Church History: John Calvin

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81 Responses

  1. Babylon's Dread says:

    We have arrived

  2. Michael says:


    I’ll be curious to see where this goes.
    I can almost predict it, however…

  3. “I can almost predict it, however…”
    Servetus, right? 🙂

  4. Michael says:


    Servetus, predestination, and tyrant will all be key words. 🙂

  5. Michael says:

    I’ll deal with Servetus next week unless forced to do so sooner…

  6. Right on. Well, I won’t be involved in that. 🙂

    Good write up. We all owe Calvin a lot, even those of us who don’t agree with some of his theology.

  7. J.U. says:

    You’re off to a good start. You’ve attempted to change the focus from the doctrine that bears his name to the man himself. I think it is important to understand the man, his beliefs, his time, the politics, etc. to grasp fully what this is about. I’m in your corner if it breaks out into a fist fight. And thank you for your continued teaching and explaining. We can all use a little better understanding of our fellow Christians. I pray people will read, study, and discuss with an open mind and an open heart.

  8. Babylon's Dread says:

    I think that triumvirate has been well plowed ground here. You have more than adequately adjudicated the Servetus matter in most minds. Tyrant? Well you will surely have to quell some of that. Likely the conflicting stuff about Calvin will come with the study of the calvinists later on. It is the codification of Calvin that brings the storm.

    Interesting to read that Calvin himself was a synthesis … not strange and not surprising but not thoroughly examined.

    Further, the reality that the Institutes were constantly re-written and expanded is fascinating because it would not be so easy for someone to do that with their work. But then I do not know how much the revising of the Institutes was real change … likely it was more expansion and further expounding the implications of his thought.

  9. Michael says:

    Thanks J.U….Calvin and I are buddies, so I have to keep my powder dry. 🙂

  10. Nonnie says:

    God is good and He is in control…..I will trust in Him as to how He works it all out.

  11. Michael says:


    One of the blights that the young, restless, and Reformed have brought upon us is that they have neglected historical study of the Reformed faith.
    Calvin taught nothing that Bucer, Bullinger, and others hadn’t already put on paper.
    His strength was that he was a clear and concise writer…Bucer would write a book when a chapter would suffice and people found him to be a tedious blowhard in print.
    Calvin cut to the chase without sacrificing content or clarity.
    The following editions of the Institutes were expansions, not revelations…good call.

  12. Michael says:


    With one addition, that Calvin’s theology in a nutshell.
    That addition would be the need for obedience in following Him…which I find to be a thread that runs through his life and theology.

  13. Nonnie says:

    Ok, but I was thinking that “trusting” Him was “following” Him.

  14. Michael says:


    I wasn’t clear…my apology.
    Obedience “while” following Him is a prominent feature of Calvins’ theology.
    Calvin had no desire to be in Geneva or to return there after his banishment…he was doing God’s work in Strasbourg.
    Still he felt he would be disobedient to not go back…so he did.

  15. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    If anyone knows of an English language translation of Bullinger’s treatise on the office of prophet … curious to read how Protestants arrived at the idea that prophecy is preaching and I’ve been hearing Bullinger’s treatise (if it’s available in English) would be a good place to start

  16. Michael says:


    I think what you’re looking for is in his exposition of the book of Revelation, not a separate treatise.
    I think…

  17. Jean says:


    During this series will you draw any contrasts between what Calvin actually wrote and believed, versus what some of the modern day “Calvinists” are teaching in the name of Calvin, which may be off?

    This will be my first eposure to Calvinism.

  18. Babylon's Dread says:


    I would modify that say it will be your first conscious exposure to Calvinism.

  19. Jean says:

    Agree, beyond summary explanations, such as TULIP.

  20. Michael says:

    We just got hacked to smithreens so I will be busy for a bit.

  21. Michael says:

    Well, that was less than fun…
    Back to the subject at hand.

  22. Michael says:

    Calvin would have loathed the TULIP.
    No one ever heard of such before the end of the 19th century.
    The “Five points of Calvinism” were actually answers to the Arminians at the Synod of Dort, not a complete overview of Calvins’ doctrines.
    They are too neat and rigid…Calvin allowed for much more mystery.

