The Enigmas of
Divine Sovereignty vs. Human Responsibility,
Divine Impartiality vs. Human Liberty
as Revealed in the Scriptures
by Ven Dr I. U. Ibeme http://www.scribd.com/ifeogo
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PriscAquila Christian Resource Centre
A. Divine Sovereignty in the Scripture
B. Divine Sovereignty by Arminius
C. Divine Sovereignty by Calvin
“Whatever God judges or justifies by His Sovereignty, whether past, now or in the
end, is always because it is Human Responsibility. He who has faith in God’s
Sovereignty never denies Divine concern about Human Responsibility. Whoever
does so, has implicitly denounced Divine Sovereignty as found in the Scriptures. It
is arrogance or ignorance for anyone to claim to know the end from the beginning
and erroneous for any philosophy or any theology to exclude either Sovereignty or
Responsibility under any guise or argument. THE BIBLE ASSURES THE BELIEVERS
ABOUT GOD’S GRACE AND PRESERVATION BUT ALSO DEMANDS FAITH AND
PERSEVERANCE FROM THE BELIEVER.”
TWO LOPSIDED FALLACIES OF ALL-OR-NONE PHILOSOPHY ON THE DIVINE
1. A SOVEREIGN God is logically assumed not to regard human responsibility.
But alas, the Sovereign God has also Scripturally revealed Himself to be JUST!
2. A LOVING God is logically assumed not to regard human iniquity.
But alas, the Loving God has also Scripturally revealed Himself to be HOLY!
Such faulty logic has made some to even reject the existence of God because they reason
that a good and mighty God would not have allowed calamity. They forget that a mighty
God is also mighty in wisdom and eternal in purpose. Without the full light of the whole
Scripture, human logical concept of God will always be a grope in darkness. (Act 17:27)
(28) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who
are the called according to his purpose.
(29) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his
Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
(30) Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he
also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
A. THE SCRIPTURE (Apostles)
God is both omnipotent and omniscient, both sovereign and
righteous. Not either or.
That God has failed to accomplish His national election of
Israel because some resisted His goodness to Israel is futile
logic to which God answers that the truly elect national Israel is neither
political nor genealogical, but spiritual (Rom_9:6-9; Rom_11:1-5).
That God has failed to pursue His general elective purpose for
Israel by plucking-off some Jews and grafting-in some Gentiles
is futile logic to which God answers that He reserves the sovereignty to
show His prerogatives of mercy-and-severity as He deems good in His
impartial but unsearchable wisdom (Rom_3:3-9; Rom_9:19-23; Rom
That God should not blame us for our faults since we are
predetermination is futile logic to which God answers that we have
no excuse for our unbelief because we have common-sense and
conscience (Rom_1:18-24; Rom_2:1-11), again God has the
sovereignty to handle His creation and covenant as He deems good in
His unsearchable yet impartial wisdom (Rom_9:24-33).
SAVING WISDOM IS TO APPRECIATE
GREATNESS, GOODNESS AND WISDOM
(NOT QUERY) GOD’S
IN CREATION AND
SAVING WISDOM IS TO APPROPRIATE
COVENANT GRACE BY FAITH (Rom 10).
That God either foresaw (by Arminius) or predetermined (by
Calvin) all our individual responses to Him and all our
individual experiences in life are both logical but incomplete
conclusions from the Scripture, since both God's sovereign
authority and humanity's responsible liberty are revealed equally
in the Scripture. However, the fully clear demarcations (limits or
extents) of either human responsibility and liberty or God’s
sovereignty and impartiality are hidden in God’s secret wisdom
and are not revealed to us in the Scripture. To answer the
perplexing question why some believe and others reject the
offer of salvation from an all knowing and all mighty God, both
Calvin and Arminius veered off and got stuck to establishing a
salvation that is based on each individual’s merit guaranteed
in their personal pre-Christian past (foreseen justly or
irresistibly foreordained sovereignly) rather than on Christ’s
eternal merit available for all to accept or refuse; they
misapplied the temporal election of Israel in the Patriarchs to
the preexistent election of every individual.
