

(1) The decree of God to create the world and humanity in it.

(2) The decree of God to permit the Fall of humanity.

(3) Decree to provide salvation for the entire scope of humanity through Christ’s atonement (unlimited/hypothetical universalism).

(4) The decree to elect some to believe and to leave in just condemnation those who do not believe.

(5) Decree to apply salvation to those who believe.

The term lapsarian means the fall of humanity. Lapsus is the latin term for fall. Supra-lapsarianism means before lapse “fall.” Infra-lapsarianism means after lapse “fall.” Sub-lapsarianism means under lapse “fall.” Amyraldianism is absolutely incorrect because it teaches a hypothetical universalism. All three of these positions refer to God’s eternal decree, that is, all three of these positions argue that their scheme with the exact understanding of predetermineas defined above – namely, God’s willful decree from eternity before it occurred in time as understood at the foundation of the world. But only one position can be correct. There have been some that have dismissed, for example, infralapsarianism because they misunderstand that infralapsarianism teaches an eternal decree from eternity not an actual chronological sequence of events in time. Instead, infralapsarianism teaches that God decreed these things from eternity and then laid them out in time because they were predetermined by God to come to pass. A helpful analogy (although not completely analogous) is like the blueprints of a building. First, the plan is drawn out and then ordered to be constructed. Then the actual construction occurs because it has been determined. The events that were determined to occur are not from the time form but occur in time because they have been predetermined from eternity. The succession of the events of the Divine Decree happen one after another in time, yet by one single act of God all these events have been ordained from eternity. Therefore, these events in the Divine Decree are not in the mind of the Infinite God as they are in the mind of finite man. Man looks at eternity from the perspective of time, whereas God decreed time from eternity.

It is very difficult to understand or suggest a chronological sequence of events from eternity because eternity is not a measurement of time – eternity is a fixed state. Therefore, the lapsarian debate concerns a logical order of decrees, not a chronological order, and how that is connected to the fall of man (cf. Gen 3), the reprobation of man, the election of some from mankind, and the redemption of the elect from mankind (all of these events predestined before the foundation of the world). To use the metaphor of morphism, man is a finite creature under the strain and authority of time. One way the metaphor called morphism can be used is anthropomorphism – that is, attributing human qualities to someone or something. One form of anthropomorphism is from John 10 “no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” God the Father does not have human hands because He is Spirit – what the verse means is that God is Omnipotent (All powerful) and if He has the elect no one is powerful enough to take away their salvation because they cannot lose their salvation. Terminology like “before the foundation of the world” is like kairomorphism. (This writer did not merely “make up” this word to make an argument but discovered and put together two already existing Greek words to describe an already existing concept concerning its phenomenology). Kairos καιρός is the Greek word for “appointed time; opportune moment; the supreme moment”. (This writer borrowed the Greek word καιρός to demonstrate how eternity impacts events that occur in time). For finite creatures to understand succession of moments in eternity, (eternity is not a measurement of time it is a fixed state), one can use “before the foundation of the world” as a way for finite creatures to understand that which was decreed “before” time existed. The word “before” from our perspective is loaded with connotations of time, but “before” from the perspective of eternity does not have the meaning of time. The problem arises when one falls into a Chronocentric (time-centered) way of thinking – that is, thinking about eternity as if eternity is not fixed but rather a measurement of time. Another Greek word for time χρόνος (chronos) was used for the English word chronology. Supralapsarianism does not work because it is linear not circular. To demonstrate that supralapsarianism is linear, by way of example, in order for one to have thought of the first decree, that is, “the decree of God to predestine/elect some creatures to salvation and eternal life and predestine other creatures to damnation and everlasting punishment in hell” one would already had to have thought to plan to create these individuals. On the other hand, if the decree is eternal it would make more sense to suggest a logical order instead of a chronological order.

