Monday, July 07, 2014

Annotated prooftexts

Many Arminians labor under the misapprehension that the case for Calvinism begins and ends with Rom 9. In my observation, that's common due to their self-reinforcing ignorance of the exegetical literature.

In this post I'm going to quote a number of Reformed prooftexts, in canonical order, then quote interpretive comments by various scholars. So the post has a simple structure: I quote a text of Scripture, then I quote one or more scholars expounding the passage. Taken by themselves, Reformed prooftexts might seem to beg the question by presupposing a Reformed interpretation thereof. (Arminian prooftexting is open to the same objection.) I've gone beyond bare prooftexting to provide exegetical arguments for the Reformed interpretation. 

I'm doing this in part for the benefit of laymen who don't have easy access to the best modern commentaries. But it's also useful to have some of this material collated, at one's fingertips.

Although both Calvinists and Arminians have their one-verse prooftexts, Reformed theological method is based less on snappy one-liners than tracing out the flow of argument or narrative arc in larger blocks of Scripture (e.g. Gen 37-50; Exod 4-14; Isa 40-48; Jn 6, 10-12, 17; Rom 9-11; Eph 1-2, 4). 

I'll quote Calvinists, Arminians, an open theist, and some scholars I don't know how to classify. All the quotes will support or be consistent with Reformed theology. You might wonder why a non-Calvinist scholar would offer an interpretation consist with, or supportive of, Calvinism. One reason is that some commentators compartmentalize exegetical and systematic theology. They think you should interpret each book on its own terms, without shoehorning passages into a harmonious system of doctrine. Likewise, some scholars think some verses are more Calvinistic while others are more Arminian. They don't interpret one in relation to the other. In addition, some liberal scholars don't think Scripture has a consistent theological message. 

This post is not exhaustive, either in terms of Reformed prooftexts or supporting arguments. It's a sampler. It understates the exegetical case for Calvinism. 

(Because everything below the break consists of direct quotes, I won't bother with quotation marks or indented paragraphs.) 

Gen 45:5-8; 50:20

5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[a] should be kept alive, as they are today.
God used their crime for his purposes, purposes they could not have anticipated. Here Joseph sounds forth the overarching theological conviction of the Joseph Novel: God's purposes are not thwarted by human sin, but rather advanced by it through his good graces. The hand of God is seen, not only  in clearly miraculous interventions and revelations, but also in the working out of divine purpose through human agency, frail and broken as it is. Joseph knows it to be true: "You sold me…" but "God sent me…" 
Joseph does not deny their evil intent. But the word play, using the same verb with different idioms, highlights the way God has turned the evil intent of humans into an opportunity to accomplish his good purposes. They planned harm, but God reconfigured their evil and produced good from it…The brothers sold Joseph to Egypt with evil intent, but it was really God who brought him to Egypt in order to preserve life. B. Arnold, Genesis (Cambridge 2009), 361,388.
God's providence has directed everything, even the misdeeds of the brothers. It underscores the true purpose of the entire account of Joseph: God is the subject of the story, and he is moving all things to the end and goal that he has decreed (cf. 50:20). That goal is the preservation of a "remnant," or seed on the earth. 
Joseph again highlights the fact of the sovereignty and providence of God. He states emphatically that the true source of his coming to Egypt is not the brothers' evil activity…Rather, it was the will of God that brought about the present circumstances: this opening statement clearly proclaims the doctrine of providence. It was God who placed Joseph in these various official positions.
Joseph simply believes that God even uses the sinfulness of humans to bring about his good purposes for the world. This theological concept is no stranger to the rest of Scripture (see Prov 16:1; 20:24; Ps 37:23; Jer 10:23). As Proverbs 16:9 says, "The heart of man plans his way, but Yahweh directs his steps." There is no stronger statement regarding the true meaning of the sovereignty of God in Scripture than what Joseph says here to his brothers. J. Currid, Genesis (EP 2003), 2:324-325; 397.
"But God sent me ahead of you" (v7a) reiterates Joseph's interpretation of his travail in Egypt…Joseph viewed the families of Jacob as the surviving "remnant" of the world's populations (cp. the Noah imagery, v5). If the Jacobites fail to survive, the whole of the human family will die without salvation hope. Joseph's role as savior of the world from starvation typifies the salvation of the nations that the promises call for (e.g. 12:3). K. Mathews, Genesis 11:27–50:26 (B&H 2005), 2:813.

Exod 4:11

Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exod 4:11).

Some Christians, hoping apparently to limit God's liability, effectively absolve God of responsibility for what goes on in the world. If a child is born blind, it is a result of a prenatal infection or genetic defect; God had nothing to do with it. If religious zealots bring down buildings and kill thousands, God was not involved. The problem with this is that it effectively limits God's power and sovereignty. What if an infection was the proximate cause of a baby's being born blind? Couldn't God have saved the child if he had wanted to? Couldn't God have stopped the mass-murderers? God cannot be almighty and all-knowing and also be absolved of responsibility for what happens in the world.

God's response in Exod 4:11 is striking: he takes full responsibility for the suffering that people experience. He makes some blind, some deaf, and some mute. The text does not deny that there are proximate causes to such things (injuries, infections, etc.; the ancients knew nothing about viruses and bacteria, but they certainly knew that accidents and injuries could make a person blind or lame). Furthermore, the issue of human sin is never raised in God's response. This passage is not at all concerned with proximate causes–human sin, like disease or injury, is really just another proximate cause. This text is focused on the ultimate cause, God, and does not shrink from affirming that God is in control of all that happens. Of course, the question of theodicy is very large, and merely asserting that God takes responsibility for all that happens in the world does not resolve all the issues. This topic is explored much more fully in Job. D. Garrett, A Commentary on Exodus (Kregel 2014), 215-16.
Exod 4:21; 7:3-5
21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.
3 But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”
Pharaoh's heart was particularly important because the Egyptians believed it was the all-controlling factor in both history and society. It was further held that the hearts of the gods Ra and Horus were sovereign over everything. Because Pharaoh is the incarnation of those two gods, his heart was thought to be sovereign over creation. 
Yahweh hardens Pharaoh's heart to demonstrate that only the God of the Hebrews is the Sovereign of the universe. J. Currid, Exodus: Chapters 1–18 (EP 2000), 113-14.
By indicating that he would control Pharaoh's resistance to the exodus, God assured Moses that he was totally in control of Pharaoh in every way, able to make him resist as long as necessary even during a buildup of increasingly painful plagues and then make him give up and let the Israelites go at the moment of God's choosing (which was already the essential message of 3:19-20).
His purpose in preventing Pharaoh from giving in too easily and too early was, as will be seen in subsequent parts of the narrative, to allow himself fully to demonstrate his sovereignty over Pharaoh, the Egyptians, the land of Egypt itself, and the gods in which Pharaoh and the Egyptians trusted. D. Stuart, Exodus (B&H 2006), 146-47.
The significance of this pattern lies in the observation that even when Pharaoh is subject of the hardening, or when the subject is unmentioned, these statements describe a resulting condition traceable to a previous hardening action caused by God (cf 7:13, 14, 22; 8:15[19]; 9:7, 35).  Therefore these statements cannot refer to Pharaoh independently hardening his heart, as many commentators argue.  This is not to say that the reality of Pharaoh's volitional decisions and accountability should be overlooked or ignored; the concern of this study is about the ultimate cause of the hardening.

