By Edgar Jones
This is an exception. I normally do not get involved with doctrines that churchmen have promulgated and disputed since Paul of Tarsus. This is because Jesus does not get involved. You will comb the gospels in vain for direct references to such doctrines as those of the millennium, the trinity, ecclesiology, atonement and most of the divisive theological formulations of the churchmen, including dispensationalism. And yes, you will not find mention of "predestination" in the utterances of Jesus.
So why this exception? Because correspondence with visitors to this site has revealed that my practice of not discussing these things directly may have resulted in major misconceptions. I do not believe in predestination, yet one brother has commented on my faith, saying, "Actually, it is the strongest form of applied predestination that I've ever encountered." He did this with some justification after examining the text at the following link: http://www.voiceofjesus.org/transformation.html. When I reviewed what I have written from that perspective, I had to agree with him. Anyone could easily conclude that it represents a strong form of predestination. Actually, it doesn't, and the purpose of this paper is, hopefully, to correct this and other similar misconceptions.
What, then, do I believe that is relevant to the doctrine of predestination? Just this:Every single human being is a candidate for salvation. The eternal destiny of every human being depends solely on the freely chosen response to the Word of Truth as spoken by Jesus. There is no predestination of individual souls.The misconception arose from a discussion of The Parable of the Tares and The Parable of the Sower as they relate to the transformation of the world. What I conveyed was that the world of men is indeed predestined to an eternal fate. What I did not convey was that every single human individual has the freedom to choose to be "not of the world" and so to be saved. I did not state this because it is not related to the immediate subject, which, as indicated above, is the transformation of the world. The distinction is all important: human beings in general are predestined to an eternal destruction according to the utterances of Jesus whereas any individual human being in particular has the freedom to choose salvation. The world of men will not and cannot change yet any single human being can be transformed through repentance and reception of the Word of Jesus.
So I went back and reviewed the Logos (the words of Jesus) with this doctrine in mind. This paper presents the results of this review, made in the light of the churchmen's doctrine of predestination. I mean not that Jesus was commenting on the doctrine, but that what he said may seem relevant to us who have been exposed to the doctrine. I do not here discuss every relevant word of Jesus but only those that stand out, including the ones discussed in the above reference. I find that Jesus pointed to three contrasts that are relevant. These are (1) good tree / bad tree, (2) good soil / bad soil, and (3) good seed / bad seed. Foreknowledge if a relevant theme, and Jesus makes some statements that are applicable to this idea. In addition, he makes mention of "the elect" such that a modern theologian would apply to their doctrine of predestination.
The Three Contrasts
I. Good Tree / Bad TreeMatthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.A tree is known by its fruit and it must produce either good fruit or bad fruit; so every tree is either good or bad. On a superficial reading, the tree would seem to have no choice in the matter, but to be predestined to either good or bad. But note carefully that, in each case, Jesus is not characterizing a single individual but a general category. In Matthew 7, the category is "false prophets." In Matthew 12, the category is "you brood of vipers" that the context identifies as the Pharisees. In Luke 6, the category consists of "hypocrites" who judge others without first examining themselves. While the fruit produced may be that of individuals within the general category, there is no predestination of those individuals because each one, as a solitary individual before the Father, freely chooses his category. It is the general category that is predestined and not its individual members. Every individual is free to choose his category.
16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?
17 So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.
18 A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.
Matthew 12:32 And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
33 Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.
34 You brood of vipers! how can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
Luke 6:42 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.
43 For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit;
44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.
II. Good Soil / Bad SoilMark 4:1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.Jesus defines the seed as "the word." I understand this, from this and other contexts, to be the Logos of God as announced in the world by Jesus. In every case the seed is the same, but the soils differ. The bad soil is of three types, but in every case, like the bad tree, it fails to bring forth good fruit. Also in every case, and very important, the bad soils consist of a plurality as indicated by the plural pronouns used. Therefore each category of bad soil represents a general category. The "good soil" is also a general category. The soil is as it is and does not change, therefore each category is predestined by its very nature to its eternal consummation, whichever it may be. But again, the parable does not address the fact that every individual human being has the freedom to choose his soil! If we infer that it does, we infer incorrectly. It is the general category that is predestined; the individual human being remains free to choose his or her category.
2 And he taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:
3 Listen! A sower went out to sow.
4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.
5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil;
6 and when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root it withered away.
7 Other seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.
8 And other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.
9 And he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
10 And when he was alone, those who were about him with the twelve asked him concerning the parables.
11 And he said to them, To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables;
12 so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.
13 And he said to them, Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?
14 The sower sows the word.
15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown; when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which is sown in them.
16 And these in like manner are the ones sown upon rocky ground, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy;
17 and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.