What is revealed in the Scripture is that God judges us to be ultimately
responsible and accountable for our free choices whether good or bad
(His SEVERITY), while He assures us of His loving but righteous
interventions (His GOODNESS) in our experiences whether good or
bad. Evangelistic fervour tends to put more weight on Divine
Impartiality with Human Responsibility (Arminius) while Devotional
ardour tends to put more weight on Divine Sovereignty without
human liberty (Calvin).
The theory of partially biased effectual call and irresistible grace
for the “predestined” few is NOT from Scripture but unnecessary
philosophical logic (derived from Old Testament exclusiveness in the
Patriarchs, disregarding New Testament inclusiveness IN CHRIST)
aimed at establishing the infallibility of God's predestined choice IN
individuals without free choice (not exactly the same as predestined
choice IN Christ).
The Scripture clearly teaches that GOD IS IMPARTIALLY
SOVEREIGN and HUMANS ARE RESPONSIBLY FREE. The Scripture
teaches that God’s Call and God’s Grace are available to all humans
and are always meant to be effectual for all without partiality yet
God’s Call and God’s Grace are always resistible through unbelief.
Our sovereign and righteous God is most gracious, mighty and wise,
yet He is not a partial respecter of persons (2Sa_14:14; Job_34:19;
Act_10:34-35; Rom_2:9-12; Col_3:23-25; 1Pe_1:17).
These verses reveal the out-working sequence of God’s redemptive
purpose. To understand these verses accurately, we must shed off all
theological, denominational, traditional and technical connotations of
the key words which are not in full agreement with the connotations of
such words in biblical context.
For instance, biblical “Foreknowledge”, (of God’s “preconceived
purpose”, “pre-contemplated counsel” and “originally desired idea”) for
creating all things is not the same as classical theological
“foreordination” of particular persons who must believe (“decree”,
“election” and “predestination” for Calvin); or “foreseeing” of
particular persons who would believe (“foresight” and “prescience” for
Arminius). In the same way, biblical “New-birth” (of our recreation in
Christ or our indwelling for renewal) by the Holy Spirit is not the same
as classical theological “regeneration” (of preparation, awakening
or quickening) by the Holy Spirit.
If God’s foreknowledge means foreordination and pre-decree and
irresistible predestination OF PERSONS as the Calvinists say,
then humans have no responsibility with other creation and
Christ died in vain; for humans are saved by their past
predestined merits without Christ or New Creation, and
evangelism is inconsequential.
And If God’s foreknowledge means foresight and prescience of
each person’s response to Christ as the Arminians say, then God
has dependent sovereignty.
But if God’s foreknowledge means pre-contemplation and
preconception of His desired purpose IN CHRIST for all as the
Apostles teach, then God has sovereignty for grace and reward,
while man has responsibility for faith and works of faith, whereas
Christ died for all.
GOD HAS ONE (foreknown) PURPOSE IN CALLING US THROUGH
CHRIST – that we might be RECREATED ANEW to be conformed to
the image of His Son through Whom and for Whose sake all things
are “foreknown” (“preconceived in purpose”, “pre-contemplated in
counsel” and “originally desired in idea”) and made by our all-knowing
and almighty God (Eph_1:3-5; Col_1:15-18):
1. God foreknew (originally contemplated and conceived in His
wise counsel) ALL peoples and persons, entities and things that
were to be created through Christ (Act_15:18) and be gathered as
one in Christ (Eph_1:9-11), so that He is the God of all and Christ
is all in all (Eph_1:21-23; Col_3:10-11). God’s foreknowledge is
more creative for all than redemptive for some.
2. God predestined that all humanity RECREATED ANEW through
Christ (as He foreknew all) whosoever shall believe in Christ shall
be eventually glorified to be conformed to the image of Christ,
despite their sin and alienation (Col_1:15-23).
3. God created all humanity (whom He foreknew) in His own
image (personally and spiritually, mentally and morally) and in
Christ (newly for glory) to be conformed to the image of His Son
(in bodily glory);
4. God calls (REVEALS HIS WORD TO/DRAWS BY HIS SPIRIT’S POWER
Joh_12:32) all humanity through the Gospel to come into Christ, in
Whom ALONE He had predestinated glory for all, because He
loves humanity and has no pleasure in the death of the sinner
(Eze_33:11-20; Joh_3:14-21). Humanity cannot return to God
without God's gracious call helping us (Joh_6:44; Joh_6:65).
5. But God ADOPTS/AUTHORIZES for sonship only whosoever
hears the Word with faith and so learns the Word, and
receives/believes in Christ Joh_1:12; Joh_6:45)
To guarantee that His foreknown purposes never fail and to
demonstrate His impartial and sovereign power of mercy or severity,
God makes promises prophetically and makes preparations
beforehand for persons, peoples and interventions in the course of
To ensure that His judgments remain impartially righteous, God has
prepared to appropriately recompense all persons and peoples for their
good or bad responses to His Word, His Son and His Spirit.
6. God elects (CHOOSING or recreating the FEW Mat_22:14)
whosoever answered His call (herein lies our responsibility and
His impartiality) for "many are called (whether by special
invitation Mat_22:2-7; or by street invitation Mat_22:8-10) but
few (who answer and prove faithful Mat_22:11-13) are chosen".
7. God justifies and sanctifies all the faithful elect by the New
Creation in Christ.
God had purposed to glorify with Christ all those elect whosoever
(as many as) remains faithful in Christ unto the end, in order to
conform them to the glorious NEW CREATION image of His Son
All of God’s purpose, program and plan spring from His
FOREKNOWLEDGE (God's original contemplation in His unsearchable
secret wisdom Act_1:7; Rom_11:30-36, which includes the searchable
revealed counsel of His will Deu_29:29); Rom_16:25-27).
As the Creator, God is so good and immutably perfect that He cannot
change to be better or worse (Mal_3:6; Jas_1:17). Whereas humans as
creatures were made very good (Gen_1:31) but not yet perfect, since
they can change to be better or worse (Gen_2:16-17; 2Co_3:18;
2Co_4:18) and to be bound or free (Rom_8:19-23).
PREDESTINATION (God's original design of glorious salvation) IN
CHRIST happened in eternity BEFORE the foundation of the world,
while ELECTION (God's calling and choosing into covenant privilege) IN
CHRIST, for the PROMISE of Kingdom glory, rest and heritage WITH
CHRIST is happening in due time SINCE after the foundation of the
world, for those who believe. This is evident from the truth that SINCE
after the foundation of the world, Christ has been ENROLLING
believers in due time in His Book of Life (Eze_18:21-25;
Dan_12:1; Luk_10:20; Php_4:3; Heb_12:23) and even DE-LISTING
apostates from the said Book of Life! (Exo_32:32-33; Psa_69:28;
Eze_18:26-29; Rev_3:5; Rev_22:19). Exclusive old creation
predestination and election of national Israel IN THE
PATRIARCHS for temporal promises of the Old Testament is not
the same as new creation inclusive predestination and election
for the universal Church IN CHRIST for the eternal promises of
the New Testament.
GOD SEEMS TO WORK OUT HIS PURPOSE IN THIS SEQUENCE:
1. FOREKNOWLEDGE GOD FOREKNOWS ALL HE OWNS – the
whole creation. (God's original DESIRE and originally
CONTEMPLATED secret wisdom that none perish according to
His loving purpose and good pleasure of His will, partly made
known as His revealed counsel) →
2. PREDESTINATION (God's original DESIGN of eternal salvation
and inclusively FOREORDAINED purpose) IN CHRIST alone
though NOT the same as Old Testament temporal heritage
exclusively promised IN the Patriarchs, partly made known as His
revealed counsel. (Predestination of individuals for their sake
has no place in the Scripture) →
3. CALLING (God's gracious revelatory invitation or persuasion)
exclusively to all Israel by the Patriarchs and Prophets in the Old
Testament but inclusively to all persons and peoples by Christ in
the New Testament →
4. ELECTION (God's choosing of some fallen humanity for
temporal covenant privilege EXCLUSIVE for all Israel
through the Patriarchs and eternal covenant privilege
INCLUSIVE for all people through Christ) for whosoever
accepts God's gracious Call by believing and calling on Him
God ELECTS or chooses us by the NEW CREATION IN
CHRIST through the gracious processes of: 1Co_1:30;
1Co_6:11; Rom_8:30; 2Th_2:13
PROMISE (temporal covenant in OT and eternal
covenant in NT) →
JUSTIFICATION (remission and adoption by grace
through faith) →
SANCTIFICATION (adoption-separation in the OT
and adoption-quickening-rebirth-purification in
the NT) →
resurrection in Christ).
God’s FOREKNOWLEDGE (original desire or contemplation of His
secret wisdom partly made known as the revealed counsel of His will)
was for the whole creation in general but His PREDESTINATION
(original design of general salvation in Christ) was particularly IN
Christ (not in particular Patriarchs for exclusive utilisation of Israel in
the OLD CREATION) for the inclusive and restoration of all things and
reconciliation of all humanity whosoever believes, in the NEW
CREATION Isa_46:10; Act_3:21.
God’s PREPARATION of judgmental curses (irreversible banishment and
eternal hell on Angels or reversible banishment/death and eternal hell
on Humans) for any violator of the good purpose and good pleasure of
His will is general (Rom_9:22-23).
God’s CALLING (invitation to salvation) is general to all fallen
humanity but His ELECTION into covenant heritage through Christ (by
justification-sanctification-glorification) is PROMISED only for believers
in Christ. ELECTION IS THEREFORE MORE OF a gracious PROMISE
THAN a judgmental DECREE. The decreed predestination is fatalistic
and deterministic and so makes nonsense of evangelism and human
responsibility. Again God’s love for the whole world and Christ’s death
for the whole world does not mean that none shall be judged on the
Judgment Day for WHOSOEVER accepts responsibility to REPENT and
CALL on the Name of the Lord Jesus shall be saved.
GOD FOREKNOWS ALL HE OWNS – the whole creation. Christ
CAME generally to ALL His own (foreknown) creation with His FULL
GRACE and CALL not willing that any should perish (2Pe_3:9), yet not
all His own (foreknown) received His Grace and heeded His Call; but as
many as faithfully received Him, to them He promises to particularly
GIVE the power to become the ELECT Sons of God (Joh_1:10-13;
Rom_10:11-13). Those who jettison the Call and make the Grace of no
effect remain under God’s wrath (Joh_3:36) and shall be condemned
(Joh_3:18-19; Gal_5:4; Heb_10:38-39).
Satan failed in his rebellion against God, but succeeded in his
deception of humanity. However, God has revealed and unfolded His
REDEMPTION PLAN IN Christ intended to help humanity gradually
and eventually prevail over Satan. God also has revealed and unfolded
His RETRIBUTION PLAN outside Christ such that all disobedient
angels and unbelieving humans gradually suffer wrath till they
eventually enter into eternal torment with Satan (Mat_25:41; Eph_2:13). Though we were ALL BOUND for condemnation through ADAM, yet
through CHRIST we are ALL FREE to chose from two general destinies –
Redemptive Destiny of entering into eternal life with Christ
(Eph_2:10) for our faithful obedience or
Retributive Destiny of remaining in eternal death with Satan for
our experimental disobedience – we are responsible for our free
All through the history of Israel, God reached out to all of them
generally but many of them met God’s call with stuff-neck and
unbelief, resisting the Holy Spirit (Act_7:51) and making the
Word of God of non-effect (Mar_7:13); only those who received the
call humbly in faith were elected (chosen) as the remnant and reserved
to the Lord (Pro_1:24; Isa_65:2-5; Jer_25:4; Mat_22:3-7; Rom_10:21).
The same is the case today.
THE GREAT MYSTERY IN CHRIST (Eph_1:1-12)
Blessed be God Who has blessed us (the Church) with heavenly
spiritual blessings IN CHRIST (Eph_1:3) because:
1. IN CHRIST (before the world was founded), God chose the
Church that it should be blessed with holiness and
blamelessness before God in love (Eph_1:4).
Therefore God predestinated the Church IN CHRIST:
a) unto adoption BY CHRIST according to the good
pleasure of God’s will (Eph_1:5), (The good pleasure of God’s
will is that His GRACE IN HIS BELOVED into which God accepts
the Church, be given God’s glorious praise Eph_1:6);
b) unto redemption IN CHRIST (forgiveness by Christ’s
blood) according to the riches of God’s grace abounding to the
Church in all wisdom and prudence (Eph_1:7-8); and
c) unto inheritance IN CHRIST according to the good
pleasure (sovereignty) of God’s purpose after the counsel of
God’s own will (Eph_1:11) that believers IN CHRIST should
receive God’s glorious praise (Eph_1:12).
2. Furtherance to this, God has revealed to the Church, the
secret (mystery) of His will which accords with His good
pleasure (sovereignty) that He purposed in Himself to gather
all things (heavenly and earthly, human and non-human) as
one IN Christ (Eph_1:9-10)
God’s COUNSEL produced the CREATION and leads to the
The Counsel – FOREKNOWLEDGE before the foundation of the
world, beyond time and before time began:
God foreknew (neither as foresight nor as foreordination but
rather as His eternal wisdom or His originally contemplated and
conceived counsel Act_2:23; Eph_1:11) all His purposes, all His
powers, all His plans, all His programmes (works), and all His
promises. None comes into being and nothing comes to be which
had not been part of God’s foreknown (originally contemplated)
counsel. Nothing comes to pass which does not fulfil what God
has foreknown and before contemplated in His timeless mind.
God (Who foreknew all things) foreordained or predestined
(originally designed) that all humanity shall be glorified only IN
CHRIST by bringing them to be conformed to the image of
Christ and to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven with Christ
(1Co_15:20-28; 1Co_15:49-55; Eph_1:3-8; 1Pe_1:20).
Predestination BEFORE the foundation of the world which is not
inclusive IN CHRIST’S PREDESTINATION but of exclusive
individuals for their sake (fatalism) does not make full logical
sense, biblically speaking.
The Creation – Foundation of the world, when time began:
God created all things (Gen 1-2) by the Christ-Word as He had
foreknown (i.e. not foreseen to happen but originally
contemplated and conceived in His counsel) them in His mind
The Consummation – Fulfilment from/since the foundation of the
world, after time began:
God blessed Adam to father the human race through whose fall
from glory, all humanity is sentenced to damnation (Gen 1-3).
God elected Noah to father the new human race to inherit the
Earth while it lasts (Gen 6-9).
God called Abram and elected him to father a new holy nation to
inherit the Promised Land (Gen 12-18).
God elected Isaac and Jacob as children of promise to inherit the
promised blessings of Abraham (Gen 21-22).
God sent Christ to open the door for the inclusive universal call to
all (since all not only Abraham, are foreknown by God in the
originally contemplated counsel of His will Eph_1:9-10) and to
culminate all things together in Christ 1Co_15:28; Php_3:21;
God (through the Gospel of Christ) calls or draws all humanity to
faith (by persuasive revelatory invitation); but all whosoever
believes, only them will God elect (or choose i.e. justify/purify by
the Blood, sanctify/consecrate by the Spirit and redeem by
glorious resurrection) in Christ, to fulfil all the purposes
foreordained (originally designed Eph_2:10) in Christ and inherit
the promises predestined (originally designed Eph_2:10)) in Him
before the foundation of the world.
Only loyal Love (Rom_8:28) and obedient Faith (Rom_9:30-33;
Col_1:19-23) in Christ alone could bring and keep anyone in line
with God’s foreknown (originally contemplated) counsel and good
pleasure in Christ. Our obtaining the bliss at the end of all things
is the reward for loving and believing God. Our assurance for
making it to the end is derived from God’s involvement in
knowing all things (VISION), making all things (MISSION) by and
for Christ, and working out His purposes in Christ (Rom_8:30).
Unbelief brings one to God’s foreknown (originally contemplated)
displeasure and foreordained (originally designed) severity
prepared for the devil and the wicked (Mat_25:41; Joh_3:35-36;
What then shall we say?
God’s FOREKNOWLEDGE is His eternal COUNSEL within Himself
BEFORE the foundation of the world. This has to do with:
1. God’s guarantee of His good pleasure to SATISFY HIS JUSTICE
AND MAJESTY in the end.
2. God’s purpose of His will to grant us SALVATION IN CHRIST by
3. God’s prerogative to SOVEREIGNTY TO DELIVER AND
DESTROY as He deems fit.
God’s Foreknowledge is worked out towards humanity as Redemptive
processes in their scopes or purposes SINCE/FROM the foundation or
CREATION of the world. These are as:
1. Process of PREDESTINATION within the Chronological
2. Process of ELECTION for the Genealogical scope/purpose.
3. Process of CALL for the Personal scope/purpose.
4. Process of REGENERATION for the Crucial scope/purpose.
5. Process of GLORIFICATION for the Eschatological
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B. ARMINIUS (Clarke’s Commentary)
The Sovereign God is OMNISCIENT. Aminianism is an attempt to exonerate God
from futile logic that blames God of the failure for man’s fall into sin and man’s
rejection of the Gospel, but creates the problem of a God Whose sovereignty is of
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God - To
understand this verse aright, let us observe:
1. That the persons in whose behalf all things work for good are they who love God, and,
consequently, who live in the spirit of obedience.
2. It is not said that all things shall work for good, but that συνεργει, they work now in
the behalf of him who loveth now, αγαπωσι; for both verbs are in the present tense. All
these things work together; while they are working, God’s providence is working, his
Spirit is working, and they are working Together with him. And whatever troubles, or
afflictions, or persecutions may arise, God presses them into their service; and they
make a part of the general working, and are caused to contribute to the general good of
the person who now loves God, and who is working by faith and love under the
influence and operation of the Holy Ghost. They who say sin works for good to them
that love God speak blasphemous nonsense. A man who now loves God is not now
sinning against God; and the promise belongs only to the present time: and as love is
the true incentive to obedience, the man who is entitled to the promise can never, while
thus entitled, (loving God), be found in the commission of sin. But though this be a good
general sense for these words, yet the all things mentioned here by the apostle seem
more particularly to mean those things mentioned in Rom_8:28-30.
To them who are the called according to his purpose - Dr. Taylor translates τοις
κλητοις, the invited; and observes that it is a metaphor taken from inviting guests, or
making them welcome to a feast. As if he had said: Certainly all things work together for
their good; for this reason, because they are called, invited, or made welcome to the blessings
of the covenant, (which is ratified in eating of the covenant sacrifice), according to God’s
original purpose first declared to Abraham, Gen_17:4 : Thou shalt be a father of many
nations - and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him, Gen_18:18. Thus this clause
is to be understood; and thus it is an argument to prove that all things, how afflictive soever,
shall work for our good while we continue to love God. Our being called or invited, according
to God’s purpose, proves that all things work for our good, on the supposition that we love
God, and not otherwise. For our loving God, or making a due improvement of our calling, is
evidently inserted by the apostle to make good his argument. He does not pretend to prove
that all things shall concur to the everlasting happiness of all that are called; but only to
those of the called who love God. Our calling, thus qualified is the ground of his argument,
which he prosecutes and completes in the two next verses. Our calling he takes for granted, as
a thing evident and unquestionable among all Christians. But you will say: How is it evident
and unquestionable that we are called? I answer: From our being in the visible Church, and
professing the faith of the Gospel. For always, in the apostolic writings, all that are in the
visible Church, and profess the faith of the Gospel, are numbered among the called or invited;
i.e. among the persons who are invited to feast on the covenant sacrifice, and who thus, in
reference to themselves, confirm and ratify the covenant. As for what is termed effectual
calling, as distinguished from the general invitations of the Gospel, it is a distinction which
divines have invented without any warrant from the sacred writings. Our calling, therefore,
is considered by the apostle in the nature of a self-evident proposition, which nobody doubts
or denies; or which, indeed, no Christian ought to doubt, or can call in question, Taylor’s
For whom he did foreknow, etc. - “In this and the following verse the apostle shows
how our calling is an argument that all things work together to advance our eternal
happiness, by showing the several steps which the wisdom and goodness of God have settled,
in order to complete our salvation. In order to this he first gives us, in this verse, the
foundation and finishing, or the beginning and end, of the scheme of our redemption: For
whom God did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. To
foreknow, here signifies to design before, or at the first forming of the scheme; to bestow the
favor and privilege of being God’s people upon any set of men, Rom_11:2. This is the
foundation or first step of our salvation; namely, the purpose and grace of God, which was
given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began, 2Ti_1:9. Then, he knew or favored us; for in
this sense the word to know is taken in a great variety of places, both in the Old and New
Testaments. And as he knew the Gentiles then, when the scheme was laid, and before any
part of it was executed, consequently, in reference to the execution of this scheme, he
foreknew us. This is the first step of our salvation, and the end or finishing of it is our
conformity to the Son of God in eternal glory, Rom_8:17, which includes and supposes our
moral conformity to him. When God knew us, at the forming of the Gospel scheme; or, when
he intended to bestow on us the privilege of being his people; he then destinated or designed
us to be conformed to the image of his Son; and, as he destinated or determined us then to
this very high honor and happiness, he pre-destinated, fore-ordained, or pre-determined us
to it. Thus we are to understand the foundation and finishing of the scheme of our salvation.
The foundation is the foreknowledge, or gracious purpose of God; the finishing is our being
joint heirs with Christ. Now, our calling or invitation (see on Rom_8:28 (note)) stands in
connection with both these.
1. It stands in connection with God’s foreknowledge; and so it is a true and valid calling:
for we are called, invited, or chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,
who may bestow his blessings upon any people, as may seem good in his sight, 1Pe_1:2;
consequently, we have a good title to the blessings of the Gospel to which we are called
or invited. And this was to be proved, that the Jew, to whom the apostle particularly
wrote, might see that the Gentiles being now called into the Church of God was not an
accidental thing, but a matter which God had determined when he conceived the Gospel
scheme. Thus our calling is connected with God’s foreknowledge.
2. It stands also in connection with our being conformed to the image of his Son; for we
are invited by the Gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,
2Th_2:14. And therefore, supposing, what the apostle supposes, that we love God, it is
certain, from our being called, that we shall be glorified with the sons of God; and so
our calling proves the point, that all things should work together for our good in our
present state, because it proves that we are intended for eternal glory; as he shows in
the next verse. For we must understand his foreknowing, predestinating, calling, and
justifying, in relation to his glorifying; and that none are finally glorified, but those
who, according to his purpose, are conformed to the image of his Son.” Taylor.
The first-born among many brethren - That he might be the chief or head of all the
redeemed; for His human nature is the first fruits of the resurrection from the dead; and He
is the first human being that, after having passed through death, was raised to eternal glory.
See Dr. Taylor.
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C. CALVINIST (JFB’s Commentary)
The Sovereign God is OMNIPOTENT. Calvinism is an attempt to fully answer the
futile logic that man’s rejection of the gospel is failure on God’s part, but by
propounding that God’s sovereignty is of UNJUST powers therefore re-enforces
the futile logic that God is to blame for man’s fall into sin.
Rom_8:28-39. Third: Triumphant summary of the whole argument.
And — or, “Moreover,” or “Now”; noting a transition to a new particular.
we know, etc. — The order in the original is more striking: “We know that to them that
love God” (compare 1Co_2:9; Eph_6:24; Jam_1:12; Jam_2:5) “all things work together for
good [even] to them who are the called (rather, ‘who are called’) according to His (eternal)
purpose.” Glorious assurance! And this, it seems, was a “household word,” a “known” thing,
among believers. This working of all things for good is done quite naturally to “them that
love God,” because such souls, persuaded that He who gave His own Son for them cannot but
mean them well in all His procedure, learn thus to take in good part whatever He sends them,
however trying to flesh and blood: and to them who are the called, according to “His
purpose,” all things do in the same intelligible way “work together for good”; for, even when
“He hath His way in the whirlwind,” they see “His chariot paved with love” (Son_3:10). And
knowing that it is in pursuance of an eternal “purpose” of love that they have been “called
into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ” (1Co_1:9), they naturally say within themselves,
“It cannot be that He ‘of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things,’ should suffer
that purpose to be thwarted by anything really adverse to us, or that He should not make all
things, dark as well as light, crooked as well as straight, to co-operate to the furtherance and
final completion of His high design.”
For — as touching this “calling according to his purpose” (Rom_8:28).
whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate — foreordain. In what sense are we
to take the word “foreknow” here? “Those who He foreknew would repent and believe,” say
Pelagians of every age and every hue. But this is to thrust into the text what is contrary to the
whole spirit, and even letter, of the apostle’s teaching (see Rom_9:11; 2Ti_1:9). In Rom_11:2,
and Psa_1:6, God’s “knowledge” of His people cannot be restricted to a mere foresight of
future events, or acquaintance with what is passing here below. Does “whom He did
foreknow,” then, mean “whom He foreordained?” Scarcely, because both “foreknowledge”
and “foreordination” are here mentioned, and the one as the cause of the other. It is difficult
indeed for our limited minds to distinguish them as states of the Divine Mind towards men ;
especially since in Act_2:23 “the counsel” is put before “the foreknowledge of God,” while in
1Pe_1:2 “election” is said to be “according to the foreknowledge of God.” But probably God’s
foreknowledge of His own people means His “peculiar, gracious, complacency in them,” while
His “predestinating” or “foreordaining” them signifies His fixed purpose, flowing from this, to
“save them and call them with an holy calling” (2Ti_1:9).
to be conformed to the image of his Son — that is, to be His sons after the pattern,
model, or image of His Sonship in our nature.
that he might be the first-born among many brethren — “The First-born,” the Son
by nature; His “many brethren,” sons by adoption: He, in the Humanity of the Only-begotten
of the Father, bearing our sins on the accursed tree; they in that of mere men ready to perish
by reason of sin, but redeemed by His blood from condemnation and wrath, and transformed
into His likeness: He “the First-born from the dead”; they “that sleep in Jesus,” to be in due
time “brought with Him”; “The First-born,” now “crowned with glory and honor”; His “many
brethren,” “when He shall appear, to be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is.”
D. GOD’S WILL (e.g. John Piper’s Comments on
Pragmatic analytical study of the wise will of God rather than the classical ontological study of the
fixed mind of God throws better light on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility.
JOHN PIPER points out that there are TWO DISTINCT MEANINGS OF GOD’S WILL IN THE
1. God’s Purpose and Counsel, Divine Decrees and Designs which are Humanly
2. God’s Pleasure and Commands, Divine Demands and Desires which are Humanly
This is (as John Piper wrote) because the Scripture clearly reveals that:
God is sovereign over all things and yet disapproves of many things.
God disapproves of some of the things which He ordains to happen.
God forbids some of the things He brings about.
God commands some of the things He hinders.
The true doctrine of election, predestination and foreknowledge must take these paradoxical truths into
consideration. God’s purpose is that only in Christ should any find eternal salvation God’s pleasure is
that none should perish. God in His purpose had elected Christ BEFORE the foundation of the world but
in His pleasure has been electing humans SINCE/FROM the foundation of the world. Where all these
meet in the secret WISDOM of God are unsearchable and beyond finding out (Rom 11:33b).
(32) For God has locked all people in the prison of their own disobedience so that he may
have mercy on them all.
(33) O how deep are God's riches, wisdom, and knowledge! How impossible to explain his
judgments or to understand his ways!
(34) "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become his adviser?
(35) Who has given him something only to have him pay it back?"
(36) For all things are from him, by him, and for him. Glory belongs to him forever! Amen.
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Updated February 22, 2015
by Ven. Dr. I. U. Ibeme
Copyright © PriscAquila Publishing, Maiduguri, Nigeria.
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