  23. Michael says:

    The big argument surrounding Calvin is around whether or not he advocated a strictly limited atonement.
    The answer is no…partly because that was not a question he was answering.
    Calvin was closer to what is called a hypothetical universalist…the atonement was sufficient to save all who would believe, but efficient for the elect and there are benefits of the atonement for even the unsaved.

  24. Michael says:

    The biggest lie about Calvin is about his work in missions.
    The old saw is that if the elect are going to be saved, then there is no need for evangelism.
    Calvin set fire to that…he was without a doubt the greatest missions minister of the 16th century.

  25. Jim says:


    I’m far more simple than I appear to be, which means I’m REALLY simple….

    If God chose (or even knew before) who He would save, why would Jesus bear the wrath of God for Bill Smith, knowing full well that Bill Smith would never believe unto salvation? If the atonement is penal and substitutionary, why act as a substitute for 10’s of billions of Bill Smiths?

  26. Michael says:


    It’s simpler than that for me.
    I don’t know.
    I know that the Bible says that Christ died for all men, yet only the elect will receive Him.
    The thing that struck me as I read Calvins commentaries is that where the Bible teaches a universal atonement, so does he.
    The same with passages that indicate a particular redemption.
    He lets the paradox stand…so I do too.

  27. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    Michael, according to mega-Zwingli fan Jim West … it’d be this one.

    But West was fairly sure no English-language translation exists for it. 🙁

  28. papiaslogia says:

    Limited Atonement is always a sticky point for me when it comes to embracing TULIP. I am always happy to discuss without the opposition calling me a “universalist” for not buying their LA argument.

    Carry on 🙂

  29. PP Vet says:

    Calvin missed the whole point of the gospel, which is, of course, do good because God wants you to be happy.

  30. Babylon's Dread says:

    Apparently PP Vet has seen the Gospel according to Queen Victoria Osteen

  31. No one watches her for her theology – we watch because she is hot, and that makes us happy … and God wants us happy.

  32. Jean says:

    #25, #26,

    “I know that the Bible says that Christ died for all men, yet only the elect will receive Him. The thing that struck me as I read Calvins commentaries is that where the Bible teaches a universal atonement, so does he. The same with passages that indicate a particular redemption. He lets the paradox stand…so I do too.”

    Perhaps the paradox was created by a misinterpretation by Calvin of the biblical meaning of “election.”

  33. Babylon's Dread says:

    I love the answer Michael gave about Calvin and universal atonement.

    I do hate what I perceive as philosophical language driving the discussions about God. I have believed for a very long time now that election is misconstrued and misperceived in the whole discussion of calvinism. There can be no discussion about election without Genesis as the starting point and the language of Romans is what needs explaining. But not tonight…

  34. Babylon's Dread says:

    Oh and Jean … I totally agree that the meaning of election is at the center of the calvinist controversy… parsing words from usage to dictionary meanings is always the devil.

  35. I agree that Calvinists confuse the purpose of the doctrine of election. Michael has argued this point with me and perhaps it is not John Calvin’s position but it is the Calvinist position.

    Lutherans have always used any mention of election as Paul giving comfort to those who have some trouble in their soul “don’t worry because God has chosen you before the foundations of the world.”

    The Calvinist used election to explain how God populates heaven … and in some cases hell.

  36. Jim says:

    Thanks Michael.

    MLD, I have no interest in who is hot or not, but I’m not blind. She’s not hot, you’re just old.

  37. Oooo… PP does a Bolg Post on Calvin… never saw that coming.

  38. Michael says:


    We’ve done 15 centuries…why on earth would I skip Calvin?

  39. Jim says:


    We’d have to define predestined and chosen as well.

  40. Jean says:


    I don’t recall off the top of my head where “chosen” is used, but I agree regarding “predestined” and would add “foreknew” from Rom 8:29 as another relevant definition to the analysis.

  41. Steve Wright says:

    chosen and elect are the same words.

  42. MLD you cracked me up at #31!

    I was thinking to myself, “Man Joel has a hot babe, after watching the video sound bite. And then I read your comment. Perfect timing…LOL

  43. uriahisaliveandwell says:

    Curious, why would anyone refer to a female, much more a sister in the Lord as being “hot?” Are you not married and what purpose does it serve to use such descriptors regarding the opposite gender, except to exhibit and to cause another to think of this person such a manner.