It is never stated in Exod 4-14 that Yahweh hardens Pharaoh in judgment because of any prior reason or condition residing in him. Rather, as stated in the exegetical conclusion, the only purpose or reason given for the hardening is that it would glorify Yahweh.  Therefore, the divine hardening of Pharaoh was unconditional.

Judges 9:23

23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech,
In v23 we see God directly intervening by sending a spirit to stir up hostility between Abimelech and Shechem…This incident is just one of several in which God employs the services of an evil spirit to expedite judgment upon sinners (1 Sam 16:14; 18:10; 19:10; 1 Chron 21:1 [cf. 2 Sam 24:1]). The expression "evil spirit" need not mean that the spirit was itself demonic or evil. The Hebrew term can refer to moral evil, but it can also refer to disaster, harm, or calamity in a non-moral sense. If the word is given the latter sense here, the expression may simply mean that the spirit was sent to bring harm and calamity upon the objects of God's anger.
Even if the spirit is viewed as demonic in nature, this need not impugn the goodness of God himself, for the OT makes it clear that he will on occasion resort to deceit when judging sinners. In this case, the demonic spirit would be an instrument or agent of divine retribution. R. Chisholm, A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Kregel 2013), 316-17. 
Judges 9:53
53 And a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech's head and crushed his skull.

The Lord remains sovereign even during the worst of times. He preserved Jotham and brought his justified curse to pass. In the process he intervened supernaturally (by sending a spirit to stir up strife) and manipulated people and circumstances in order to accomplish his just purposes. through a series of reports he drew Abimelech to Shechem and brought about the destruction of that sinful city. By giving Abimelech temporary success, the Lord placed him in a vulnerable position where his daring became his downfall. By using a woman armed with a millstone to kill Abimelech, the Lord once more showed he can accomplish his purposes through unlikely instruments. R. Chisholm, A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Kregel 2013), 326.

1 Sam 2:25

25 If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.
A sobering statement is contained in 2:25b. The wording should be carefully noticed (see note on 2:25). It does not say that Eli's sons had become so hardened in their sinful ways that the Lord decided to put them to death, but rather thar Eli's sons did not listen to him because the Lord was already planning to put them to death. In other words, the resistance of Hophni and Phinehas to Eli's call to repentance was not the reason for God's judgment but was the result of his prior judgment. J. Vannoy, 1-2 Samuel (Tyndale 2009), 59. 

2 Sam 17:14

And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lordmight bring harm upon Absalom.

The Lord answered David's prayer (cf. 2 Sam 15:31). The narrator's description of Ahithophel's advice as "good," in contradistinction to Hushai's characterization of it as "not good" (17:7), reminds the reader that Absalom is a victim of divine deception (see the comment above on 16:18).

There is more to the story than meets the eye. Indeed, as we read the advice of the two counselors, it is quite apparent that Ahithophel's plan is superior; even the narrator admits this (17:14). But in the end the Lord is manipulating the minds of Absalom and his men, causing them to prefer the desperate, inferior plan offered by Hushai, because he has already determined to bring disaster upon Absalom (17:14). This is reminiscent of the account of Eli's sons, who rejected their father's warning because the Lord had by that time decided to kill them (1 Sam 2:25; see as well 1 Kings 12:15). R. Chisholm, 1 & 2 Samuel (Baker 2013), 268,270. 
2 Chron 18:19-22 
19 And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab the king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ 21 And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ 22 Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets. The Lord has declared disaster concerning you.”
In effect, Micaiah explained his actions on the basis of divine intentions behind these events. The Chronicler frequently appealed to divine intentions to explain earlier events. This passage reveals heavenly purposes in great detail. Micaiah has seen the Lord ask for a volunteer from the host of heaven (v18) to lure Ahab to his death (v19). An unnamed spirit had agreed to do so by becoming a lying spirit in the mouths of all [of Ahab's] prophets (vv20-21). God had agreed to the plan and guaranteed success (v21). 
Micaiah's two oracles were designed to seal Ahab's fate. While prophets usually warned to encourage repentance, occasionally their role was to insure destruction (see Isa 6:9-1). Jesus spoke in parables for a similar reason (Lk 8:9-10). R. Pratt, 1 and 2 Chronicles (Mentor 1998), 326. 
The ethical and theological implications of trickery have not been the focus of this paper. Yet obviously such matters naturally attend the archetype of the trickster and the art of trickery. Particularly troublesome are those passages where God himself is said to be involved in the situation. Most instances fit the category of ruse de guerre. Thus God caused the Aramaean soldiers to hear what seemed to them the clamor of a great host coming upon them and fled in panic (2 Kgs 7:6–7). At the Lord’s direction Absalom and his advisors were deceived into following advice that would ultimately lead to their defeat (2 Sam 17:14) and Ahab is deceived into following the counsel of his false prophets to his own destruction (1 Kgs 22:19–23). 

Ps 33:10-11,15

10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
    he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
    the plans of his heart to all generations.
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
    and observes all their deeds.

This section focuses on the Lord's sovereign plan in history as the development of the theme that all his work is dependable (v4b). Verses 10 and 11 go together as the plan and intentions of the nations (v10) are contrasted with the plan and intentions of the Lord (v11).

Now, as for the plan and intentions of the nations, the psalmist says that the Lord "annuls" and "thwarts" them. This second term has the idea of stopping an action (as in forbidding someone from carrying out a vow; see Num 30:8). 

On the other hand, the counsel and the purposes of the Lord endure forever. Here we find the verb "stand firm, endure" repeated. As the Lord's creation stood firm at his decree (v9), so his counsel stands firm forever (v11). It cannot be shaken or interrupted by the antagonistic plans of the world. As the sage says, "There is no counsel, no wisdom, no plan against the counsel of the Lord" (Prov 21:30).. And to make his plan stand, as the psalmist says, "He brings to nothing the plans of the nations." The certainty of the plan of the Lord is not temporary–it is eternal. This is stressed by "forever, to the farthest time," and reiterated in the parallel colon that affirms that the purposes of God's heart are "until endless generations." The plan of the Lord can be trusted completely because it is carried out in faithfulness. 

The one who forms the heart, i.e. fashions it according to his plan, evaluates its activities…Because he created mankind, his evaluation can penetrate even to the motivations behind actions. He understands completely what we are, what we do, and why we do it, and the standard by which he evaluates us is his righteousness. A Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms: 1–41 (Kregel 2011), 734-735,737-738.

The point of the line is thus to add that the watcher is the original shaper, their creator. Specifically, Yhwh shapes people's mind; the implies the ability to look into it. J. Goldingay, Psalms 1-41 (Baker 2006), 470.

Ps 139

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 

What is meant, we may well ask, when the Psalmist asserts that all the days are written upon God’s book?…The thought here is that the entirety of the Psalmist’s being, even including the days of his life, are inscribed in a book that belongs to God. By the days of his life the Psalmist has in mind all the vicissitudes that he must experience. All of his life, each individual day with all that that day will bring, is written down by God in His own book.

Furthermore, it is stated that these days of the Psalmist’s life have been formed before there were any of them…If we understand his language aright, he is saying that the days of his life were actually formed before even one of them had come into existence. All his life, the details of each day, had been written down in the book of God, before any of these days had actually occurred.