18 And others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word,
19 but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
20 But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."
III. Good Seed / Bad SeedMatthew 13:24 Another parable he put before them, saying, The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field;Precisely as in the other cases, Jesus here defines two general categories. These are "the sons of the kingdom" and "the sons of the evil one." He identifies himself, "the Son of man" as the sower of the "good seed" and the "evil one" as the sower of the bad seed. When we pause to take recognition of the environment in which Jesus was speaking these words, we can understand them much better and see, also, that in the immediate application "weeds" applied to "those Jews who had believed in him" as they appear in John 8. He identified them as "the sons of your father the devil", so they are included in the weeds, above, who are "sons of the evil one." But even for the individuals in this category, Jesus does not announce a predestined end, saying to them:
25 but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.
26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.
27 And the servants of the householder came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?'
28 He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?'
29 But he said, 'No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'
- - - - -
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field."
37 He answered, He who sows the good seed is the Son of man;
38 the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one,
39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels.
40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age.
41 The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers,
42 and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.
43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.So, even in the case of these persons, these "weeds", Jesus does not pronounce a predestined end for any individual, allowing for them yet to believe "that I am he" and be saved. He predestines one general category to salvation and another to condemnation, but leaves unspoken what we can clearly perceive throughout Jesus' utterances, that any individual human being has the freedom to choose, and does choose, a category.
Many have asserted, on the basis of the omniscience of God, that the Father must know beforehand the eternal destiny of every individual and therefore each is predestined according to the foreknowledge of God. Contrary to what the many think, this is not a logical necessity. The Father can, logically, as well foresee a free choice as he might foresee a predestined one. For the logic of this, I refer you to the work of a professional logician at http://www.sfu.ca/philosophy/swartz/contents.htm.
Instead of appealing to the omniscience of God, I appeal to his omnipotence and freedom. If he is truly all powerful, then he surely has the power to place limitations on his foreknowledge, or to choose what he is to foreknow. If he is free, then he must be free to choose what he is to foreknow. I have a brief explanation of this at another place on this site. However, I would not draw this conclusion without corroborative testimony from the words of Jesus. I make reasonable inferences from the following texts:
I. No Knowledge / No PredestinationLuke 13:6 And he told this parable: A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.Jesus applied this parable to the Jewish nation and it represents a transaction between the Son and the Father prior to the ministry of the Son. It depicts the Father as "A man" that had the fig tree, and Jesus as the vinedresser. The fig tree is, of course the Jewish nation. The uncertainty expressed by v. 9 is only possible if neither Jesus nor the Father knew that the nation, as proved to the the case, would not bear fruit. By the time he addressed "those Jews who had believed in him" in John 8 (see above), they had made their free choices as individuals, becoming "sons of the evil one."
7 And he said to the vinedresser, 'Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?'
8 And he answered him, 'Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure.
9 And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'
II. No Judgment / No PredestinationMatthew 7:1 Judge not, that you be not judged.Interpreting this statement in the light of the Father's self limitation on his foreknowledge, it becomes very clear that He does not judge us until he has seen how we are judging others. Clearlly, if the Father has foreknowledge of our destiny, our individual judgments would be irrelevant to our final judgment. This, of course, is dependent on how we, as free individuals, respond to Jesus. The Father does not categorize us, but waits until we, as free agents, categorize ourselves!
2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.
These utterances could easily be applied under the above "Foreknowledge" heading, but the concept 'freedom' is so important to our topic that we should examine some texts purely in its light. We could choose many of our Lord's utterances here, but it is only necessary to demonstrate the point.
I. Freedom to Choose Which Life to Save / LoseMatthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."Any man" surely implies that every individual has the freedom and responsibility to choose which life to love / save. "Whoever" includes all. None are predestined.
25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
26 For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?
II. Freedom to Believe Whatever One WillJohn 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.This favored text is typical. Jesus always places the responsibility for choice, free choice, on the individual. It is the one who chooses to believe that will have eternal life. That one who chooses not to believe will perish. There is no predestination. Each and every individual freely chooses his category, believer or unbeliever, and so defines his or her own destiny. There is no predestination.
I. The CallLuke 5:32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.Would not Jesus have been stupid, to come to call men to repentance when their eternal destiny was already determined?
II. The PreachingLuke 24:46 and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,It would constitute the utmost stupidity -- to come and suffer for a cause that was already predetermined and to commission disciples to go out into the world to similarly preach and suffer.