    There is a real difference in saying someone is attractive vs. hot. Think about it. Being human has nothing to do with this—it is a matter of respect and staying out of the flesh. It is a choice and it is a reflection of what your attitude is towards females that you obviously have not come to understand that unless she is your wife—your key in your ignition needs to be placed on park—with the emergency brake on.

    If you had made this statement in workplace and others overheard it, it would be considered most inappropriate and a form of sexual harassment.

    It is a form of sexualizing another person. It is abusive and offensive. It is worldly and not of the Lord.

  44. uriah – Thank you for expressing your “personal” opinion.

  45. Bob says:

    I haven’t read the thread completely, but this statement by Michael stood out to me:

    “First, John Calvin never set out to be the John Calvin of history”

    what a simple but true statement. No matter what our feelings are about the big names in history this is a universal truth.

    If any of us where to know how we will be remembered would we do things differently?

    Since this blog has a lot to do with all things CC, I would wager Chuck Smith never intended to become “Papa” Smith and spawn thousands of churches who would repeat his sermons and commentary.

    I wonder if a thousand years from now how Chuck Smith will be remembered?

    BTW MLD does prove one thing, humans are visually oriented. Hey MLD you must be an Apple fan!

  46. papiaslogia says:

    “I wonder if a thousand years from now how Chuck Smith will be remembered?”

    Bob, with all due respect, pick up a Church History book that covers the last fifty years, and see IF they mention CC or Chuck.

    I honestly haven’t seen a mention of either, although I wouldn’t go on record to say that I would never see either mentioned.

  47. Babylon's Dread says:

    If we are going to talk about election we must begin with Abraham, not because it is the beginning but certainly because Abraham is the fountain of Paul’s discussion of election in Romans. Paul is not engaging our theoretical and theological discussions about who is elect from eternity past… which is to move the matter away from the text of scripture IMO.

    Paul is dealing with who is in the family and how the family is constituted and who can sit at the table and share daily life fellowship. Paul’s great interest is inclusion. Calvinism’s greatest challenges is the negations. That is why those who allow the mystery of seemingly contradictory statements to stand and just create a category called combatibalism are easiest to bear.

    Election for Paul is God’s election of Abraham as the means whereby the nations are all included … “that all the nations should be blessed” Those who treat election from the standpoint of Jewish favoritism or from the standpoint of Calvinist exclusivism are missing the point. What then happens is that the nuanced meanings of Paul in Romans are obscured by our preconceptions.

    Jesus saw Jewish favoritism, denounced it, hated it and condemned it as false “you are of your father the devil.” Paul in no way anticipates the philosophically rooted determinism of Augustine and Calvin and what he does with election is very different. I totally understand how calvinism gets its moorings but being stuck with interpretations that have more to do with the use of language than with those that are rooted in the original intent of the author is always going to leave confusion.

    I do not believe that Paul would recognize the arguments that are rooted in his use of language in Romans. To understand the book one has to see Paul as working an argument from beginning to end that is pastoral and not as Paul parsing a group of subjects that make Romans a kind of primitive Institutes.

  48. Babylon's Dread says:

    Ok now I will run away … got a lot of mess to make

  49. Bob says:


    With all due respect you miss the point. All, ok most, of us will never be remembered beyond a grandchild or two. But the bigger point here is Calvin, Luther, Caligula, Henry the 8th and yes even Chuck Smith are remembered for something by someone.

    Myself, Bob, will be remember for something and it probably won’t be what I think it should be.

    So maybe what we do and act is important!

    “The memory of a righteous person is a blessing” Prov 10:7

    Yes Chuck will be remembered, probably not a thousand years though.
    Me? Maybe one generation.

    What’s on your tombstone (standing stone)?

  50. Michael says:


    In the interests of keeping things between the ditches, I’m not going to argue for my theological understanding of election.
    I’m presenting history here, not theology.
    I’m fine with you doing so, however.
    Yes, Calvin modeled the later editions of the Institutes after the pattern he perceived in the book of Romans…nice work. 😉

  51. Michael says:

    I believe Chuck Smith will have a prominent place in church history…he was at the front of the last real revival.
    He will not be as prominent as Calvin and others, but he will be present.