The Psalmist has here reached a peak in his exaltation of the all-knowing and all-powerful God. Not only does God know all things, but God has also foreordained all things. In other words, the Psalmist has brought us head on with the doctrine of predestination. His life he regards not as a chance happening, but as a life already planned by God even before he himself was born. All the days that David would live and all the events of each day had been written down in God’s book before David himself had come into existence.

David’s life is not determined by David; he is not the master of his fate nor the captain of his soul, nor, for that matter, is any man. Before David appeared upon the earth, the days of his life had been determined by God Himself. Indeed, all that occurs had been foreordained of God. God has a plan and hence there are no surprises for Him. He knows what the future will bring forth, for He Himself has determined the future. David was to live a life that had been predetermined for him.

David does not rebel at this thought and neither should we. The contemplation of this profound doctrine leads him to an utterance of the preciousness of God’s thoughts. He is willing that it should be as set forth here. He is content that God has determined in advance his life, predestined the course of events for him. As a devout believer in the Lord he knows that whatever God does is right. E. J. Young, The Way Everlasting (Banner of Truth 1997), 80-82.

Prov 19:21

21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

The Lord's purpose informing their instruction will prevail over human schemes to subvert the teaching (see 16:1-9)…The pair is also linked by the concept that God's counsel will stand forever (v21b)…As for the counsel [see 19:20] of the Lord, refers to God's immutable will (see 1:25). The juxtaposition are many (see 7:26) with it [i.e., "counsel"] will take place contrasts the many human plans that may or may not occur in historical reality with God's single plan that will happen (cf. 6:1). The manifold images developed in the human thinking organ are one thing, but what finally transpires as a reality is another. God can make them successful or cancel them (2 Sam 15:30–17:14) or bring about the reverse of what people intended (cf. Gen 45:4-8; 50:20; Exod 1:8-12,20; Job 23:13; Ps 2:1-6; Prov 20:24; 27:1; Is 45:9; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; 23:11-15). Even the best human plans and efforts cannot stand before him if he does not will it (Prov 21:30-31; cf. Ps 33:11; Is 7:7; 14:24; 46:10). B. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31 (Eerdmans 2005), 114-15.

Prov 20:24

24 A man's steps are from the Lord;
    how then can man understand his way? 

If even a strong and powerful man cannot determine his steps, how can any human being discern the way his steps take? The similarity between from the Lord and "to the Lord" (see vv22-23) identifies the just God as the ultimate author of the steps (see 16:9), a metaphor for every decision and activity of a man (geber; referring to the male in his strength; see 6:34).

The parallel to "step," his way (see 1:15), moves from his individual decision to his entire direction and the destiny with which he acts. People do not understand their ways because God makes the actual direction and destiny of their free actions subservient to his plan. B. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31 (Eerdmans 2005), 154.

Prov 21:1

21 The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
    he turns it wherever he will.

God's inscrutable mastery extends to kings, the most powerful of human beings, and to the heart, their most free member. The Lord rules even the most free and powerful human beings (see 16:14-15; 19:12; 20:2).

As the heart of the individual determines and directs his every move, the king's heart (see I:90) determines the nation's direction and well-being (see vv10-15)…God's inscrutable mastery directs the king, who has in his hands the life and death of his subjects (16:10-15). Here the anthropomorphism teaches that God steers the king's heart according to the Lord's good pleasure. The metaphor is a channel of water…Farmers in Mesopotamia and Egypt divert the water by putting up dams and other obstructions in the stream's flow to direct the water to their fields and gardens. Palestinian farmers depended on rain (cf. Deut 11:10-12), but must have captured and directed the water to where it was most needed. Natural streams are not meant, because their direction is fixed. The Lord is the Farmer; the king's heart is the flexible channel… B. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31 (Eerdmans 2005), 167-168.

Prov 21:30

30 No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel
    can avail against the Lord.

Verse 30 protects against misinterpreting v29b to mean that a human being, even the upright, has the power to consummate his journey independently from the Lord. The Lord has the final word in realizing the goal. Everything in this proverb stops at the divine name.

By the triple anaphoric hammer blows "there is no," the proverb drives home the vast and unbridgeable guilt between the best of human wisdom and the Lord's sovereignty. "Wisdom" and "counsel" are used in battle imagery in 2 Kgs 18:20 and Isa 10:13, and probably all three words refer explicitly to human military strategy as suggested by 21:31 (cf. 24:5). B. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31 (Eerdmans 2005), 191.

Isa 14:24-27

24 The Lord of hosts has sworn:
“As I have planned,
    so shall it be,
and as I have purposed,
    so shall it stand,
25 that I will break the Assyrian in my land,
    and on my mountains trample him underfoot;
and his yoke shall depart from them,
    and his burden from their shoulder.”
26 This is the purpose that is purposed
    concerning the whole earth,
and this is the hand that is stretched out
    over all the nations.
27 For the Lord of hosts has purposed,
    and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
    and who will turn it back?

When God swears to do something, the listener can be fully assured that it will happen. God's holiness guarantees the execution of his plans, for he stakes his holy reputation on his promises (cf. similar holy oaths in Amos 4:2; 6:8; 8:7).

The claim is made that there is a direct connection between God's plans and purposes and what actually will happen…This contrasts with man's inability to carry out his plans (8:10; cf. 46:10; Ps 33:9-11; Prov 19:21). 

The final two verses extrapolate the principles in 14:24-25 and apply them to God's plans for the whole world…the comparison suggests that God makes sovereign plans not only for specific events related to the future of Assyria, but  also for every nation on earth…There is no other way for things to happen in this world, no second choices, no alternative plans but God's plans. No one can resist the hand of God, and no one can turn God's hand away from doing his will. G. Smith, Isaiah 1–39 (B&H 2007), 320-22.

Sometimes in Isaiah a divine statement is underlined in some particularly emphatic way (cf. 5:9; 9:7; 37:32), and so it is here. The name of God is used here (cf. comment on 1:9) combines with the statement of his settled purpose (c f. 5:19) to assure us that the Assyrians cannot survive. If such a mighty God has designed to crush them, they are doomed indeed. As though to reinforce this certainty still more, God speaks of "my land" and "my mountains."

The prophetic word here enunciates an important general principle that has been demonstrated so strikingly in the downfall of Assyria: God is sovereign over human history (v26). All nations will have to submit to his judgment. This important theological principle will be seen in relation to other nations–both small and great–in the oracles that follow. God is not like a man who makes plans and finds he has no power to put them into effect. Perfect wisdom and absolute power find their unity in god. REBC 6:568-69. 

Isa 46:10-11

10 declaring the end from the beginning
    and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
    and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
11 calling a bird of prey from the east,
    the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
    I have purposed, and I will do it.

Here the three participles make a direct link between predictive prophecy (declaring the outcome at the start) and divine intervention in history (calling from the east a bird of prey)…As several commentators (e.g. Young) have noted, the three participles move from general to particular to specific. In the first instance, God tells in general what will happen in the future. He can do so because the future is fully shaped by his own plans and wishes. This is the same point that was made in chap. 14 concerning Assyria (vv24-27). Assyria's plans for Judah were really of little import. It is the Lord's plans for Assyria to which that great nation should have paid attention (see also 22:11; 37:26).

This thought is summed in the ringing affirmations of the final bicolon of v11…The repetition serves to emphasize the unshakable connection between promise and the performance, between divine talk and divine action…This parallelism underlines again that the reason God can tell what is going to happen is that what happens is only an outworking of his eternal purposes. John Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (Eerdmans 1998), 236-37. 