47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
There are two words in the Greek New Testament that are essentially the same, except that one is the noun, the other the verb. They are eklektos (the noun) and eklego (the verb). They are in complete correspondence in the Word of Jesus in that the elect or chosen ones are those who are elected or chosen. This correspondence shows up in the following utterance of the Lord:Mark 13:20 And if the Lord had not shortened the days, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.These words apply to the "elect" whom he "chose" and who were to be saved from the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish state in 70 AD. His other uses of these words are limited but very revealing (I have omitted the synoptic parallels):Matthew 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.We are yet again looking at two distinct categories, the elect (chosen ones) and the world, as indicated by John 15:19. Does this catgegory of the elect comprise those whom the Father or Jesus has arbitrarily selected from out of the world? No, the Word does not imply that. This is clear from its use in John 6:70 and 13:18 where Jesus applied it to his election of Judas as one of the twelve. Jesus said, "I chose (elected) you twelve", nevertheless Judas, as one of his elect, placed himself in the category of the world by his own choice. Hence it is possible for one who is among the elect, or chosen ones, to choose to terminate his status as one of the elect!
Mark 13:22 False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
Mark 13:27 And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
Luke 18:7 And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?
John 6:70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?
John 13:18 I am not speaking of you all; I know whom I have chosen; it is that the scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.'
John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
These utterances apply the concept of God's election, or choice, to three different subsets of individuals. In Mark 13:20 and parallels, it applies to the "elect" who were associated with the Jews during the destruction of the temple in AD 70. These would have been predominantly Jewish disciples of Jesus, but may also have included some gentile disciples. In Mark 13:27 and parallels it applies to the disciples of Jesus who are in the world at the time of the Parousia and final judgment. In every case in the Fourth Gospel, it applies to the Twelve. As in all the other cases listed above, there are two general categories, the elect and the world, and every individual chooses a category. There is no predestination of individuals, but only of the categories.
Why call the many if the few are already predetermined?
Is it in justice to give them a choice? Certainly not, for if their fate is predestined they have no choice!
The Litmus Test
Jesus presented a very definitive test that determines each individual's category. Please note, I say "determines," not "predetermines." The final determination must await each individual's free response to the test.Luke 8:21 But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."So, every individual determines his or her category by individual response to the Word of Jesus. We should emphasize here that "the word of God" as specified in Luke 8:21 and Luke 11:28 above is not the entire Bible. It is the word of Jesus of Nazareth, as clearly defined in John 5:24 and John 14:24 by "my word" or "my words" and in John 8:43 as "what I say."
Luke 11:28 But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"
John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
John 8:43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.
John 14:24 He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
There is no individual predestination.
Can we begin to comprehend now why Jesus never addressed particular theological concepts? Surely, his position on all doctrinal matters is so simple, and so clearly expressed, that he had no need to do so. The present topic of predestination is only one of many examples. All of his seeming predestination statements apply only to general categories, and amount to nothing more, as predestination, than saying, for example, "All the lost are under condemnation and all the saved will go to heaven." Between these two general categories, the lost and the saved, every single human individual freely chooses.
We should never go to Jesus' words asking, "Does Jesus teach premillennial doctrine, or trinitarianism, or as in the present case, predestination. To go to him in that frame of mind is to read him through the tainted (tinted) glasses of the churchmen and theologians and we will seldom hear him aright. What must we do? We must simply seek to purge our hearts and minds of such defilements and simply ask him, "Lord, what do you teach us?" Then, if we listen carefully, it will come out right.
Similarly, I ask and advise my guests on this site to come asking not, "Is he a dispensationalist, or a premillennialist?" or "Is he a predestinarian?" or whatever. If you come in that frame of mind, you will get an answer, but it will probably not be the correct one because you will be reading me through the distorted vision of the theologians. Where you see that I am also under the influence of the theologians rather than Jesus, please advise me.
Some will ask, "Wasn't Jesus under obligation to warn us of particular false doctrines, foreseeing as he did that many false prophets were to come into the world?
Which ones would he select? There are and have been so many that he would never get his true message, the Gospel of the Kingdom, to us if he undertook to comment on all. After all was said, it would only confuse us to have so many disparate ideas bouncing about in our heads.
No, it is far better that he speak the simple Truth and hold us accountable for purging our minds of false ideas so as to be able to hear him clearly. That way, even the simplest child is enabled to understand him. Then, in complete freedom, any one may either choose or choose not to follow Jesus -- freely and without predestination.
It is my earnest hope that fellow disciples will now understand that I do not believe in any form of individual, personal predestination. My faith entertains no form of "applied predestination," either strong or weak, but holds as the bottom line this simple statement, framed in the light of the Logos as explained above:There is but one thing that prevents any single human being from receiving eternal life in heaven: the genuine desire to go there, to the Father . . . right now!Predestination? I don't think so!
Return to List of Papers Email Return to Home Page