  52. Mike @ 37,
    ‘cmon, really? ::eyeroll::

    Michael is doing an excellent job with these church history pieces.

  53. Babylon's Dread says:


    Thanks for the response …. I don’t really want to argue my point. I want to assert it as an alternative for people to consider. But more vigorous presentations might be good elsewhere. I love the history you are doing. It matters.

    As for more recent history, some secular writers are calling the revival of the Jesus People the Fourth Great Awakening. I quite like the notion. They are dating it around 1960 which I would not quibble over as the matter was quite impacting across all groups. They close it about 1980 but it is more difficult to measure more recent histories. I assert that it still goes on or went on through the turn of the century.

    Chuck Smith will not be forgotten … local church life was never the same after him for some cultural reasons. Strangely Smith got tamed and mainstreamed but his modifications increased and went on through others.

    I always wonder about the Chuck of the bare feet on the carpet days and the Chuck of the no one can come back in the auditorium after they leave days…he got domesticated. It was a big deal.

  54. papiaslogia says:


    No doubt that we will all be remembered for something, but I think that Chucks influence may end up being a blip on the radar of Church history. But I may be wrong.

    If I may use a Hockey analogy: If John Calvin is like Wayne Gretzky and Chuck is like Jonathan Quick, then I’m like Andre “Red Light” Racicot.

    We all put on a uniform, but we all have different results.

    “What’s on my tombstone?” Pepperoni and Sausage. Sorry – couldn’t resist. 🙂

  55. Michael says:


    I’m sure we will have that discussion at some point.
    I lost my need to ‘prove” my theology or convince others of it some time ago.
    I hope to be biblical and I am still learning.
    I prefer others to tell us of their doctrines and how they arrived at them…most of them add something to my foundation.
    I can’t get too worked up about “right” and “wrong” when I know my own ideas are a combination of both.

  56. Muff Potter says:

    Victoria Osteen? I’d rather look at Helen Mirren any day of the week and six-ways-to-Sunday…

  57. Babylon's Dread says:

    It is good when we move the matter from being right to knowing God. Doctrinal conformity does not achieve relational security. We know him because he has made himself known. We love him because he loved us first. We seek to apprehend that which has seized us. How’s that for a little non-calvinist calvinism. Worship not full comprehension is our role.

  58. Michael says:


    That was really good stuff… 🙂

  59. Andrew says:


    I’m not sure if I buy the fact that Chuck Smith was at the front of the last “REAL” revival? I’m actually questioning this entire concept of revival. I’m not sure even what a revival is let alone a “REAL” one.

    Do you have a definition of this and what you mean by “REAL”?

  60. Michael says:


    If Smith were to have left you a fortune in his will, you’d think it was counterfeit money.

    A revival is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit where for a season He is poured out on a group of people for a specific season, resulting in mass salvation and spiritual renewal.

    When we believe such a thing is happening, it is difficult to judge until years afterward.

    The fruit of the Jesus People movement has lasted for almost fifty years.
    It is a historically definable period with historical players.

    It defies sociological explanation…and having studied this period, it defies all explanation other than the power of God.

  61. Andrew says:


    This is not so much about Chuck Smith but about the concept of revival in general. I have heard that the Azuza street revivals were all from God. With all the bizarre things coming out of that era I am not convinced it was a revival at all. Anyhow, It seems to me that CC is now constantly praying for a new revival for the new generation as if their prayers are going to influence how the Holy Spirit does his sovereign work in the world. To me as soon as you think you can influence what God is doing in the world, I would say its no longer God being sovereign but rather man trying to manipulate.

    Secondly, I think Luther is probably just as prominent as Calvin in regards to church history but did he ever mention revival? I defer to MLD on this but wasn’t it Luther himself that warned against the enthusiasts. I could be wrong, but just by the name itself it appears that these enthusiasts may have been trying to create revival.

    So back to my original question. I really appreciate your definition of revival but I’m not quite sure exactly where I find this in the Bible and that is my question.

  62. Michael says:


    We don’t find antibiotics in the Bible but they exist.
    Peters’ sermon on the day of Pentecost is perhaps a template for what we are discussing.

    We are to pray for revival and renewal…we pray that God’s kingdom would come and His will would be done…God uses the prayers of His people.

    Every revival in history has offended those it didn’t touch…and the next one will as well.

  63. Babylon's Dread says:

    I am writing about spiritual awakening at present. Movements of the Spirit come with things that cause people to react. The downside of what has become of the Reformation is that it has become a rationalist movement. The Reformation itself was a movement of the Spirit. People who are involved in such movements are offensive to others. Luther was himself quite a work of the Holy Spirit and yet he himself reacted severely against others.

    Let me come more directly to the last 65 years or so. The early 60s brought charismatic renewal… it was offensive to most churches and unsettled their safe routines. The Jesus movement is interesting because the church Chuck died with could not have hosted the movement that built it. Chuck of the 60s would be kicked out of Chuck of the 21st century. Chuck domesticated the thing for dignified folk but it came by inches.

    The so-called Third Wave was more like Chuck of the 60s but Chuck never liked physical manifestations of the Spirit … falling looked like drug induced states… casting demons out of Christians seemed unbiblical… and the shaking and rattling of Lonnie Frisbee’s invitations of the Spirit unhinged him.

    Interestingly John Wimber was comfortable with all that unsettled Chuck but himself could not stomach the laughing and animal imitations that sometimes accompanied Toronto. He was not blessed by the Toronto Blessing.

    At each point leaders quench that which makes them uncomfortable.

    But back to the original idea… History will indeed record that an awakening took place in the 60s that had outcomes lasting for 50 years. People date the ending of that movement as per their own discomfort. I remain at peace in the mess….

    ‘More Lord’ Dread

  64. Andrew says:

    Chuck Smith and the revival he was part of was a lot about the hype on rapture that never occurred during his life time although he predicted it several times. I don’t see this even close to Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. That is just my two cents.

  65. Michael says:


    I wasn’t comparing the two except in form.
    For some reason, error, sometimes gross error, often accompanies these moves of the Spirit.

    Lonnie Frisbee couldn’t accurately exegete a phone book, but he birthed many who became solid teachers.

  66. Babylon's Dread says:


    Unless you are Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican I would be willing to bet that your movement was born in revival and today does not resemble that past. I would dare say there are historic roots that you would not own…

  67. I think the next revival begins Oct 3rd when the New Left Behind movie comes out.

    I am trying to figure it out. When the Noah movie was coming out, the evangelical movie going community was in a tither – saying that the Noah movie was a perversion of scripture – that it did not follow the Bible.

    Well, in the movie, there was a God, there was a Noah, there was a flood, there was an Ark and there were animals, along with great turmoil and death. In fact, everything that is in the biblical account was in the Noah movie – and some extra.

    Now Left Behind is on it’s way and the hoopla is great – even the Duck Dynasty guys is involved and I must have 10 things a day about it on my Facebook – and there is not even one scene in the movie that you can point to clearly in he Bible and say – here is where that scene comes from.

  68. Andrew says:

    BD, You mentioned Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican but no Lutheran. Any reason why? I consider Lutheranism more of a reformation than a revival but maybe I am wrong.

  69. Andrew says:

    Oct. 3rd, is the first anniversary of Chuck Smith’s death. Wonder if that has anything to do with the Left Behind Movie coming out that day?

  70. Jean says:

    Michael, Dread, et. al.,

    I would really like to dig into biblical election and predestination and to get an authentic view of Calvin on this topic. So, tomorrow I am planning on presenting an interpretation of Rom 8:28-30. If you’re around this weekend, I would covet everyone’s feedback (positive, negative or a mixture).

    When I think about the Christian theological issues that are ripe for reformation (or clarification or re-affirmation – take your pick), there is none more ripe for discussion than election/predestination and/or the nature of hell.

    Let’s save the nature of “hell” for New Year’s Eve 🙂

  71. Michael says:


    You can do that and if I have time I may jump in.
    The reality is that these discussions usually end up with myself as the token Calvinist arguing against my readers.
    Neither side has ever changed their minds about election.
    The passage you are talking about hinges on how one defines “foreknowledge”…and I’m sure I define it differently than you do.

  72. Jean says:


    You said in #56:

    “I hope to be biblical and I am still learning.
    I prefer others to tell us of their doctrines and how they arrived at them…most of them add something to my foundation.”

    That’s where I’m at too. I’m not sure how I define “foreknowledge.” I will present what I currently believe to be correct, but highly provisional to what others (including you) may offer.

    If this was slam dunk basketball, it wouldn’t be worth discussing. On the other hand, I think this is very important, because this issue deals directly with the very character of God. As Christians who proclaim the gospel, I’m sure you would agree that it is very important that we get God’s character right.

  73. Michael says:


    It does not deal with the character of God.
    That assertion is why I rarely enter into these discussions.
    I believe that God chose a specific people to Himself in eternity past, then provided everything necessary for them to be His people into the eternal future.
    I believe that all of God’s choices are good, holy, and righteous, because He cannot act otherwise.
    Thus, whatever the reasons He chose some and not others, He was good, holy, and righteous in doing so.

  74. Jean says:


    If you decide not to enter into a discussion, perhaps you could respond with an excerpt from a trusted commentary which accords with your belief. I would thankfully receive that as well. I just want to cover all the bases.

  75. Michael says:

    “The subject of predestination, which in itself is attended with considerable difficulty is rendered very perplexed and hence perilous by human curiosity, which cannot be restrained from wandering into forbidden paths and climbing to the clouds determined if it can that none of the secret things of God shall remain unexplored. When we see many, some of them in other respects not bad men, every where rushing into this audacity and wickedness, it is necessary to remind them of the course of duty in this matter. First, then, when they inquire into predestination, let them remember that they are penetrating into the recesses of the divine wisdom, where he who rushes forward securely and confidently, instead of satisfying his curiosity will enter in inextricable labyrinth.”

    Calvin, J. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

  76. Michael says:

    The believers’ love for God is ultimately due to God’s purpose in calling them to salvation. The intention and purpose of God receive primacy rather than the choice of human beings.6 This is confirmed elsewhere in Paul, for the election, predestination, and calling of believers is according to God’s “purpose” (πρόθεσις, prothesis; Rom. 9:11; Eph. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:9). Moreover, as most scholars affirm, “calling” (κλητός, klētos), must be understood as effectual.

    It is not merely an invitation that human beings can reject, but it is a summons that overcomes human resistance and effectually persuades them to say yes to God.

    This definition of “calling” is evident from Rom. 8:30, for there Paul says that “those whom he called (ἐκάλεσεν, ekalesen) he also justified.”

    The text does not say that “some” of those called were justified. It fuses the called and justified together so that those who have experienced calling have also inevitably received the blessing of justification. Now if all those who are called are also justified, then calling must be effectual and must create faith, for “all” those who are called are justified and justification cannot occur without faith (3:21–22, 28; 5:1). This understanding is also vindicated by 4:17, where God’s call effectually brings into existence things that did not exist (cf. also Rom. 9:24–26; 1 Cor. 1:9, 24, 26–28; Gal. 1:6, 15; 1 Thess. 2:12; 5:24; 2 Thess. 2:14; 2 Tim. 1:9). The foundational reason why all things work for believers’ good begins to emerge: God’s unstoppable purpose in calling believers to salvation cannot be frustrated, and thus he employs all things to bring about the plan he had from the beginning in the lives of believers.

    The ὅτι in verse 29 could serve as the ground for the word πρόθεσιν (so Murray 1959: 315), but it is more likely that it grounds the main proposition in verse 28, that all things work together for good. Paul wants to clarify and emphasize the idea that was touched on in the last phrase in verse 28, so that believers will grasp that all things conspire for good because of God’s sovereign rule and plan for believers. The good realized is not due to fate, luck, or even the moral superiority of believers; it is to be ascribed to God’s good and sovereign will, which has from eternity past to eternity future secured and guaranteed the good for those whom he has chosen. This is the significance of “the golden chain” that charts the course from God’s foreknowledge of believers to their glorification. In each case God is the subject of the verbs, for it is he who foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified. The good he has begun he will finish (Phil. 1:6; cf. 1 Cor. 1:9; 1 Thess. 5:24).

    At this juncture the individual links in the chain should be examined in more detail. Paul begins by saying that God predestined those whom he foreknew. One’s understanding of Paul’s soteriology is significantly affected by one’s understanding of the verb προγινώσκειν (proginōskein, to foreknow), for predestination unto salvation is limited to those who were foreknown. Some have argued that the verb προέγνω (proegnō, he foreknew) here should be defined only in terms of God’s foreknowledge. That is, God predestined to salvation those whom he saw in advance would choose to be part of his redeemed community. This fits with Acts 26:5 and 2 Pet. 3:17, where the verb προγινώσκειν clearly means “to know beforehand.” According to this understanding predestination is not ultimately based on God’s decision to save some. Instead, God has predestined to save those whom he foresaw would choose him. Such an interpretation is attractive in that it forestalls the impression that God arbitrarily saves some and not others. It is quite unlikely, however, that it accurately represents the meaning of προγινώσκειν when the reference is to God’s foreknowledge.

    The background of the term should be located in the OT, where for God “to know” (יָדַע, yāda˓) refers to his covenantal love in which he sets his affection on those whom he has chosen (cf. Gen. 18:19; Exod. 33:17; 1 Sam. 2:12; Ps. 18:43; Prov. 9:10; Jer. 1:5; Hos. 13:5; Amos 3:2). The parallel terms “consecrate” and “appoint” in Jer. 1:5 are noteworthy, for the text is not merely saying that God “foresaw” that Jeremiah would serve as a prophet. The point is that God had lovingly chosen him to be a prophet before he was born. Similarly, in Amos 3:2 God’s knowledge of Israel in contrast to that of the rest of the nations can scarcely be cognitional, for Yahweh had full knowledge of all nations of the earth. The intention of the text is to say that Yahweh had set his covenantal love only upon Israel. Romans 11:2 yields the same conclusion, “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.” The verb προέγνω here functions as the antonym to ἀπώσατο (apōsato, he rejected). In other words, the verse is saying that God has not rejected his people upon whom he set his covenantal love (cf. also Acts 2:23; 1 Pet. 1:2, 20). Similarly, in Rom. 8:29 the point is that God has predestined those upon whom he has set his covenantal affection. Note that the object of the verb προέγνω is personal, “those whom” (οὕς, hous) God set his affection upon. The words προέγνω and προώρισεν (proōrisen, predestine) are therefore almost synonyms. Many scholars (e.g., Balz 1971: 109) observe that the only difference in this text is that Paul specifies the goal of God’s preordained work in reference to predestination, that is, that we be conformed to the image of his Son. But this is to overlook the distinction between the terms προγινώσκειν and προορίζειν (proorizein, to predestine). The latter term stresses the preordained plan of God that will certainly come to pass (Acts 4:28; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:5, 11) in accordance with his will. The former has a different nuance in that it highlights his covenantal love and affection for those whom he has chosen.

    The purpose of God’s predestination is specified in the phrase συμμόρφους τῆς εἰκόνος τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ (symmorphous tēs eikonos tou huiou autou, conformed to the image of his Son). The “good” of verse 28 now receives further definition: the good is achieved when believers are conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. The constellation of words suggests that the eschaton is intended, for the “image” of Jesus suggests his eschatological glory obtained at his resurrection (Col. 1:15; cf. 2 Cor. 4:4) that believers will receive when they are raised (1 Cor. 15:49). Paul teaches elsewhere that conformity to the image will be realized only at the day of resurrection (cf. Rom. 6:5 and Phil. 3:21: ὃς μετασχηματίσει τὸ σῶμα τῆς ταπεινώσεως ἡμῶν σύμμορφον τῷ σώματι τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ, hos metaschēmatisei to sōma tēs tapeinōseōs hēmōn symmorphon tō sōmati tēs doxēs autou, who will also transform our humble body to be conformed to his glorious body). Indeed, the term πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos, firstborn) should be understood in terms of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead when he was exalted as Lord (cf. Rom. 1:4; Col. 1:18). This does not mean that all reference to the present era should be excluded (contra Barrett 1991: 159–60; Byrne 1979: 118; Scott 1992: 247, who limit conformity to the resurrection), for the genius of Paul’s theology is that the eschaton has invaded the present evil age. The transformation into the image thus begins in this age (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10) but is completed and consummated at the resurrection. The purpose of this conformity is so that Christ should be “the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” The use of the word “many” (πολλοῖς, pollois) signals the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, in which “all nations” were blessed in Abraham (Gen. 12:3). In the OT Israel was God’s firstborn (Exod. 4:22), but now we see that Jesus Christ is God’s firstborn, and one becomes part of God’s family through union with him. Similarly, the use of the term “image” signifies that Jesus as the second Adam succeeded where the first Adam failed. Human beings were created to rule the world for God and to live under his lordship, and we know Adam failed in this endeavor. The word that all nations would be blessed in Abraham has been fulfilled in the gospel of Jesus Christ and in the Roman community to whom Paul was writing. The second Adam has secured what the first Adam failed to accomplish. The word “firstborn” also signifies both Christ’s preeminence (cf. Col. 1:15, 18) over and solidarity with other human beings. As the messianic Son (Ps. 2:7–9) and firstborn (cf. Ps. 89:27) he will rule the world. Those who are his coheirs (Rom. 8:17) will rule the world with him (4:13), but Jesus will be the first among many brothers and sisters, and retain his preeminence (so Larsson 1962: 303; Scott 1992: 252, 254–55).

    After delineating the purpose of God’s predestining work, Paul resumes the chain of verbs in verse 30. Those whom God predestined he also called. Predestination harks back to God’s decision before history began to effect salvation for those whom he foreknew. The call (ἐκάλεσεν, ekalesen) refers to God’s work in history by which he summons through the gospel some to himself (so most commentators, e.g., Cranfield 1975: 432; Fitzmyer 1993c: 525). Those whom God called he also justified (ἐδικαίωσεν, edikaiōsen). This verb denotes God’s saving activity by which believers are made right with God. Finally, those whom God justified he “glorified” (ἐδόξασεν, edoxasen). The last aorist has provoked discussion since a past tense with an apparently future act is unusual. Some have postulated that the aorist is ingressive, arguing that glorification begins in this life and reaches its culmination in the future (e.g., Schlatter 1995: 195; Marshall 1969: 93; Fitzmyer 1993c: 526). Others have detected a baptismal tradition here and locate glorification in baptism. The eschatological thrust of the context and of the particular concept of glorification tell against both of these proposals. The glorification posited here does not begin in this life. What is envisioned is the eschatological completion of God’s work on behalf of believers that began before history, and the aorist signifies the certainty that what God has begun he will finish (Barrett 1991: 160; Murray 1959: 321; Osten-Sacken 1975: 283; Cranfield 1975: 433; Dunn 1988a: 484–86; Scott 1992: 295; Stuhlmacher 1994: 137). No one will drop out in the process, and the text refers not only to a group but also to individuals (Moo 1991: 572; Gundry Volf 1990: 14; contra Byrne 1996: 272). Indeed, the reference to future glory harks back to verse 18, and thus the text is bracketed by “glory” in both verse 18 and verse 30.

    The major objective of the text should be reiterated here. Believers are assured that everything works together for good because the God who set his covenantal love upon them, predestined them to be like his Son, called them effectually to himself, and justified them will certainly glorify them. All the sufferings and afflictions of the present era are not an obstacle to their ultimate salvation but the means by which salvation will be accomplished.

    Schreiner, T. R. (1998). Romans (Vol. 6, pp. 450–455). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

  77. Steve Wright says:

    Moreover, as most scholars affirm, “calling” (κλητός, klētos), must be understood as effectual.
    I agree as with Paul, I think the Lord uses the term differently, as it serves as a contrast to the elect – not a synonym.

  78. Babylon's Dread says:

    Entering a discussion of Romans 8:28-30 as if it is a stand alone passage is as unfruitful as listening to one end of a conversation on the phone and hearing one sentence and drawing conclusions about the conversation.

    Romans is a narrative argument and that text is not a theorem thrown in as a proof of a matter. It is not a proverb to live by. It is not a claim without a context.

    Exegesis has suffered from our methods for too long

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