Jn 3:6-8

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
From the start, the Gospel [of John] speaks of those who “receive” Jesus as the Light and “believe in his name,” those who are given “authority to become children of God” by virtue of having been born…of God” (1:12-13). Two chapters later Jesus tells Nicodemus, “unless someone is born from above [or “of water and Spirit”], he cannot see [or “enter”] the kingdom of God” (3:3,5). But what exactly is the relationship between being “born of God,” or “born from above,” and “receiving” or “believing in” Jesus? Which comes first? Is a person reborn because he or she believes, or does a person believe as a result of being reborn? Conventional wisdom assumes the former as a matter of course, and the word order of 1:12-13 seems on the face of it to support this. Yet those verses make no explicit causal connection either way between faith and rebirth, and as Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus runs its course, evidence for the opposite view begins to surface. “Receiving” Jesus’ testimony is mentioned in 3:11, and “believing” is repeatedly urged in verses 12, 15, and 16. Finally, the stark alternative of “believing” or “not believing” in him is clearly set forth (v18), and then restated (in language reminiscent of 1:9-13) as either loving or hating the Light, either “coming to the Light” or refusing to come (vv19-21). The person who “hates the Light” does so because he “practices wicked things,” and refuses to come “for fear his works will be exposed” (v20). By contrast, the person who “does the truth comes to the Light, so that his works will be revealed as works wrought in God” (v21).

On this note the interview with Nicodemus–if Nicodemus is still anywhere in the picture–comes to an end. In sharp distinction from the other three Gospels, in which Jesus says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2:27//Mt 9:13; also Lk 5:32), he does come to call, if not explicitly “the righteous,” at least those who “do the truth”–as against those who “practice wicked things.” Those who come to him in faith (that is, “come to the Light”) demonstrate by so doing that they are already “doers of the truth,” not by their own merits to be sure, but because their works have been “in God” (en theo, 3:21). They do not prove their faith by their works–at least not yet–but on the contrary prove their works by their faith. To this extent, John’s Gospel turns some versions of Reformation theology on their heads! It is not as radical as it sounds, however, for the point is simply that God is at work in a person’s life before the person “receives” Jesus, or “believes,” or “comes to the Light.” This is evident in the account of the man born blind–the Gospel’s classic case study on what it means to be “born of God”–where the point made is not that the man was a sinner who “believed” and was consequently reborn. On the contrary, Jesus insists, “Neither this man sinned nor his patents”–that is, his predicament was not the result of sin. Rather, the purpose of the healing was “that the works of God might be revealed in him” (9:3)–that is, God was already at work in his life, and his eventual confession of faith 9:38) would reveal that to be the case. He did not believe in order to be “born of God.” He believed because he was “born of God.” This interpretation is confirmed by Jesus’ repeated insistence that “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (6:37), “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him” (6:44), and “no one can come to me unless it is given him from the Father” (6:65). The initiative in human salvation is God the Father’s and his alone.

While it is true that John’s Gospel centers on a call to decision, the hearer’s decision cannot change but only reveal what has gone on before–the working of God the Father in those who will eventually become his children. Jesus can speak of “other sheep” whom, he says, “I have,” even though they have not yet believed (10:16), and the Gospel writer can envision scattered “children of God”–born of God,” therefore–who have yet to be gathered into one” (11:52). Perhaps the words of old Simeon in another Gospel put it best: Jesus in the Gospel of John comes “so that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed” (Lk 2:35). The accent is not on “conversion” (the words for “repent” and “repentance” never occur), or even the forgiveness of sins, but on revelation. The coming of Jesus into the world simply reveals who belongs–and who does not belong–to his Father, the God of Israel. J. R. Michaels, The Gospel of John (Eerdmans 2010), 40-42.

Jn 6:37,39

37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
Both here and elsewhere in the Gospel tradition, Jesus responds to unbelief with an appeal to divine sovereignty and divine election. It is in this framework of sovereignty and election that Jesus holds out the universal-sounding declaration that "the person who comes to me I will never drive out." The words "never drive out" are just as emphatic and final as "never go hungry" or "never ever thirst" (v35). Yet they do not add up to universalism. There is no indiscriminate "Whosoever Will," as in the old Gospel song. Those who "come to Jesus" are those whom the Father gave him, and no one else. In promising never to "drive out" those who come, Jesus is simply obeying the Father by accepting the Father's gift. He confirms a principle first laid down by John, that "A person cannot receive anything unless it is given him from heaven" (3:27). The corollary is that a person must receive that which is given from heaven, and this Jesus promises, emphatically, and without qualification, to do. 
If he were now to reject those who came to him in genuine faith, he would not only be denying them salvation, but he would "lose" that which his Father wanted him to have. Their loss would be his as well. J. R. Michaels, The Gospel of John (Eerdmans 2010), 377-79.
Jn 6:44
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
The words are a negative corollary to verses 37 ("All that the Father gives me will come to me") and 39 ("that of all he has given me I might not lose anything"), and an echo of John's caution to his disciples three chapters earlier, "A person cannot receive anything unless it is given him from heaven" (3:27)…Those who "come to me," Jesus says, do so because his Father "draws" them, and for no other reason. They are God's gift to Jesus, and Jesus is God's gift to them. Jesus is not so much inviting these Galilean "Jews" to "come to him" as providing the reader of the Gospel with an explanation why they would not and could not come.They do not come to Jesus because they are not "drawn" or "dragged" to him. The verb is used literally of drawing a sword (18:10), or dragging a net full of fish into a boat (21:6) or onto shore (21:11). J. R. Michaels, The Gospel of John (Eerdmans 2010), 385-86.
Jn 9:3
3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 
It touches upon God's manipulation of history to glorify his name. A good example would be Exod 9:16, cited in Rom 9:17, where God tells Pharaoh: "This is why I have spared you: to show you my power sot that my name may be declared throughout all the earth." R. Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII (Doubleday 1977), 371-72.
In John's theology, people might not understand God's eternal purposes until they actually came to pass (cf. 2:22; 12:16; 13:7); in this case, the fulfillment that revealed the purpose arrived many years after the situation began. This principle would have made sense to John's contemporaries; for example, many sages believed that God had allowed Israel to endure troubles in the past so that God might redeem them for his glory.
Sipre Deut. 306.30.2, 5, 6. God's mighty acts could be said to be predestined before the creation (Gen. Rab. 5:5). C. Keener, The Gospel of John (Hendrickson 2003), 1:779. 
Jn 11:4
4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
The purpose of Lazarus's sickness was not "for death"…Instead, the purpose of the sickness is to provide an opportunity for God to manifest his glory (11:4; cf. 11:40), as in 9:3. C. Keener, The Gospel of John (Hendrickson 2003), 2:839.
Jn 10:26
26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.
For emphasis, Jesus repeats himself: "But as for you, you do not believe," adding the reason for their unbelief, "because you do not belong to my sheep" (v26). Reintroducing the sheep metaphor, he revisits the parable of vv1-5 and the discourse of vv7-18. One might have expected rather, "You do not belong to my sheep because you do not believe," but the wording here is in keeping with the theology of the Gospel…Those who do not "believe" prove thereby that they are not Jesus' sheep. Behind it all is a strong accent on election: those who "believe" do so because they are already Jesus' sheep (see v16, "other sheep I have"), his gift from the Father. J. R. Michaels, The Gospel of John (Eerdmans 2010), 598.
Jn 12:39-40
39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
40 “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
    and understand with their heart, and turn,
    and I would heal them.”