The decree of God makes more sense with infralapsarianism because it is more consistent with how the Word of God is laid out – it begins with God and ends with God. Not all circular reasoning is illogical. All circular reasoning is illogical to the person who begins with a Chronocentric (time-centered) way of thinking. As finite creatures made in the Image of our Creator we do know eternity because it is written on our hearts – “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven . . . He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11). Unfortunately, man suppresses the truth about the Existence of God and therefore the truth concerning eternity, even though it is written on their hearts and evident within them – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood though what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20). It is inconsistent with the nature of the Holy God of Justice in harmony with all of His attributes for Him to recognize as sinners men destined for eternal punishment in Hell and then actively decree the fall to take place to apply sin to carry out His plan of reprobation and also apply sin to the elect to carry out His plan of salvation for the elect. God’s Sovereignty is not abstract or arbitrary. Instead, in Ephesians 1:11, the Apostle Paul wrote through the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit that the standard of predestination is His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will – therefore, God’s eternal decree is not arbitrary (i.e. based on random choice or unexplained sudden desire) but instead it is the standard of the purpose of God who is working all things according to His counsel. God’s plan is not arbitrary but thoughtfully and eternally planned.

Double Predestination – Romans 9:22-23

The grammar in Romans 9:22-23 makes a case for double predestination and limited atonement, but does it make a case for supralapsarianism or infralapsarianism double predestination? Romans 9:22-23 teaches double predestination because there are two fixed fates for two types of people – that is, the non-elect are destined for reprobation and will suffer Divine wrath for eternity and the elect are destined for justification and as such are saved from the wrath of God. Justification is the act in which God declares His righteousness to the account of the believing sinner. Because of the grammar in Romans 9:22-23 the passage does not teach supralapsarianism. For example, the Apostle Paul maintained God’s Sovereignty over salvation and reprobation when he wrote, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires” (Romans 9:18) – And when Paul explained the fairness of the situation he wrote,

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? (Romans 9:19-21)

Then Paul asked the following question: “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” (Romans 9:22). Next, Paul wrote, “And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.” (Romans 9:23). The two categories of people namely “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” and “vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory” have different words in Greek used for “prepared.” For instance, the Greek word “prepared” from “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” out of verse 22 is κατηρτισμένα, a perfect participle passive accusative neuter plural from the verb καταρτίζω (I fit together, prepare). Because the voice of this participle is passive the subject receives the action. If the voice was active the subject performs the action. Paul used a completely different Greek word and form (i.e. a verb and not a participle) for “prepared” in verse 23 for “vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory” – namely, προητοίμασεν from the Greek verb προετοιμάζω (I prepare beforehand, predestine). The word used for “He prepared beforehand” from verse 23 is not a participle like the word “prepared” (κατηρτισμένα) from verse 22. Instead, the word used for “He prepared beforehand” from verse 23 is a verb. What is more, it is in a different tense (i.e. Aorist) and is in a completely different voice – namely, active voice. God is clearly the subject that peforms the action to the object of verse 23 because the “vessels” of verse 23 are in the accusative case  – the accusative case is the case that designates the direct object in Greek and functions to show the direction or extent or end of an action. The direct object is shown in verse 23 to be governed by the active verb “He prepared beforehand” where God is the subject, the verb is active, showing the subject performing the action on the direct object – namely, “vessels of mercy . . . for glory.” Paul maintains in Romans 9:22-23 the wrath of God, though he showed a distinction in the Greek tenses that cannot be ignored. God actively prepared vessels for glory (i.e. the elect). On the other hand, vessels are prepared for destruction, where the voice is passive or middle because these vessels are storing up wrath for themselves – “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). Paul wrote, “you are treasuring up to yourself wrath” (literally), and there “in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” The non-elect are destined for reprobation in God’s court and the sentence of the judgment of God but they prepared this themselves and God is not responsible for their sin. Instead, man is responsible for preparing himself, treasuring up wrath for himself (cf. Romans 2:5), and consequently are objects of the wrath of Almighty God. Although the Gospel message of the Lord Jesus Christ goes forth and God commands all men everywhere to repent “because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31), those who are reprobate refuse to repent. Man must be born again to have the ability to repent, yet everyone is responsible to repent of their sins and turn to God. The word reprobate in the King James Version is from Romans 1:28 which reads, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper” (for ἀδόκιμος “fail to pass the test; unapproved” cf. 1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Corinthians 13:5, 6, 7; 2 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:16; Hebrews 6:8).  The word reprobate is an adjective and was used to describe the mind of a person dead in their sin – that is, total depravity. In Ephesians 2:1-3 Paul wrote that everyone is in a state of total inability (depravity) concerning their minds “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” – and Paul wrote that to describe who believers once were before conversion just as the rest of mankind. From the entire lump God only extended His grace to some (these are known as the elect); the rest He left in their condition and did not extend either the grace of unconditional election or the propitiatory vicarious penal-substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ who is “. . . the Lamb having been slain from the founding of the world” (cf. Revelation 13:8).

