The Distinctive Characteristics of Predestination (Brakel)

In both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible talks about election and predestination.  He has in mercy chosen some sinners to salvation and in justice has passed by others.  God didn’t elect some to salvation because he knew they’d believe, or because they were more worthy than others.  He chose to save some sinners because of his own sovereign will: I will have mercy on whom I have mercy (Rom. 9:15 NASB).  Wilhelmus a Brakel (d. 1711) explained unconditional election quite well in book one of The Christian’s Reasonable Service.  Here are part of his notes on predestination:

1) Predestination is eternal, that is, from before the foundation of the world. “…whom He did predestinate (Rom. 8:30).

 2) Predestination is volitional. God was not moved by external or internal causes to predetermine man’s destiny, but was solely moved by His good pleasure. “For so it seemed good in Thy sight” ( Mat. 9:22). The fact that God has ordained to lead one individual unto salvation through Christ and to damn another individual for his sins is solely to be attributed to the free exercise of His sovereignty. “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” (Rom. 9:21). This is infinitely more true of God.
3) Predestination is an act of wisdom whereby God ordains suitable means to accomplish His end. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom 11:33). The apostle exclaims this concerning predestination, which he discussed in this chapter.

(4) Predestination is independent, absolute , and unconditional. God accomplishes His decree by the use of means, but the means are not the conditions. The decree is not contingent upon the means.  Thus, the means neither establish nor unsettle this decree. God Himself governs the means to accomplish His certain, immutable, and immovable purpose – a purpose which proceeds from within Himself according to His good pleasure. All means are subordinate to this good pleasure (Brakel quotes Romans 9:11-13 here).

5) Predestination is an immutable decree. Since God’s purpose originates in eternity, it is not contingent upon the condition of goodness or evil within man, but proceeds solely from the good pleasure of God. It is thus impossible for this purpose to change. God Himself is immutable, wise, and omnipotent. Therefore Rom 8:30 states, “Moreover whom He did predestinate… them He also glorified” (cf. Rom 9:21-23).

Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, book 1, pages 216-217.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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