The writer goes a step beyond "they would not believe," adding, "Therefore they were unable to believe" (v39) on the basis of another text in Isaiah…This is clearly sufficient to explain why "they were unable to believe" (v39; compare 5:44; 8:43). Jesus had said elsewhere that "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him" (6:44), or "unless it is given him from the Father" (6:65), and Isaiah's ancient words now put the judgment in even starker terms. Not only has God not "drawn" these people or "given" them faith, but he has "blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts" to make sure they would not repent and be healed! J. R. Michaels, The Gospel of John (Eerdmans 2010), 710.

Jn 17:2,9

2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him…9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.
In John 17:6-19, our Lord effectively prays for his disciples, those whom the Father has given him, but not for the world (vv9-10). In verses 20-26, Jesus then prays for all future believes, once again given to him by the Father (v24; cf. 6:37-44). This intercession is consistent with Jesus' teaching previously: he is the good shepherd who dies for the sheep (10:11,15); his sheep are given to him by his Father (10:29); his sheep receive eternal life due to his death; but not all people are his sheep (10:26-27). All of this is consistent with his office as a priest who offers himself for a particular people and intercedes for those same people. P. Gentry & S. Wellum, Kingdom Through Covenant (Crossway 2012), 674-75. 
Acts 2:23
23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
God's "foreknowledge" (prognosis) means more than his ability to anticipate the future. It is another way of talking about his determination of events in advance, according to his own plan (cf. Rom 8:29; 1 Pet 1:2,20). Jesus came into the world to fulfill certain God-given roles, and those associated with him had their own roles to play in the drama of redemption. 
[Quoting from the NIDNTT] Perhaps no NT author is more concerned than Luke to testify to the accomplishment of the will of God in history or caught upon the language of the divine plan and predetermined intention, purpose and necessity. D. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles (Eerdmans 2009), 146.
Acts 4:28
28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
The word boule ("purpose, plan, will") appears again (cf. 2:23 note), together with the verb proorisen ("decided beforehand," a compound of the verb used in 2:23; 10:42; 11:29; 17:26,31), now with the expression "your power" (cheir, "hand"; cf. 4:30; 11:21; 13:11) added to stress God's sovereignty in all these events. Once in each chapter of Acts so far, Peter has expressed the confidence that God is able to carry out his purpose even through rebellious human beings who do not accept his revealed will (1:16-20; 2:23-36; 3:13-15). 
[Quoting Tannehill] In a time of threat, prayer can be a rediscovery of the sovereign God who wins by letting our opponents win and then transforming the expected result. This rediscovery can keep God's witnesses faithful in spite of threats. D. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles (Eerdmans 2009), 201.
Acts 13:48
48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
The present verse is as unqualified a statement of absolute predestination–"the eternal purpose of God" (Calvin]–as is found anywhere in the NT. Those believed who were appointed (the passive implies, by God) to do so. The rest, one infers, did not believe, did not receive eternal life, and were thus appointed to death. The positive statement implies the negative. C. K. Barrett, Acts I-XIV (T&T Clark 1994), 658. 
It is God who "assigns" people to the group of people who inherit eternal life. The idea of being "assigned to a certain classification" may echo the OT concept of being recorded in the 'book of life," in which God's people are listed. E. Schnabel, Acts (Zondervan 2012), 589.
Acts 17:26
26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,
God "determined" not only the existence of human beings but also the conditions of their existence. E. Schnabel, Acts (Zondervan 2012), 734.
Rom 8:28-30; 11:2
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Whether the subject is "God" or "All things" is not a matter of vital importance, for in ether case the idea is that all things work together for the good because of God's agency. In saying that all things work together for good panta focuses especially on sufferings and tribulations, but the all-encompassing character of the term should not be ignored. What is remarkable, though, is that even suffering and tribulation turn out for the good of the Christian. 
This last phrase is not a correction of the previous one but a clarification so that the reader can accurately locate the roots of our love for God. 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. This is confirmed elsewhere in Paul, for the election, predestination, and calling of believers is according to God's "purpose" (Rom 9:11; Eph 1:11; 2 Tim 1:9). Moreover, as most scholars affirm, "calling" 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 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 Thes 2:12; 5:24; 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 background of the term should be located in the OT, where for God "to know" refers to his covenantal love in which he sets hits affection on those whom he has chosen (cf. Gen 18:19; Exod 33:17; 1 Sam 2:12; Ps 18:43; Prov 9:10;Jjer 1:5; hose 13:5; Amos 3:2). 
[11:2] The word proginoskein does not merely connote foreknowledge but also implies foreordination, with the emphasis being on God's covenantal love for his people (cf. Amos 3:2; 1 Cor 8:3; Gal 4:9; 2 Tim 2:19). This understanding of proginoskein is confirmed by the immediate context, for proegno clearly functions as the antonym  of aposato. The latter verb means "rejected," and thus the former means "selected." T. Schreiner, Romans (Baker 1998), 449-452, 580.
"Foreknew" focuses attention upon the distinguishing love of God whereby the sons of God were elected. But it does not inform us of the destination to which those thus chosen are appointed. It is precisely that information that "he also foreordained" supplies, and it is by no means superfluous. J. Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Eerdmans 1982), 318. 
Confidence in the sovereignty of God in dire circumstances is one of the fundamentals of the faith. It is one thing–and very necessary–to assent to the great historical facts of the gospel as touching the birth of Christ, his miracles, atoning death, resurrection from the dead and return to glory. But, I submit, confidence in God's sovereign goodness in the midst of a baffling and painful providence is equally important, if not more so. P. Barnett, Romans (CF 2003), 200.
Rom 9:6-23
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[a] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—
One could object that the Pauline usage thereby distorts the OT, which does not exclude Ishmael from the saving promises. In reply I would note that Paul employs Isaac and Ishmael typologically and relates their histories to God's saving purposes. Moreover, despite voices to the contrary, it is doubtful that the author of Genesis conceived of Ishmael as a partaker of the covenantal blessing of salvation. He receives promises of temporal blessing (Gen 17:20; 21:13,18), but he was probably excluded from the salvific covenant with Abraham. 
At this juncture I should note that the selection of a remnant out of Israel implies the selection of some individuals out of a larger group. 
…"calling" in Paul is effective, in that the call creates what is desired. Verse 11 hammers home the same thesis. Why was the promise made previous to the twins' birth and not based on their works? The purpose is "in order that God's electing purpose might prevail." 
It cannot be thwarted, not even by human beings, because it is not based on their actions or works or choices but on God's will and intention. It is important to note as well that Paul does not contrast "faith and works" but "God's call and works."
Verse 16 restates and clarifies this them by indicating that human choice and effort are not the basis on which God's merciful promise is received. This verse excludes in the clearest possible terms the notion that free will is the fundamental factor in divine election.
The power is two-edged even in the Exodus narrative, effecting salvation for Israel and bringing judgment on Pharaoh and Egypt. 
Cranfield goes astray in placing both hardening and mercy under the umbrella of God's mercy. The very point of v18 is that mercy and hardening are antithetical, and no indication is given that those who are hardened receive God's mercy.
In any case, the reference to Pharaoh here must be grounded in the Romans context…and thus the issue at hand is why the majority of Israelites are unsaved.
Nor does Paul disagree in vv19-23 with the idea that God's will is the ultimate cause of one's destiny. He does not solve the problem by retrenching from his previous argument…Paul is well aware that some refuse to submit to what God has commanded. The resistance of most Israelites to the gospel stimulated the writing of chatters 9-11. Moreover, in the previous verses the resistance of Pharaoh to God's command is noted. Yet 9:14-18 indicates that the resistance of Pharaoh was ultimately due to God's hardening. 
If human beings cannot ultimately resist God's will, then how should we interpret Paul's response to the complaint in v20? I have already shown that he does not deny the premise: no one can ultimately resist God's will. What he denies is the conclusion: God therefore cannot find fault with human beings.
Paul does not depend on any one of these texts specifically, although the wording of Rom 9:20 is especially close to Isa 29:16. Paul adapts the metaphor to his own purposes, and reflects an awareness of the biblical traditions in which the illustration was employed. One cannot determine, therefore, from antecedent uses of the metaphor whether Paul employs it with reference to individual salvation. The significance of the metaphor must be gleaned from the flow of the argument in Romans since the Jewish use of the metaphor is variegated…The historical destiny of nations alone hardly answers the question that provoked the entire discussion: why many in Israel are unsaved.
Verses 22-23 build on that illustration by informing the reader why God prepared some vessels for destruction and others for mercy…The burden of proof is on those who see a disjunction between the use of the term in v21 and its use in vv22-23. In the latter instance the references to eschatological judgment and glory are clear…Both orge and apoleia refer frequently to eschatological judgment in Paul. Any notion of historical destiny alone certainly seems forced.
Since skeue orges refers to eschatological judgment and skeue eleous to eschatological glory, and since no evident adversative sense can be found between vv21 and 22-23, it follows that the vessels for honor and dishonor most naturally denote the saved and the perishing respectively. The word "honor" designates eternal life in 2:7,10, where it parallels the term "glory."
Similarly, the choice of one for eschatological honor and the other for judgment from the same lump indicates that those chosen had no special merits or distinctiveness that accounted for their being chosen. 
Thereby, the reason God bore patiently with vessels of wrath is explicated. The kindness of God is underlined in this verse, for the main clause says "he bore with much patience vessels of wrath." The implication is that it would have been just and righteous for him to destroy them immediately (cf. Rom 3:25-26)…Those with whom he is patient are skeue orges heading for eschatological judgment in contrast to the skeue eleous in v23 who will experience eschatological salvation. Nor is there any intimation that the vessels of wrath will later become vessels of mercy, for the text says that they "are prepared for destruction."
Finally, the participial phrase in v22 explains why God bears patiently with those who will experience his wrath: he wants "to show for this his wrath and make known his power."..In Pharaoh's case God demonstrated his patience by not destroying Pharaoh immediately, even though he resisted God's command. By delaying his judgment on Pharaoh, however, God magnified his name and exhibited more forcefully the greatness of his salvation and the terror of his judgment. The correspondence would seem to call for a similar interpretation of v22. God defers his immediate judgment of vessels of wrath so that he can unveil the full extent of his power and wrath on those who continually resist his offer of repentance (cf. 10:21). The idea that God suspends an immediate retribution in order to impose a severer judgment later is attested elsewhere in Jewish literature. This also answers the objection noted earlier that God would not make vessels in order to destroy them since no potter does that…In addition, the Pauline conception of eschatological judgment does not involve annihilation but eternal exclusion from the gracious presence of God. 
The word ["prepared"], then, denotes a preparation by God (divine passive) for destruction rather than self-preparation…In any case, one cannot by exegetical means rescue God from willing the fate of the vessels of wrath. This too was part of his plan, and thus double predestination cannot be averted. Nor is there any basis for the idea that the same vessels of wrath will later become vessels for mercy. The text rules this out explicitly by describing the vessels of wrath as "prepared for destruction."
Now v23 informs us that the display of this wrath has a larger purpose. When the vessels of mercy perceive the fearsome wrath of God upon the disobedient and reflect on the fact that they deserve the same, then they appreciate in a deeper way the riches of God's glory and the grace lavished upon them. The mercy of God is set forth in clarity against the backdrop of his wrath.. Thereby God displays the full range of his attributes: both his powerful wrath and the sunshine of his mercy. The mercy of God would not be impressed on the consciousness of human beings apart from the exercise of wrath. T. Schreiner, Romans, 497-523.
1 Cor 1:26-31
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
The concept of calling obviously implies the need to respond in obedience. However, Paul does not use the language of response in contexts where he refers to God's converting call, leaving the impression that this calling of individuals to salvation is a decisive act of God. Indeed, the action of calling is synonymous in vv27-28 with God choosing the weak, the despised, and the lowly. In other words, in Paul's parlance, calling is a synonym for divine election, even if the latter is logically prior.
The two verses [27-28] together leave the unmistakable impression of the deliberate, sovereign action of God in assembling, or "calling," his people in Corinthain contrary to all expectations. God's choice of the humble nation Israel was likewise surprising and unanticipated [Deut 7:7]. This is a stable pattern in salvation history. From Genesis onward, where he consistently bypasses the firstborn, God chooses the most unlikely figures, a model he followed in Corinth. In short, the Corinthians are God's people not because of themselves but "because of him" (1 Cor 1:30). 
God's ultimate aim in his activity of choosing, shaming, and nullifying is to preclude all human boasting. The critical purpose of God's action of exalting the foolish and lowering the proud is that no one can sing his or her own praises in the presence of God…Paul insists that all praise is to be reserved for God, for "it is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus." Sometimes a brief remark carries more weight than a longer and more elaborate explanation. This is the case in point, with the first two words of the verse, literally "of him," offering a pithy summary of the conclusion of the argument in 1:31 to boast only in the Lord. The point is that if it is "of him" that the Corinthians have their standing with God, it is presumably not "of yourselves." It is hard to conceive of a more emphatic way of underscoring God's grace in such a short space. R. Ciampa & B. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Eerdmans 2010), 104,106-108.
Eph 1:3-14
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Throughout the remainder of this passage (1:4-14), Paul gives a series of reasons why God is so worthy to be praised. The first refers to God's choosing of his people in eternity past.
[vv11-12] Paul ever so strongly emphasizes that God is not responding to events as they unfold with various countermeasures, but that he has a carefully designed plan that he is revealing and fulfilling, especially as it relates to the choosing and redeeming of his people. Here he uses three different words to express the fact that he has a plan (prothesis, boule, and thelema). It is difficult to find shades of differences between the three words, especially as they appear in this context. It is better to recognize a rhetorical stress on God's sovereignty.
It is also important for the readers to know that God has the power (energeo) to put his plan into effect. The power of God is a major theme in this letter, and Paul here introduces it by emphatically asserting that God will powerfully unfold his plan as he has willed it and against any conceivable opposition. To ward off any doubt, Paul explains that God works out "everything" (ta panta) according to his purpose. C. Arnold, Ephesians (Zondervan 2010), 79. 90.
[1:4: "In him"] One view is that it could be regarded as a dative of sphere, which connotes the idea that we are chosen in Christ as the head and representative of the spiritual community just as Adam is the head and representative of the natural community. The other view is that it could be relational or instrumental in the sense that God chose believers in connection with or through Christ's work of redemption. The latter interpretation is preferable because it expresses that God chose the believer for his glory and that it had to be done in connection with the redemption accomplished in Christ. 
[1:11] The present tense refers to God's continual activity toward the purpose that he resolved eternity past. The "all things" (ta panta) refers to all of God's providence and must not be restricted to God's redemptive plan. This coincides with v10 where "all things" are described as "those things in heaven and those things on earth." H. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Baker 2002), 177, 229.
The great theme of divine election is the first to be introduced as Paul's mind reaches back before creation, before time began, into eternity in which only God himself existed. Election is one of the variety of motifs found in this magnificent paragraph that describe different facets of God's gracious, saving purposes: note the language of predestination (vv5,11), good pleasure (vv5,9), will (vv5,9,11), mystery (v9), purpose (v9; cf. v11), appointment (v11), and plan (v11). 
There is clearly a corporate dimension to God's election. It was God's intention to create for himself a people perfectly conformed to the likeness of his Son (Rom 8:29-30). It is inappropriate, however, to suggest that election in Christ is primarily corporate rather than personal and individual…Some of the divine gifts, for example, redemption and forgiveness of sins in Christ (v7), together with the sealing of the Holy Spirit following belief in the gospel of salvation (vv13,14), must be understood as coming to believers personally and individually.
Further, to suggest that election is Christ is "not related primarily to individual salvation but to God's purpose" introduces an unnecessary "either-or." Predestination is to a relationship with God the Father through his Son, described in v5 under the imagery of adoption.
That choice in Christ was made in eternity, before time and creation, as the phrase "before the creation of the world" makes plain. The language of election before the foundation of the world occurs a number of time in the Pauline letters, not least in the context of thanksgiving (1 Thes 1:4; 2:13; cf. Rom 8:29; 2 Tim 1:9), as part of an expression of gratitude for God's amazing grace. To say that election took place before creation indicates that God's choice was due to his own free decision and love, which were not dependent on temporal circumstances or man's merit. The reasons for his election were rooted in the depths of his gracious, sovereign nature. 
The verb "foreordain, predestine," which appears six times in the NT, is used exclusively of God (Rom 8:29,30; 1 Cor 2:7; Eph 1:5, in relation to sonship; cf. 1:11; Acts 4:28) and serves to emphasize his sole initiative and authority in our salvation Predestination is for a God-designed purpose, in this instance, "adoption." 
The basis or standard of God's action in foreordaining us to be his children is spelled out in the compound phrase, "in accordance with his pleasure and will." "Pleasure"…signifies not simply the purpose of God but also the delight that he takes in his plans…"Will" signifies that which is purposed, or intended.
By giving Gentile believers the Spirit, God "seals" or stamps them as his own now, and he will protect them through the trials and testings of this life (cf. 6:10-18) until he takes final possession of them (cf. v14) on "the day of redemption" (4:30).
The Holy Spirit by whom the Gentiles were sealed…is now called the "deposit guaranteeing our inheritance." Beyond this translation lies the word that signifies a "downpayment" or "pledge."…In giving him [the Spirit] to us God is not simply promising us our final inheritance but actually providing us with a foretaste of it…
He has made them his own: they are his treasured possession…"They will be mine," says the Lord Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possession" (Mal 3:17). P. T. O'Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Eerdmans 1999), 98-100,102-103,120-122. 
Eph 2:1-10
2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
"Dead" [in sins] is here understood not as literal physical death, but in the metaphorical sense of alienation from the one who gives life [cf. 2:12; 4:18]. 
The readers formerly came under the controlling influence of "the age of this world."…This could be interpreted to refer to the various non-Christian religions, ideologies, philosophies, values, and economic systems as well as to the more mundane but equally powerful influence of peer pressure, fashion, and the media. 
The second powerful influence that formerly held the readers in bondage to sin is the devil [2:2]. 
Paul now [2:3] indicates the third form of evil influence that holds unbelieving humanity in bondage to sin and from which they need deliverance…a conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. 
Paul's thought here [v10] corresponds to his statement on the purpose of election in 1:4, where he says that God "chose us…so that we would be holy and blameless." C. Arnold, Ephesians (Zondervan 2010), 129,131-133,142.
[2:8] In Paul's thinking, faith is not something that people offer to God and with which God's grace then cooperates to save them. Rather, faith is aligned with grace, and both faith and grace stand over against anything that human begins can offer God. 
The second statement (v9) denies that salvation comes "from" any "works" they might accomplish. Prior to their conversion, "the Ruler of the realm of the air" [Satan] was powerfully at work (energountos) in them, and they followed the cravings of their fallen flesh and mind (vv2-3). F. Thielman, Ephesians (Baker 2010), 143.
The past condition is mentioned by terms relating either to sin (Rom 5:8-11; 7:5; Eph 2:1), ethical practices, alienation from God and his people (Col 1:21; Eph 2:3), or bondage to evil, supernatural forces (Eph 2:2).
Those outside of Christ are not only subject to the pervasive bondage of the present evil age; they are also inspired and empowered by  personal evil forces. Paul depicts the second hostile influence as a powerful supernatural being who rules over this host of evil spirits.
"By nature" [v3] can only mean "by birth" at Gal 2:15, and this is its significance here. The expression "children of wrath" is a Hebraism, like "sons of disobedience" (v2), and means worthy to receive divine judgment. 
[v8] However, the context demands that "this" be understood of salvation by grace as a whole, including the faith (or faithfulness) through which it is received. 
[v9] "Works" now stand for human effort in general, a nuance found elsewhere in Paul. 
The concluding statement of this stunning paragraph about God's gracious salvation underscores the importance and divine origin of these good works: "which God prepared in advance so that we might live in them."…The only other use of this verb at Rom 9:23 presents a strongly predestinarian thrust, and it is likely that the prefix "before" suggests that God's preparation precedes the foundation of the world…as already prepared in his mind and counsel from before eternity. P. T. O'Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Eerdmans 1999), 158-159,162,175-177,180-181.
Eph 4:17-19
17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
Paul's Gentile Christian readers should have left behind an existence whose "thinking," that is, mindset, was so distorted that it was marked by "futility" and had fallen prey to folly. In the LXX this word denoted the futility of idol-worship as well as the emptiness of human endeavors which sought to bring lasting satisfaction. Cf. Isa 28:29; 30:15; 33:11. Note especially the many references to "futility" ) in Ecclesiastes (1:2,14; 2:1,11,15,17, etc), which have probably influenced Paul.
Because it lacks a true relationship with God, Gentile thinking suffers from the consequences of having lost touch with reality and is left fumbling with inane trivialities and worthless side issues.
It is noteworthy that the apostle goes out of his way to emphasize the perceptive and mental dimension in the human estrangement from God. The Gentiles' mindset has been drastically affected (v17b), their thinking has become darkened so that they are blind to the truth…the light of their understanding has gone out so that they were now in a state of being incapable of grasping the truth of God and his gospel.
Not only are the Gentiles darkened in their understanding; they are also "separated from the life of God," that life which God possesses in himself and bestows on his children. Gentiles who do not belong to Christ are "dead" through their trespasses and sins (2:1,5), and have no relationship at all with the living God (2:12). "God-forsaken" (p190).
Such ignorance is culpable. It is not an excuse for sin…As if to underscore this point, Paul adds that their delusion is "due to hardness of heart."P. T. O'Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Eerdmans 1999), 320-22.
They are "separated from the life that comes from God." This is in part an expansion of Paul's declaration in 2;12 that Gentiles are "not having hope and godless in the world." Paul sets this parallel to being enemies of God in Col 1:21. The genitive of separation, "from the life," describes the nature of the alienation and helps us understand how Paul could earlier say that before coming to Christ, they were "dead" (2:1). The next noun, "from God," should be interpreted as a genitive of source and as such characterizes God as the fountainhead of life. C. Arnold, Ephesians (Zondervan 2010), 282.
2 Tim 1:9
9 who saved us and called us to[a] a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,
Calling can be used in a comprehensive sense to describe salvation as the result of God's sovereign control in summoning people to himself (Rom 8:28,30)…Next, the gospel summary describes the basis of this salvation. The next two lines consist of a negative/positive contrast that explains the basis of God's saving and calling. First, on the negative side, is the thoroughly Pauline statement rendered literally "not according to our works." Its effect is to rule human effort completely out of the process.
The text also describes the way in which the decision was executed–God's grace. In isolation "grace" refers to God's unmerited favor (1:2; see on 1 Tim 1:2,12; Tit 3:7), and the contrast between human merit and God's purpose and grace celebrates the divine initiative in the salvation of people.
Third, the closing phrase–"before the beginning of time"–commences a Pauline "transition of time" scheme, whereby the passage receives a salvation-historical character that allows the unique nature of the present age to be seen. The time phrase itself, literally "before eternal times," drawn from Hebrew thought, distinguishes between the timelessness of God's existence and the temporality of his creation…the point that v10 will make is that what was conceived prior to creation–the plan to save people–was executed at a point in history in which the grace of God became manifest in history in Christ. But at this point in the text, the theological poem tells us that the plan to save through the work of Christ was made, and in God's mind worked out, prior to creation. In this way, the piece underlies God's sovereignty both in electing his people and in bringing this to pass through Christ's redemptive work. P. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus (Eerdmans 2006), 468-70.
1 Pet 1:2
2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
The NT understanding of God's foreknowledge of his people indicates that God did not simply observe them or have information about them at some prior time in history. Instead, God chose them according to, or consistent with, his plan and purpose long before God formed a people to be his own. First Peter 1:20 states that the redemptive role of Christ was also foreknown (proginosko) to God before the creation of the world. Therefore, verses 2 and 20 express correlating thoughts that even before creation God had chosen both the people who would be redeemed and the agent who would redeem them. K. Jobes, 1 Peter (Baker 2005), 68.
1 Pet 2:8-9

8 They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
God has not only appointed that those who disobey the word would stumble and fall. He has also determined that they would disbelieve and stumble.
The "but" (de) beginning v9 is most naturally understood as a contrast to what immediately precedes…God has appointed the disobedient to destruction, but on the contrary believers are a "chosen people" (eklekton genos). They belong to God's people because they have been elected, chosen by him. We saw in the first verse of the letter that Peter introduced the theme of election to strengthen God's pilgrim people, and he returned to it here. T. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (B&H 203), 113-14. 
Michaels (1988: 107) understands the appointment of Christ as stone and the appointment of unbelievers to stumbling not as two distinct appointing but as one divine appointment with a twofold result. This thought is supported by the use of the same verb (tithemi, place, appoint) to refer both to the stone God has placed in Zion (2:6) and to the appointment of those who disbelieve and stumble (2:8). When God appointed Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice, to be the stone placed in Zion, by that act God also necessarily appointed two consequential outcomes with respect to acceptance or rejection of Christ.
It is impossible to escape the force of Peter's teaching that God has sovereignly determined both the destiny of those who come to Christ and of those who disobey his word and reject his gospel. K. Jobes, 1 Peter (Baker 2005), 155-56.
Rev 4:11
11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.”

"They were and they were created" has been interpreted to mean that creation existed in the mind of God before he actually began to create, or the two verbs could be synonymous (a hendiadys), stressing the fact that God created "all things." It may be best to view the first verb as referring to the ongoing preservation of the created order and the second to the inception of creation: "they continually exist and have come into being." G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation (Eerdmans 1999), 335.

Rev 13:8; 17:8
8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.
The phrase "the book of life" appears five other times in the Apocalypse (3:5; 17:8; 20:12,15; 21:27). In each case, as here, it is a metaphor for saints whose salvation has been determined: their names have been entered into the census book of the eternal new Jerusalem before history began, which is explicitly affirmed in 21:27, though the pretemporal phrase is omitted there, unlike 13:8 and 17:8, which express the notion of predetermination "from the foundation of the world." That saints were written in the book before history began is implied by the fact that the beast worshipers are said not to have been so written…The dual notion of a "book of life" for the righteous and "books" of judgment for the wicked is based on Dan 12:1-2 and 7:10.
This safety is the precreation identification of God's people with the Lamb's death, which means that they also identify with his resurrection life, which protects them from spiritual death and ultimate deception (cf. 5:5-13). No one can take this life from them. This conclusion stands regardless of how the syntactical problem is solved.
The "earth-dwellers" will not be able to withstand deception by the beast because their "names has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life." The same reason for worship of and deception by the beast is given in 13:8. Being "written in the book of life" is a metaphor referring elsewhere to believers, whose salvific life has been secured, or, with the negative, to unbelievers, who do not benefit from having such security…In 13:8, as here, this security or lack thereof was determined before historical time began, "from the foundation of the world." G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation (Eerdmans 1999), 701-703; 866.
Rev 17:17
17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.
[God] will cause the political forces of evil to attack and destroy Babylon. God executes his will through the "hearts" of both the righteous and the unrighteous. This must be construed not as mere divine "permission" but as divine causation.
For the notion of God executing his will through the "hearts of both saints and the ungodly see with respect to the former especially 2 Chron 30:12, as well as 1 Kgs 10:24; Ezra 7:27; Neh 2:12; 7:5; Jer 32:40; for the latter see also Exod 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1; 14:4,8; 2 Chron 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28. G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation (Eerdmans 1999), 887-88.


  1. Thanks for compiling this. I've thought about doing something similar, but haven't had the time yet.

  2. I agree with Peter. A very helpful compendium. Thanks, Steve. :-)

  3. Excellent.

    I would also have included in the Acts listing, the opening of Lydia's heart (Acts 16:14) and the specificity of the Spirit's missional instruction (Acts 16:6-10; 18:9-10). Both highly significant.

  4. I wonder if you had considered the events of Noah's ark. It always strikes me as a powerful analogy to the construct of limited atonement. God states beforehand that the whole world is under judgement, yet prepares a way of salvation, with measurements big enough to save all those whom God called & appointed (Noah, family, animals). The gospel invitation goes out (as Noah is a preacher of righteousness) but the ark is purpose-built to fit those appointed to sail on it. Although Noah is chosen owing to his "righteousness", the rest of his family are unrighteous (for Noah is described as the only righteous person). Thus, the sons & daughters are saved by virtue of the righteousness derived from the one man, just as our salvation derives from the righteousness given us through our sonship in the one righteous man. And all those whom God decreed beforehand were completely saved. Just a thought.

  5. The worst blind is the one who doesn not want to see. Isn't it so?