Divine Election – Ephesians 1:4-6, 11

            In Ephesians 1:3-14 the Apostle Paul did not contrast reprobation and election like he did in Romans 9:22-23. Instead, in Ephesians 1:3-14 Paul wrote of the doctrine of Divine Election, not Divine Reprobation. Nevertheless, the Eternal Decree of God is not arbitrary (i.e. random; chance; uniformed; illogical; capricious). God never works in an arbitrary manner concerning choice. Instead, Ephesians 1:5 explained the standard of God’s predestination of some to election when the text reads, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” The Greek preposition κατὰ (according to) here is used with the accusative case and it means standard. Therefore, the “good pleasure” or “kind intention” of God’s will is the standard that He predestined some for divine adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself. The kind intention of His will is a genitive of source – that means, the kind intention comes from His will.  Likewise, Ephesians 1:11 explained the standard of God’s predestination of some to election when the text reads, “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” Again, the Greek preposition κατὰ (according to) was used here with the accusative case to show the standard of predestination – that is, “His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” God’s standard is His purpose and therefore is not arbitrary. Moreover, God’s “the counsel of His will” means that God’s will is not influenced by anything or anyone outside Himself. There is no outside force of “chance” dictating God’s decree. There is no necessary being other than God – therefore, God does not rely on any creature for information to make a decision. Predestination is the cause of election. Also, predestination is inseparably constrained to election as well as the sound doctrine of the atonement (cf. Ephesians 1:7 emphasis added).  And God willed to glorify Himself (God’s Glory is the summation of all His attributes) to demonstrate His grace and mercy by extending His grace and mercy on undeserving persons – these are known as the elect. The righteous, holy demands of His justice and wrath (anger) toward sin were propitiated by the cross work of Christ. Therefore, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross maintained and demonstrated God’s holiness, justice, love, grace, mercy, etc. For those whom He elected He will accomplish His purpose for them  – that is, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him . . .” (Ephesians 1:4). Election is an extension of grace and as such election is not a legal term. Election is destined to result in justification. Justification is a legal court room reality. Therefore, those who are elect will be justified (cf. Romans 8:33-34 emphasis added; 29-30).

