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Double Double, Toil & Trouble?

© Rob Wilkerson
Chapter Six

The Third Text:
1 Peter 2:8

There are three more texts I want us to examine together, and this is the first of those.
If you’ve made it this far, I wish I were there with you to give you a brotherly bear hug!
What tremendous patience you’ve demonstrated to make it this far with me. This
“theology stuff” is deep and sometimes difficult isn’t it? So picture me there with you,
coaching you along to keep up the good work! You’re halfway done with the biblical

Imagine if you will that there are three more falls of the hammer to drive down the nail
of double-predestination. This is the first of those three final falls. 1 Peter 2:8 provides
a description of our Lord as “a stumbling-stone and a rock to trip over.” Peter writes
that those who stumble over Him do so “because they disobey the word, as they were
destined to do.” The NLT translates it this way: “They stumble because they do not
listen to God's word or obey it, and so they meet the fate that has been planned for
them.” The Greek actually reads, “because they disobey the word, to which they were
also destined.” The NKJV translates it, “and to this doom they were also appointed.”
Tom Schreiner’s expanded translation is also helpful for introducing this chapter.

“Verse 8 continues the thought from v. 7. We can summarize the verses
as follows: Those who disbelieve stumble over the stone, who is Christ.
They stumble over Christ because they refuse to believe in him and obey
him. People who stumble and disobey are responsible for their refusal to
trust in Christ, and yet God has appointed, without himself being morally
responsible for the sin of unbelievers, that they will both disobey and

This is very much a frightful piece of inspired literature. In this verse Peter is quoting
from Isaiah 8:14, giving a new understanding of the previous quotation in 1 Peter 2:7.
Jesus Christ is the stone the builders have rejected, because this stone was intended to
be a stumbling-stone. This is the Greek word skandalon, which is a trap set to make one
fall. Jesus Christ and His life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension are all just a
point of offense to the lost.

Thomas Schreiner. 1, 2 Peter, Jude, New American Commentary (Nashvillle, TN: Broadman and Holman
Publishers, 2003), p. 111.
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They are offended with Him and what His life represents and demands. This arouses
their anger against Him and their rejection of Him. And for this, they are most assuredly
responsible. They killed Him because they hated Him and because they wanted to
murder Him. So right off the bat, before we even begin discussing predestination, I am
saying what Peter says, namely that unbelievers are responsible for rejecting Jesus
Christ and they have no one to blame but themselves.

Their stumbling is reflected in two other phrases. The first is found in verse 7 – “they do
not believe.” The second is found in verse 8 – “they disobey the word.” Christ is the
cornerstone who has been intentionally laid in their way, a stone which they must either
face and embrace or reject. Their rejection of Christ is seen in their unbelief and
disobedience. They simply refuse to see the value of Jesus Christ, and they willfully
refuse to submit to Him and obey Him. So then,

“Peter articulated a common theme in the Scriptures that human beings
are responsible for their sin and sin willingly, and yet God controls all
events in history. The Scriptures do not resolve how these two themes fit
together philosophically...We must admit, however, that how this fits
together logically eludes us, and hence theologians have often fallen prey
to the temptation to deny one or the other truth.”

The Meaning of the Word

Now comes the difficult truth found at the end of verse 8. It is the Greek word
etethesan from the word tithemi, translated as “destined” or “appointed” in most
translations. Observe two features about this word: the word meaning (lexicography)
and the grammar (syntax).

First, the word means to make, appoint, destine, or assign. It also means “to put or
place in a particular location.”
Elsewhere it is used to refer to God’s appointing or
predestining a particular event or situation long before it ever happens. Passages like
Acts 1:7; Romans 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Hebrews 1:2; and even John 15:16 and Acts
13:47 would argue for such an understanding of the usage of this word. Further, the
word is also used to refer to God’s establishing someone in a certain situation at a
certain point in time, such as in Matthew 22:44; 20:28; Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians
12:18, 28.

Thomas Schreiner. 1, 2 Peter, Jude, New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman
Publishers, 2003), pp. 113-14.

¬iûqµi. Louw-Nida 85.32 (BibleWorks).

Wayne Grudem. The First Epistle of Peter (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p. 107.
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Greek literature outside the New Testament uses the word in various contexts, like
making a deposit in a bank, laying down one’s weapons, placing a body in the grace,
putting one’s voting ballot on an altar, etc.
All of these usages simply illustrate for us
that a person is putting or placing something in a particular location. In light of the
verse, God is putting or placing unbelievers in a particular state or location, according to
the context.

The Meaning of the Grammar

Second, consider the grammar. This is usually where those who know Greek begin to
salivate with the excitement of exegesis! So read as much as you can, and skip over the
words you don’t understand. The word itself is in an aorist passive indicative form. The
aorist in the Greek reflects the big picture, usually without any particular reference to
some specific incident or moment in time.
In light of this it would be difficult to make
an exegetical case based solely on the usage of this word to argue for the fact that Peter
is referring to God’s predestining them.

The passive indicates that they are an object being acted upon. “The passive ‘were
destined for’ makes clear that the destiny awaiting them was not their own conscious
Remember that long discussion we had about the use of the passive in
Romans 9? The same applies here also, except for the fact that this word, unlike the
one in Romans 9:22, is in a definite passive voice with no possibility of it being in the
middle voice. Whenever the passive is used, an agent is involved, someone who is
performing the action of the verb. If that verb is tithemi, which means to appoint or
assign or destine, then someone or something else is appointing, assigning or destining
these people. Though the agent is unnamed, that doesn’t make it a “secret agent!” The
agent must be God. Why?

The agent is clearly God for two reasons. First, this has to be God for grammatical
reasons. Paul used the same word in the passive in 1 Timothy 2:7. “And I have been

¬iûqµi. Liddell-Scott 40025 (BibleWorks)

I take etethesan to be a Historical Aorist. Burton remarks, “The Aorist Indicative is most frequently used
to express a past event viewed in its entirety, simply as an event or a single fact. It has no reference to
the progress of the event, or to any existing result of it.” Moods and Tenses of the New Testament by ??
Burton (BibleWorks).

The Greek word for predestine is ¬poopiÇo (see Eph. 1:5, for example), which is not the word Peter
uses here. Grudem believes that the RSV “correctly represents this appointment to disobedience as a
completed event in the past (they were destined), for that is the force of the aorist indicative here” (p.

D. Edmond Hiebert. 1 Peter (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), p. 140. Hiebert would be among those
commentators who see only man’s responsibility implied in the text, excluding any reference to
predestination. He also cites Kistemaker to that effect.
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chosen…as a preacher and apostle…” God is not mentioned as the “chooser” but He is
clearly the agent. He states as much in 2 Timothy 1:11. “And God chose me to be a
preacher, an apostle…” Hebrews 10:13 would argue for the same understanding. The
agent who will humble Christ’s enemies as a footstool under His feet can be none other
than God (whom Paul, though not the author of Hebrews, names as such in 1
Corinthians 15:24-28).

Second, the agent is clearly God because the context of 1 Peter 2:8 demands it. As you
will recall in our discussion of Romans 9:22-23, when an agent is unnamed in a context
with a passive verb, the context will usually indicate who that agent is. And we find that
agent in the context by considering who is doing the rest of the action. Let me explain

There is clearly a contrasting parallel being made here.
Consider what immediately
follows verse eight. “You are a chosen nation…” What is clear is that Peter is making a
contrast here using similar concepts. According to verse 8, believers are a chosen
nation, chosen for God, and conversely, unbelievers, according to verses 7 and 8, were
chosen or ‘destined’ for unbelief. The agent for both must, therefore, be God.

Were Unbelievers and Believers Alike Chosen?

Moving along, the Greek word for “chosen” (t|iq¬o,) in verse 9 means to elect or
select. It is used for Christ in 1 Peter 2:4, 6. So whatever connotation it carries for Christ
must also be applied to believers in verse 9. Christ was chosen and believers are
Using the contrasting parallel Peter intends to use here, it is safe to say that a
concept very similar to that of “chosen” is being used with reference to unbelievers.

The reason Peter does not use the same word for unbelievers, however, is because the
connotation of the word cannot mean the same thing for unbelievers. Unbelievers are
not chosen by God in that special, saving sense as Peter intends to use the word to
describe believers. But neither are unbelievers “un-chosen.” No, Peter chooses the
word “destined” to describe their relationship to God. God has chosen believers and He
has destined unbelievers. So what is it that they have been destined to?

This parallel interplay and contrast between believers being chosen and unbelievers being destined is
not uncommon in the NT. We have seen it already in Romans 9:22-23. There, believers are prepared
beforehand for glory, and unbelievers are prepared for God’s wrath.

According to 1 Peter 1:1-2 these are the very people to whom Peter wrote his epistle. “From Peter, an
apostle of Jesus Christ, to those temporarily residing abroad…who are chosen according to the
foreknowledge of God the Father…”
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The Timing of This Activity

One more thought needs attention regarding this verse. This question needs to be
answered: “When did this destining activity of God towards unbelievers actually take
place? You yourself said that the word isn’t ‘predestine.’ That would be clear enough
that God destined them for unbelief and disobedience before they were born, as in the
case of Jacob and Esau in Romans 9. But here in 1 Peter 2:8, unbelievers are not
predestined, but only destined.”

If you’ve asked that question or made a similar remark, you are tracking with me. That
means you’re an excellent Bible student! I’m giving you another pat on the back right
about now. Can you feel it? Now, apply those excellent study skills on the following
observations. First,

“The timing of such destining is not specified, but elsewhere in Scripture
related passages about predestination view it as occurring before
creation, or ‘before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1:4; cf. 2 Pet. 2:3;
Jude 4; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:29-30; 9:14-24).”

Second, many times the only way we are able to determine word meaning is by
comparing the usage in one verse with the way it is used in another text of similar
genre. 1 Peter is a letter written by Pastor Peter to his congregation. And 1 Timothy is a
letter written by Pastor Paul to the pastor he had just installed in the church at Ephesus.
By comparing the usage of one word in 1 Peter with the same word in 1 Timothy, we
find some interesting helps.

In 1 Timothy 2:7, the same word tithemi is used as in 1 Peter 2:8. Paul writes, “For this I
was appointed a preacher and apostle…and a teacher of the Gentiles…” He is referring
to his mandate to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul says he was “appointed” to that
task. When did this take place? He writes several years earlier, “But when the one who
set me apart from birth, and called me by his grace…” (Gal. 1:15). The Greek would
literally translate the phrase regarding birth as “from my mother’s womb.”

This appointment to apostleship came while he was still in his mother’s womb. This
should recall to our minds another great man of God, whom Paul probably had in mind.
This was the prophet Jeremiah who also was set apart in his mother’s womb. Of him
God declared, “Before you were born I set you apart. I appointed you to be a prophet to
the nations” (Jer. 1:5). It should be no surprise for us to learn that the Greek translation
of the Hebrew here contains the word tithemi. Jeremiah was appointed to be a prophet
before he was even born, just like Paul was appointed to be an apostle before he was

Grudem, First Peter, p. 108.
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Further, we could reach out for an argument from Romans 9, where we have already
visited. Remember that in verse 9:11 Paul makes the argument about God’s election
based on Jacob and Esau that, “even before they were born or had done anything good
or bad (so that God’s purpose in election would stand, not by works but by his calling)…”
The argument here is simply in keeping with the concept of God’s appointment or
destining activity occurring before one is born. God destined the two twins before they
were born, yet the word “predestination” is not used in this context.

Drawing some conclusions from all of this, the fact that the actual word
“predestination” is not used in the context of 1 Peter 2:8 is no strong argument that he
is not talking about predestination. As I have shown, the concept of predestination is
already inherent in the passage. And the overall evidence points to the fact that the
time in which these unbelievers were destined to unbelief, stumbling and disobedience
was being before they were born.

The Conclusion of the Exegesis

This brings me to the conclusion of the exegesis. I cannot agree with Lenski’s position
that, “Calvinists explain this as an eternal decree of reprobation, all Scripture to the
contrary notwithstanding.”
If the word tithemi means to put, place, set, assign,
appoint or destine to a particular state or location, then the state or location in which
unbelievers have been placed by God is unbelief, stumbling over Christ, and
disobedience to His Word. And this destining activity was performed by God, before
they were born. It is a difficult conclusion, to be sure, but one that the context seems to
The whole of the context, in fact, must point to God’s sovereign predestining
activity since the force of the text is that God has successfully placed His Son as the
cornerstone despite the fact that the builders rejected Him. “They are overpowered by
the great Architect of the Church: His purpose stands.”
God is in charge, throughout
this text.

R. C. H. Lenski. The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN:
Augsburg, Publishing House, 1966), p. 98. Per Lenski, “They [Calvinists] place the action of the verb in the
volutes antecedens whereas it belongs in the voluntas consequens. The former does not take into account
man’s reaction to Christ and to the Word; the latter does as in Mark 16:16 plainly states.” Unfortunately,
this is just another example of allowing the tension regarding God’s sovereignty to affect one’s study to
the point where one feels compelled to leap from a text on sovereignty into other texts on responsibility
and drag the latter into the former. On many, many other texts, however, Lenski is reliable, useful, and
recommended as I use him quite often.

See Grudem, First Peter, p. 109. “It does not seem possible to escape the conclusion that what the text
does affirm (the ‘destining’ of present disobedience of unbelievers) implies also that all disobedience
which tragically does persist to the end of life (and thus into eternity) has been ‘destined’ by God (cf. Acts
4:27-28; Jude 4; Gn. 45:5 with 50:20; Ex. 10:20 with 8:15; 2 Sa. 16:11; Acts 2:23; Rom. 9:17-23; 11:7; 2
Thes. 2:11).

Robert Leighton. Commentary on First Peter (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1972), p. 151.
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What is more, Peter, being a Jew and writing to Jews, would have surely thought
nothing of stating such a truth. As we concluded in the excurses, double-predestination
was nothing new for a Jew. Ernest Best, a famous commentator and theologian, wrote,
“Predestination is again part of the primitive Christian teaching (1 Th. 5:9; Rom. 8:28-30;
9-11; Eph. 1:12; Jude 4)…”

John Lillie, a 19
century theologian, went so far as to say that because it was a ‘no-
brainer’ to Jews, he didn’t feel the need to comment on it!

“And as for the difficulty which it may be supposed to involved, as
bringing even the sins of men within the range, we need not give
ourselves any concern about that. It is just the difficulty which, as
growing out of the relations between the sovereign God and the
dependent creature, besets all our poor speculations about ‘eternal
Providence,’ and certainly meets us no less frequently and nakedly in
Scripture. The inspired writers, however, are very little troubled by it.
For the most part, they seem scarcely conscious of its existence.

“Hence, the frank simplicity with which they everywhere speak of God as
hardening men’s hearts – causing them to err from His ways, giving them
a spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they
should not hear – turning their hearts to hate His people – raising up
Pharaoh for the very purpose of showing His power in him – bidding
Shimei curse David – moving David to number the people – and so

An Examination of Other Interpretations

There are those on the one hand who would argue a lighter, more mild sense of this
destining work of God. Oddly enough, my interpretation of the exegetical evidence
stands at odds with my favorite older commentators such as Matthew Henry and Adam
Clarke. Henry, for example, argues that the concept of God destining unbelievers for
disobedience and unbelief means that “All those who go on resolutely in their infidelity
and contempt of the gospel are appointed to eternal destruction; and God from eternity
knows who they are.”
In other words, for Henry, the thing God has appointed here is

Ernest Best. 1 Peter, New Century Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s, 1982), p. 107.
Fairness demands that I finish his sentence which ended this way: “though it is normally expounded in
regard to those who are saved and not to those who perish.”

John Lillie. Lectures on the First and Second Epistles of Peter (Minneapolis, MN: Klock and Klock
Christian Publishers, 1978 Reprint), pp. 119-21. The author lists the following passages as proofs for the
thoughts in the second paragraph I quoted above: Exod. 4:21; 7:13; Deut. 2:30; 2 Sam. 16:10; 24:1; Isa.
29:10; 63:17; Rom. 9:17, 18; 11:8, etc.

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not unbelievers for their unbelief, but “everlasting destruction” for the unbelievers.
Adam Clarke’s argument goes a little further than Henry’s.

“there is no intimation that they were appointed or decreed to disobey,
that they might stumble, and fall, and be broken. They stumbled and fell
through their obstinate unbelief; and thus their stumbling and falling, as
well as their unbelief, were of themselves, in consequence of this they
were appointed to be broken; this was God’s work of judgment.”

A.T. Robertson would concur with both authors: “Their disobedience is not ordained,
the penalty of their disobedience is.”
That point seemed to resound among many
commentaries. The destination they arrived at is the one they freely chose and traveled
toward. I don’t disagree at all. But again, I don’t think that this what this particular text
is arguing for. We must be careful not to allow the interpretations of other texts – such
as those on man’s responsibility – to creep in and overtake the interpretation of other
texts – such as God’s sovereignty.

The problem, however, with these arguments is that they seem to fly in the face of the
actual wording of the text. The text does not speak anywhere in its context of the fate
of the unbelievers. There is no mention of eternal destruction or the penalty of
disobedience, as Henry and Robertson would contend. Further, the concept of
consequence, though perhaps implied in the text, is not the focal point of the actual

The actual Greek uses a relative pronoun (hos) before the verb tithemi. The relative
pronoun connects the verb back to two antecedents – previous thoughts already
introduced in the context. The most logical antecedents are the words that precede the
relative pronoun, which are the Greek words apeithountes, translated ‘disobey,’ and
proskoptousin, translated ‘stumble.’

1 Peter 2:8 (BibleWorks).

Clarke, 1 Peter 2:8. E-Sword.

A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament. 1 Peter 2:8. BibleWorks.

Contra John Brown, The First Epistle of Peter, Volume One (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, nd), p.
313). It is very interesting to note that Brown is probably the only commentator of Puritan stripe who
does not comment upon any reference to predestination here. In his own words, “Sin is never
represented as appointed by God; punishment is. God permits men to be sinners – that is, he does not
hinder them from sinning; he appoints them, if they sin, to be punished. The reference here, however,
does not seem to be the Divine decree, so much as to the revelation of the Divine decree in the Divine
prediction.” His “Note B,” however caused me trouble, there he wrote regarding the pronouns preceding
proskoptousin and apeithountes in verse 8, “God appoints the wicked to punishment, not to sin. Some
anti-Calvinists have found in these words a proof, that even they who perish through unbelief were
appointed to salvation…It is sad when the love of system leads good men thus to ‘pervert’ the word of
God” (p. 321).
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So technically, according to the actual wording of the text, unbelievers were not
destined or appointed to eternal destruction. Rather, they were destined for their
disobedience and stumbling. Per Albert Barnes, “The fair sense from which we cannot
escape, is, that this did not happen by chance or accident, but that there was a divine
arrangement, appointment, or plan on the part of God in reference to this result, and
that the result was in conformity with that.”
Barnes goes on to explain:

“The arrangement was nevertheless made, with the understanding that
all this would be so, and because it was best on the whole that it should
be so, even though this consequence would follow. That is, it was better
that the arrangement should be made for the salvation of people even
with this result, that a part would sink deeper into condemnation, than
that no arrangement should be made to save any.”

I would also argue that there is one more antecedent to this relative pronoun. It is in
verse 7, and it is unbelief.
The conclusion would then be that while unbelievers are
not spoken of here as being destined to eternal doom or destruction, they were
however, as persons, destined by God for their lives of stumbling, disobedience, and
unbelief. One particular commentator, who came to this conclusion, believed that there
was a connection between tithemi in verse 6 and etethesan in verse 8. He urged that,
“…both the redemptive mission and work of Christ and its rejection and rejectors were
within the counsel and purpose of God.”

Barnes, Barnes Notes on the New Testament. 1 Peter 2:8. E-Sword.

Ibid. It should be noted in fairness to Barnes that he evidently did not hold to double-predestination as
is seen in the following comment which continues from this one. “The primary and originating
arrangement, therefore, did not contemplate them or their destruction, but was made with reference to
others, and notwithstanding they would reject him, and would fall. The expression ‘whereunto’…refers to
this plan, as involving, under the circumstances, the result which actually followed. Their stumbling and
falling was not a matter of chance, or a result which was not contemplated, but entered into the original
arrangement; and the whole, therefore, might be said to be in accordance with a wise plan and purpose.
And, it might be said in this sense, and in this connection, that those who would reject him were
appointed to this stumbling and falling. It was what was foreseen; what entered into the general
arrangement; what was involved in the purpose to save any…It may be added, that as, in the facts in the
case, nothing wrong has been done by God, and no one has been deprived of any rights, or punished
more than he deserves, it was not wrong in him to make the arrangement.” This is clearly not a reflection
of double-predestination, although it comes very close to it.

This is the only thing Calvin argued for in his commentary. The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to
the Hebrews and The First and Second Epistles of St Peter (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s, 1974), pp. 264-
65. His insight, however, into another possible interpretation, is very perceptive. He plausibly considered
the thought that Peter may be enhancing the unbelief of the Jews by saying that those who were
appointed to believe are actually appointed to unbelief because they stumble and disobey God’s Son.

Hort, as quoted in Edward Gordon Selwyn’s commentary entitled The First Epistle of St. Peter
(London, England: MacMillan & Co., Ltd., 1947), p. 165. Emphasis added. Selwyn includes a brief
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Wayne Grudem would concur with this understanding. He does not see the punishment
of unbelievers the focus here as much as the unbelievers and their sinfulness. Among
the countless comments made on whether their disobedience or stumbling was
destined, Grudem’s analysis is that,

“Since the actions are interconnected, and since it is not an action but the
people (‘they’) who were ‘destined,’ it makes little difference to the force
of the passage which one of these we choose.”

Elsewhere, he wrote,

“The ‘destining’ in this verse is best taken to refer to both the stumbling
and the disobedience. It is incorrect to say that God only destined the
fact that those who disobey would stumble, because it is not a fact but
persons (‘they’) who are said to be ‘destined’ in this case.”

Arguing that the purpose of the comment was to comfort his readers,
Peter shows
that in rejecting Christ and behaving so hostile to believers, such sinfulness should not
surprise believers. Per Grudem, these things

“were predicted by God long ago in the Old Testament (vv. 7-8a). Now
he says that they were not only predicted but also planned by God (v. 8b)
and are therefore within the scope of his sovereign and wise plan for the
world…Amazing as it may seem, even the stumbling and disobedience of
unbelievers have been destined by God.”

discussion of how Peter may have possibly borrowed from Paul’s argument in Romans 9-11. He follows
that with an illustration of how the divine plan of God often includes one group rejecting the gospel so
that it can go somewhere else, citing an example of early missionary work in India among the Brahmins. It
is a wonderful example of the truths that both Peter and Paul are seeking to emphasize.

Grudem, p. 107.

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), p. 327, fn. 10 (emphasis
added). See also page 685, fn. 24

See also Schreiner, 1 Peter, p. 114. There is a clear connection, at least in my mind, between this text
and the one we look at previously, Proverbs 16:4. God has determined to glorify Himself in all of His
creation, including that part which hates His proverbial guts. God made all things to glorify Himself,
including the wicked whom He will destroy to glorify Himself. And here in 1 Peter 2:8, Christians are
comforted with the same thought, namely, that God has glorified Himself and accomplished His purpose
with regard to His Son by including the sinful actions of those who hated Christ. And He will further do so
by destroying them for their actions.

Grudem, 1 Peter, p. 106
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Another interpretation, argued by Ramsey Michaels,
is along similar lines as that of
Robertson and others, who argue that what is destined is the stumbling. Ramsey is a bit
more detailed in his explanation. He sees the antecedent in verse 8 as referring back to
those who stumble. This is because he understands the verb etethesan (‘destined’) in
verse 8 to match tithemi (‘set’) in verse 6. This would make verses 6-8 a single unit,
which in Peter’s mind, supposedly points out the logical consequences of rejecting the
cornerstone. Christ was laid in Zion as the chief cornerstone, and all who trust in Him
will not be put to shame (v. 6), but instead will be honored (v. 7). The middle of verse 7,
then, describes the lot of those who do not trust in Him. If they reject Him, they will
necessarily stumble over Him, and become offended with Him. This happens as a logical
consequence to disobeying Him in the first place.

Per Ramsey, then, when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead (1:3, 21), God laid that
choice and precious cornerstone in Zion, as Peter said in 2:6. And when God did that,
honor and vindication would come for those who believed, but stumbling and shame
would come for those who disbelieved. In his interpretation there are two oddities that

First, he cites Romans 9:21-23 as an example of this interpretation. He offers no
explanation on that note, which would have been helpful. Certainly, if one is to use that
passage, then the more blatant references to predestination must be first removed.
Second, He seems to ignore the blatant references to election in the context of 1 Peter
2:8. In verses 4 and 6, Christ is a ‘chosen’ cornerstone. In verse 7, the builders’
rejection of that ‘chosen’ cornerstone seems only to fulfill and promote the fact that He
was chosen.

What flows from this is that those who believe in Him and are honored by Him are His
stones (v. 5) being used to build His ‘chosen nation’ (v. 9). The conclusion to me
personally seems to be that Peter’s emphasis on those who are chosen with Christ
points to the honor they receive with Him and because of Him, while those who reject
Him are themselves rejected. Or, He chose some to be honored through their belief,
and He chose others to be condemned through their unbelief. For these reasons,
Michael’s interpretation seems implausible.

The only interpretation then, that will seem to stand the tests of context is that God is in
complete control of everything, including those who believe and those who disbelieve.
He is in control of those who choose to trust in the Cornerstone. And He is in control of
those who stumble over it and disobey it. As one commentator put it,

“…the deliberate control of God in this process and his forcing this
division by this encounter with ‘the stone’ is indicated when Peter
commends, ‘as they were destined to do.’ This sense of God’s control

J. Ramsey Michaels. 1 Peter, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1988), pp. 106-7.
Double Double, Toil & Trouble? © Rob Wilkerson
over the destiny of even the unbeliever is also indicated in 2 Pet. 2:9, 12,
17 and Rom. 9:14-24.”


It is a difficult concept to accept, for sure, that God would actually (pre)destine certain
persons to unbelief and disobedience. If you are like me, you are feeling the tension of
the loudest question being begged right now: “But how can God hold such persons
responsible for their unbelief and disobedience if He destined them for it to begin
with?” No doubt that very question would be asked with quite an inflection in your
voice, expressing serious concern about where we’re going with all this. So yes, it is a
difficult concept to grasp. And surely you as a believer have the same responsibility as I
to “study to show yourself approved to God” (2 Tim. 2:15). But several facts remain.

First, those who sin will experience condemnation because they are the ones who
worked their way there. They have been persuaded time and again to receive the
gracious offers made in the gospel, “but will run violently on their own sinful ways
against the directions thereof, and instead of subjection to it are the more incensed by
it…and by their so doing will hurt themselves…”

Second, however, God’s reprobation is in fact what is mainly taught in this text. Sure,
they stumble and disobey and disbelieve because they hate Jesus Christ. But as the text
has stated, so it has stood from ancient times that no one will stumble, disobey or
disbelieve in Jesus Christ,

“but those who have been from eternity ordained for condemnation in
God’s spotless decree, which infuses no evil in men…seeing they sin with
no less freedom and delight than if there were not a decree concerning
their reprobation…and are not damned because of a decree…The
continuance in such sin is the clearest proof and evidence of reprobation
of any in the world, for the everlasting ruin and condemnation of souls
ordained from eternity to the same for their willful slighting of Jesus
Christ is referred to in the last words of this verse as being thereby most
clearly evidence.”

Peter H. Davids. The First Epistle of Peter, New International Commentary on the New Testament
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s, 1990), p. 90. However, Davids believes that “in all these places the text is
referring more to a corporate destiny than to individual destiny…” Perhaps he is right. But if Peter is
thinking anything like Paul here, as some think he is, then the individual destiny would have to come in to
play in some sense. Then again, perhaps this would make me guilty of doing what I am so fond of pointing
out, namely of using texts B, C and D to argue for truths that are not found in text A! Either way, whether
it is individual destiny or corporate destiny, the force of predestination and reprobation is not changed. If
anything it would merely make a sweeping categorization of elect and reprobated.

Alexander Nisbet. An Exposition of 1 & 2 Peter (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1995), p. 78.

Double Double, Toil & Trouble? © Rob Wilkerson

Third, we cannot and must not allow emotions to rule our Bible study. Instead, we must
practice and exhibit a quiet trust in a good, gracious, merciful and all-wise God. Even
though we cannot understand how these fit together, we must trust that they do in
God’s omniscience.
Here again Grudem’s words ring loud and true.

“We may object that this does not seem morally right for God, even
though it seems to be the inescapable meaning of the text before us. To
this objection the only answer that Scripture gives is not to answer all our
questions regarding ‘how’ or ‘why’, but only to indicate that ultimately
even the condemnation of unbelievers will result in greater glory to God,
in the praise of his justice, and power, and mercy to those to whom he
shows mercy…Thus God can ordain something that is in itself displeasing
to him because he knows that finally it will accomplish a greater
good…When we cannot fully understand how this can be, it is for us
simply to be silent before our Creator and wait for fuller understanding in

Third, the mystery behind the question points us to God’s sovereignty in glorifying
Himself. He is in charge of it all. He is working out all things according to the counsel of
His will (Eph. 1:11-12). He will accomplish what He has decreed from before the
foundation of the world. And He has decreed to include sinful man’s rejection of His
own Son so that He may glorify Himself by in their just condemnation.

“This (Whereunto also they were appointed) the Apostle adds, for the
further satisfaction of believers in this point, how it is that so many reject
Christ, and stumble at him: telling them plainly, that the secret purpose
of God is accomplished in this. God having determined to glorify his


John Kohler, from Historic Baptist discussion forum, argues regarding God’s omniscience: “God’s
omniscience requires that the ultimate destiny of the non-elect was certain from all eternity. God is
omniscient. This means that He knows all things – past, present and future. God knew that Adam would
eat the forbidden fruit, and He knows about each and every person who will die in unbelief. From
eternity past, He knew who would end up in eternal hell. God knew this in advance and He could not be
mistaken; therefore their ultimate destiny was certain before the foundation of the world. Moreover,
God could have done something to change this outcome, if it was somehow incompatible with His plans.
Because He created the world anyway, and did not decide to intervene by choosing them unto salvation
and giving them a new heart, then we know that His eternal purpose is that they should be eternally
condemned for their sins.” At

Grudem, First Peter, p. 109.
Double Double, Toil & Trouble? © Rob Wilkerson
justice on impenitent sinners, as He shows His rich mercy in them that

As I close, I cannot emphasize enough the attitude with which all students of the Bible,
especially those who call themselves reformed or Calvinist, ought to have when it comes
to subjects like this. Too often, in my brief experience on earth, I have found that
reformed or Calvinistic folks do not have an air of grace when they talk about their
doctrines of grace. Their heroes would never have approved of such an attitude that
lacks the humility and self-examination demanded by these doctrines. I offer you a
continuation of Robert Leighton’s comments above toward our conclusion.

“Here it were easier to lead you into a deep, than to lead you forth again.
I will rather stand on the shore, and silently admire it, than enter into it.
This is certain, that the thoughts of God are all not less just in themselves,
than deep and unsoundable by us. His justice appears clear, in that
man’s destruction is always the fruit of his own sin. But to give causes of
God’s decrees without Himself, is neither agreeable with the primitive
being of the nature of God, nor with the doctrine of the Scriptures. This
is sure, that God is not bound to give us further account of these things,
and we are bound not to ask it. Let these two words, as St. Augustine
says, answer all, What art thou, O man? and, O, the depth! Rom. ix.20;

“Our only sure way to know that our names are not in that black line, and
to be persuaded that he hath chosen us to be saved by His Son, is this, to
find that we have chosen Him, and are built on Him by faith, which is the
fruit of His love, who first chooseth us; and that we may read in our
esteem of Him.”

Leighton, p. 152.