Friday, February 3, 2023

(WCF 3.2–4) Truth to Treasure: Predestination unto Life and Foreordination unto Death

 The following is my monthly contribution to Seventeen82 for February, 2023.

(WCF 3.2–4) Truth to Treasure: Predestination unto Life and Foreordination unto Death

3.2 Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.

Does God know all hypothetical futures? Of course.

“God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions.” Elisha could tell Jehoash son of Jehoahaz what would have happened if he struck the ground more times (2Ki 13:19). The Lord could tell David what would happen if he had gone to Keilah, even though David would not end up going there (1Sam 23:11–12). Jesus could authoritatively say what would have brought Tyre, Sidon, or Sodom to repentance (Mt 11:21–23).

But God has decreed what will happen not because He foresaw it, but because He intended it. When the Lord tells us about His choosing Jacob out of love and hating Esau, He emphasizes that it was without regard to either one “having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him Who calls” (Rom 9:11).

Let us be careful of our hearts here. This is the only God that is. And there is salvation only in Him. If in our smallness and ignorance, we elevate ourselves to be His judges, and decide that there is “unrighteousness with God” (Rom 9:14), His Word answers that “it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God Who shows mercy” (Rom 9:16).

The creature, judging the Creator, who demands, “Why does He still find fault” (Rom 9:19) is rebuked out of hand (Rom 9:20–21). It is right for God to want “to show His wrath and to make His power known” (Rom 9:22).

The wonderful fact is that it is this precise God, the true and living God, the holy and just God, Who has wished to “make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy which He had prepared beforehand for glory” (Rom 9:23). And it is in this desire to make known the riches of His glory via mercy that He has “endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (Rom 9:22). He has made the wicked for His own glory in the day of evil (Prov 16:4).

If you or I wish to believe in a different version of God, we run headlong into a very serious problem: there is no other God. The fabrication of our imagination will inevitably be more wicked and less merciful, but even worse, non-existent at all. An idol made in our own image cannot save, and wishing it to do so is a sin against the ever-blessed God Who is. Things are as He intended, not merely as He foresaw. And we must worship, trust, and love Him Who is, not as we wish He were.

3.3 By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.

Our confession helpfully reminds us that there are even elect and unelect angels (cf. 1Tim 5:21; Jude v6). Surely, if God did not owe them any opportunity for redemption, then He owes no such opportunity to sinful men. As a matter of fact, there are holy angels whom He has appointed to be with Him in Christ’s coming in glory (Mat 25:31), and there are others for whom He has prepared everlasting fire (Mat 25:41).

Foreordination is an active thing, but our confession wisely recognizes the difference in intensity in how Scripture speaks about those elected unto life and those passed over and consigned to death. Rom 9:23 is certainly much more emphatic about the preparation of vessels for mercy than Rom 9:22 is about vessels which are prepared for destruction. And while Eph 1:5 talks about predestination of the elect unto adoption as being “according to the good pleasure of His will,” there is not a text about reprobation that is correspondingly effusive. So, our confession uses the word “predestinated” with respect to life and the word “foreordained” with respect to death. It is always well for us to imitate Scripture in the proportions and relations with which it presents the truth.

3.4 These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.

The Lord knows whom He has chosen (Jn 13:18), those who are His (2Tim 2:19). He knows His sheep (Jn 10:14), who are His before He gathers them (Jn 10:14–16, 27–28). Jesus’s own life-giving mission was limited to the number of the elect (Jn 17:2, 6, 9–12).

The more our flesh protests against particular Scripture truths, the more needful are confessions like ours that unflinchingly confront us with those Bible truths. Consider above, for instance, the sweetness and strengthening of Jesus’s Good Shepherd discourse (in Jn 10) and High Priestly prayer (in Jn 17). Yet, the oft-disputed truth that is our subject this month is at the heart of both of them.  

Next time, Lord-willing, we’ll find this to be every bit as much the case in WCF 3.5 as we draw its truths out of Eph 1 and Rom 8 like sweet, refreshing water for our souls. Until then, dear believing reader, the Lord give you to be amazed at the mere pleasure of God that has brought you into saving faith in Him Who is and Who saves.

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