Conclusion

            In conclusion, discussion on the divine decrees (e.g. infralapsarianism vs supralapsarianism) is absolutely a primary issue because the doctrines of Predestination, Divine Election, Theodicy, the Fall of humanity, the Atonement, etc. are all interconnected with the discussion. The person who tries to doctrinally triage these doctrines to tertiary levels of importance is compartmentalizing God’s Word and that is because they have compartmentalized God and His attributes. It is extremely important for the Christian to not compartmentalize God. Maintaining the chief attribute that defines who God is – that is, His Self-Existence, is not compartmentalizing God but instead it maintains that because God is Self-Existent all of His attributes work at maximum capacity forever. This also maintains God’s glory as the summation of all His attributes. This also maintains the unity of God – that is, all of God’s attributes are interconnected, integrated, and interrelated yet distinct without any dichotomy between any of the attributes of God. Concerning the accurate position on the divine decree, infralapsarianism is more compatible with the Word of God concerning the order of the Divine Decree from Eternity because (1) infralapsarianism is more compatible with how the Word of God is laid out; and (2) infralapsarianism maintains double predestination and limited atonement without suggesting that God is the primary source or culpable author of sin. God is completely Sovereign and He eternally decreed the destinies of every single person who has ever lived, yet He is not responsible for sin. What is more, God did not create sin for the purpose to decree sin to enter into His very good creation for the purpose to apply sin to persons so He could judge them. Instead, the non-elect are destined for reprobation and are responsible for their own sin and are treasuring up wrath for themselves in the day of wrath, because Paul wrote, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” Non-election is not a court room term. Reprobation is a court room term, and as such, a person’s legal status before God. The non-elect did not receive an extension of grace; therefore when the non-elect go before God at the great white throne judgment they will be judged according to their deeds (cf. Revelation 20:12), their names will not be found in the book of life and they will be thrown into the lake of fire (cf. Revelation 20:11-15). Legally reprobate, in the end the non-elect will be found to have never repented unto salvation and never to have believed the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The non-elect will be found to have refused God’s command to repent (this does not mean Arminian foreknowledge where God sees into the future who would and who would not repent and believe and based on that condition God then electing some and passing over others). The non-elect ultimately will have refused to repent even though “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). The Lord Jesus Christ is the Man of righteousness whom God has appointed. He is the God-Man, Second Person of the Triune God, two natures perfectly united in one Person; Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, and “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:23-24). God predetermined the Lord Jesus Christ to die on the cross in substitution for everyone who would ever trust in Christ to be saved from the wrath of God. And, God holds the godless men responsible who put Him to death. The elect are the recipients of redemption found in Christ Jesus, of the active obedience of His life, His cross work as the propitiation for their sins, and His resurrection from the dead for their justification.

E. V. Powers

For an extensive argument on the extent of the atonement (i.e. the decree of God to provide salvation through Christ’s atonement (limited) for the redemption of the elect) click on the following links from TBCRI:

https://bcri.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/did-christ-die-for-everyone-or-only-for-the-elect-an-essay-on-the-extent-of-the-atonement-by-eric-powers/

and https://bcri.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/the-extent-of-the-atonement-a-case-for-particular-redemption-in-the-johannine-literary-corpus/

 

[1] Philip Babcock Gove, “Time,” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (Springfield: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1971), 2394.

[2] R.C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel, (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1943), 670-71.

[3] Sinclair B. Ferguson and David F. Wright, New Dictionary of Theology, The Master Reference Collection (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 679.

[4] Bruce M. Metzger, Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 14.

[5] William Arndt and F Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: A Translation and Adaptation of the Fourth Revised and Augmented Edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch Zu Den Schriften Des Neuen Testaments Und der Übrigen Urchristlichen Literatur, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 195.

[6] James Montgomery Boice, Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, paperback ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006, 1998),  162.

[7] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1946), 220.

[8] Ibid., Berkhof, 221.

[9] Paul used imputation positively to explain that the righteousness of Christ has been credited to the believer’s account (Romans 4:22-25).

[10] James Mook, TH 605 Theology I; Lesson 35 (Unpublished course notes: The Master’s Seminary, 2014), 370.

[11] A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church; First Series. Vol. IV (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1980-1983), 357.

[12] R C. Sproul, The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts That Shaped Our World (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009), 62-63.

[13] James Montgomery Boice, Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, paperback ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006, 1998), 154.

[14] Modified chart based on lists from, Michael J. Vlach, THEOLOGY III: MAN, SIN, AND SALVATION; APPENDIX 1 – The Order of the Divine Decrees Debate (Unpublished course notes: The Master’s Seminary, 2015), 261-5.

 

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: