We discuss the character of predestination, election and reprobation, we are really discussing the character of scripture, for predestination is the very heart of scripture and of the gospel. Therefore, to ask, What is the character of predestination (or election)? is to ask, What is the character of scripture? If the answer to the former be that it is supralapsarian in character, then the answer to the latter must be that scripture itself is of a supralapsarian nature. If this be so; then the following inferences will be true, as that, first, the supra-infra question is not unimportant. It has a very fundamental importance. For the supra view is concerned with the planning, realization and consummation of God’s purpose. Second, it cannot be true that there is no real difference between the two views, as though both are practically the same. In the supra scheme, nothing is afterthought, or “after the fact.” There is no later introduced resource to affect an evasion of something. Supra proceeds in the direct line of train, track and terminal, or perhaps the order would be better expressed as terminal, train and track. Scripture will bear this out. We have already suggested that Romans Nine is not infra- but supralapsarian.
There Paul wrote, “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth.” Why did God give preference to Jacob? It must be evident that He did so simply because it was His purpose to do so, for He chose Jacob independently of any merit in him, in fact, His choice was before the children were born, before they could do any good or evil. Since it is true that “known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the ages” (Acts 15:18), that is, that He does in time only what He has decreed in His secret, eternal counsel, then it must have been in the divine mind from all eternity to put enmity between the seed of the serpent, Esau, and the seed of the woman, Jacob. It is a plain scriptural fact that divine election and reprobation, God’s choosing some and rejecting others, were independent of any foreseen “good or evil” in the creature, and so irrespective of any merit or demerit (the fall) of man. It may also be noted that the language “the purpose of God according toelection” furnishes evidence for the Calvinistic doctrine of double predestination, that there are two parts of the divine decree, that there must also be the purpose of God according to His sovereignreprobation. Romans 9:22 surely bears this out. “What if God willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction!”
Also the supralapsarian view is more in harmony withRomans 9:21 than is the infra-view. For God, who has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass (Acts 4:27-28), in His eternal purpose contemplated His people first, not as sinful, fallen creatures, but, as noted in Romans 8:29-30, as glorified saints, as eternally predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son. With that in mind, consider this: “Hath not the Potter power (authority) over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another to dishonor?” Now that lump of clay to begin with is an unformed lump. But is it also to be regarded as a fallen mass or an unfallen lump? The latter, certainly; for if the whole mass of mankind were considered in the mind of Paul infra-wise, as fallen, he would not have spoken of some vessels destined to be unto honor and some to dishonor, for under that scheme of predestination the whole mass of clay was already in the state of corruption and dishonor. Then the decree would be, for some, to leave them in and consign them to that dishonor, while for the others, to extricate them from dishonor and elevate them to honor. For this mass of unformed clay is the mass of creatureship not yet made and not yet considered as corrupted and fallen. But rather out of that unformed mass God fitted some to destruction and others He beforehand prepared to glory. This view alone extols the certainty and sovereignty of God’s decree as no other does.
This is also true in Ephesians 1. There, too, we find the distinction made between the end God had in mind and the means He ordained to realize that end. For from verses 3 to 6 we have God’s first and highest purposes of His decree expressed, Then in verses 7 to 9 we have the decree of the means in which He foreappointed the accomplishment of that purpose. Then we will understand what is meant by “being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (v. 11). What things are these which God works? First, the things He has ordained to be the glorious end of His people, and second, the things He has ordained to be the wonderful means He will use to the accomplishment of His own end. These thingschiefly have people in view, contemplated first in an unfallen and glorified state (vv. 3-6) and then in a fallen and redeemed state (7-9).
This is what God worked in His counsel. He did it in eternity past. “He hath blessed us,” “He hath chosen us” (v. 4), “having predestinated us unto the adoption of sons” (v. 5), “He hath made us accepted in the Beloved” One (v. 6). The means employed to accomplish this already determined counsel produce a present blessing and its enjoyment. “In whom we have redemption through His blood” (v. 7). That first and highest purpose of God revealed in vv. 3-6 is there declared full and complete without any dependence upon a foreview of the fall. Those “all things,” which God works according to the counsel of His will, follow from the elect being eternally blessed in Christ, and those blessed ones being chosen in Him. These spiritual blessings with which He hasblessed us, He has given us on much higher ground than that of His being our Redeemer. He gave them to us from all eternity on the ground of Christ’s being the Image of God! He chose us in Christ, not as picked out of a fallen humanity, but with the end deter-mined that we should be holy. God’s election saw us first not as unholy, but as holy. This is not the imperfect holiness of this life, but the perfect and unchangeable holiness that neither unfallen Adam nor the unfallen angels had by nature. There in His decree He viewed us as holy, as having predestinated us to the adoption of sons (v, 5). That is, we were from the beginning of His decree considered as the sons of God in perfect communion and friendship with Him.
Now since the Lord has blessed us according to His purpose of election with all spiritual blessings, then there are not only those blessings just enumerated which belong peculiarly to the end He has in mind for us, but there are also those blessings which belong peculiarly to the means to secure that end. The latter blessings, however, were ordained through and on consideration of the fall, and for us, regarded not as holy in perfection, but as sinners to be redeemed and so brought to holiness in perfection and glory.
These blessings of God’s eternal purpose, then, were first in His intention. So they are said to be “before the foundation of the world” (v. 4), i.e., they were ordained to us logically and spiritually in Christ before consideration of laying the foundation of the universe. That which was first in His intention He designed to be realized at the end of the world. Thus the adoption to which we were predestinated we yet await (Rom. 8:23). Then the blessings of God’s ordained means were next in His intention, and are given us in this life, for in this present we have “the forgiveness of sins” through His blood. Those blessings first in His main purpose stand on the ground of Christ’s person, as we have it, “blessed . . . in Christ . . . chosen in Him . . . accepted in the Beloved.” But the blessings ordained as means stand on the ground of Christ’s work. These latter blessings God uses in a reconciling way to bridge the gap that because of sin separates us from the ultimate blessings, which were always first in His intention. So there are blessings which we receive “in Christ” (vv. 3, 4) as glorified, holy sons of God, and there are blessings which we receive “through Christ” (v. 7) as sinners with sins forgiven. The former blessings are ours in Christ as Head. The latter are ours in Christ as Savior. This is the divine order. “Christ is the Head of the church, and He is the Savior of the body” of Christ (Eph. 5:23). “In the volume (the head) of the Book (of Election) it is written of Me, ‘Lo, I come (as Saviour!) to do Thy will, O God!'”
God chose Christ and foreordained Him (I Pet. 1:19) to be the sovereign end of His eternal purpose. Christ is the end of our election. He is God’s Elect, God’s Delight (Isaiah 42:1). We are God’s elect and Christ’s delight (Pro. 8:31). Therefore our election is prior to any consideration of the fall of man, for we were viewed in Christ before we were viewed in Adam. The elect angels were never regarded as in a fallen mass when they were chosen, for they never fell.
So with elect men; they were regarded in the same unfallen lump of humanity when He chose them. Christ as God manifest in the flesh was chosen, but neither He nor His perfect humanity ever fell in Adam. Consequently, the people chosen in Him must be considered at that point in the decree, at least, as unfallen. Eve was-given to Adam before sin entered. So the church was given to Christ as bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh, not as fallen, but as from the very fast, glorified! God’s purpose for His elect has a double reference. First, He ordained them to glory, and then with regard to the fall, to salvation. So His ordination of the reprobate has a double reference. He ordained them to destruction as creatures, and to condemnation as sinners.
(To be continued)