What insights can be derived from the Protoevangelium regarding God's plan of Salvation, specifically in relation to the concept of election?
This doctrine of Predestination (Election) has entangled Christ’s church in a contentious debate for the past half-millennium, with no end in sight. Consequently, the Church is divided and weakened, against Jesus’ prayer for “unity” and hindering the Church’s united global evangelization efforts. God’s benevolent salvation message is obscured. Assertions like “once saved, always saved” and “chosen” or “not chosen” have become theological and hermeneutic standards for interpreting or dismissing interpretations of some of Jesus’ teachings and other Bible passages that don’t align with these views.
These negative impacts are an indication that these “doctrines” are not, first and foremost, of the Holy Spirit. This also suggests that not all relevant Biblical passages relating to the subject were thoroughly examined and interpreted in their proper context, in particular, the Protoevangelium, the “whole picture” of The Plan, first ever declared by God.
Simply put, the problem lies in a bottom-up approach, akin to the story of "six blind men and the Elephant," leading to unwarranted conclusions from “selective proof texts”
As a solution, a top-down approach starting with the Protoevangelium is essential to grasp God’s Plan of Salvation and understand related texts without biased interpretation. This objective perspective allows us to see the bigger picture and obtain a comprehensive and accurate understanding of God’s redemptive message. It is like utilizing the given “whole picture" as a guide while starting with the corner piece, allowing us to assemble the puzzle without distortion from any bias - the only best way to get to the right result. This method leads to a deeper and clearer comprehension of God’s message of redemption as intended.
• The Decree of Creation - It stands as God's master blueprint for the entirety of His grand Creation project, analogous to a comprehensive plan for a new housing project. It encompasses every aspect of God's divine will, ensuring that all things will come to pass according to His benevolent and all-inclusive eternal decision. From the formation of galaxies to the tiniest of particles, the Decree of Creation reveals the divine orchestration behind the vast expanse of the universe.
• The Salvation Plan is a divine decree crafted by God with love and compassion exclusively for the redemption of humanity. It is comparable to a “special housing complex” to cater to the “fallen humanity.” This plan is included in His eternal decree, based on His foreknowledge of the Fall.
• Foreordain is a broader term that encompasses the specific predetermined mechanisms with details and aspects which God has predetermined for an instrumental purpose in the enactment of the Salvation Plan.
• Predestination or Election is a restricted term within the context of God’s Plan of Salvation, referring to God’s selective choice of individuals for salvation, akin to choosing “divine” tenants for the “special housing complex for the fallen humanity.”
Understanding the Protoevangelium
a. The Meaning of Protoevangelium:
The Protoevangelium, meaning ‘first gospel,’ found in Genesis 3:15, serves as a pivotal passage after humanity’s fall in the Garden of Eden. It foretells the coming of a Redeemer who will triumph over evil and restore the broken relationship between humanity and God. The Protoevangelium lays the comprehensive foundation for Salvation history and offers hope and restoration for all. Therefore, examining its historical context and comparing it with other messianic prophecies, and salvific texts within the frame of Protoevangelium provides insight into unadulterated God’s redemptive plan and its significance for believers today.
b. The Two-Top Motif of Protoevangelium:
The two primary themes of the Salvation Plan are God’s righteous justice and loving kindness. These motifs will be evident in all aspects, details, and events as the Salvation Plan unfolds, from its beginning to its completion. After all, the Salvation Plan is about God choosing “divine tenants for the “special housing complex for the fallen humanity,” that is, saving individual sinners out of a pool of sinners.
The 'Two-Top Motif' is the fundamental basis for deciding the eternal destiny of individual sinners. Therefore, Election is not God arbitrarily or personally choosing individual destinies, but rather by “means” based on His attributes of righteous justice and loving-kindness.
c The Protoevangelium, the Logical Sequence:
The Protoevangelium, as the first announcement of God’s plan out of His “Agape Love,” follows the Fall in a logical sequence, with God offering a promise of a future Redeemer. Notably, it distinguishes that the Fall was not decreed by God that the Fall to occur; rather, it resulted from humans misusing their free will and rebelling against God's goodwill. Therefore, the Protoevangelium is based on God’s foreknowledge of the Fall. Understanding this distinction is vital in recognizing the logical connection between human actions, God’s foreknowledge, and the unfolding of His decrees. The Protoevangelium assures the hope of redemption after humanity’s fall in the Garden of Eden, and it offers a new paradigm for understanding the nature and meaning of Election.
d. The Progressive Protoevangelium, the Dividing Line for Redemption:
The Plan hangs on and hinges on the coming of the 'Seed of the Woman,' as mentioned in the Protoevangelium (Genesis 3:15). It unfolds progressively through world history intricately connected to His foreknowledge. It involves the elements of time, region, and trajectory.
The Plan unfolds in the regions and trajectories God ordained. It begins near the East of Eden toward the "end of the world,” affecting people along its path. This divine Plan can be likened to Ezekiel's vision of 'Water flowing from under the Temple, which brings life to those in its path' (Ezekiel 47:1-5; Revelation 22:1-2). Like a life-giving river flowing through barren lands, it unfolds over time and space, touching the lives of sinners near its unfolding. In the Bible, The Plan unfolds following these two elements as God directs and guides human agents involved, for example, Abraham to the Promised Land, Israelites to Egypt, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Paul to Europe, etc.
The Plan, as foreordained by God, enacts progressively throughout history. God predetermines the timing of key events, but they follow His divine time zone, not our calendar. For instance, “the fullness of time had come" (Gal 4:4), “four generations in Egypt," "in the fulness of time," and "before the foundation of the world, etc.," all highlight the divine perspective of time, beyond our human understanding. Moreover, the actual enactment of these events is contingent on human responses. As the Lord's prayer - "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven" - indicates, human choices and actions play a role in God's unfolding plan.
Operating with a selective approach, the plan extends its reach towards those whom God 'foreknew' - individuals within the scope of the Protoevangelium. This concept aligns with Romans 8:29, which discusses God's foreknowledge and predestination of believers.
Therefore, The Plan does not provide immediate and universal absolution of all sinners at once, nor does it offer eventual reconciliation for every sinner in human history. That is to say, people outside the Protoevangelium in “time, regions, and trajectory” are to be excluded. It is not a question of God being “fair or not”, but rather it is God’s eternal sovereign decision aligned with the eternal two-top motif of holy justice and love." In this perspective, those texts, “God desires all to be saved” do not imply the “All,” but rather “all” in the Gospel range, hear and response in faith as in the parable of Royal Banquet. Therefore, by nature and design, Protoevangelium contains a foreordained mechanism with details and aspects -Region, trajectory, and timing – for the selection of the “divine tenant,” the personal salvation.
e. Protoevangelium and Human Element:
Human Being in God’s Plan is the reason and the object of The Plan. God's Plan involves electing, selecting, and calling humans as the designated “Beneficiary and counterpart Agents” of The Plan. God's Plan of Salvation is an unchangeable and sovereign decree, ordained in eternity to redeem and reconcile humanity with God, and the ultimate purpose is for His glory.
Human actions and historical events may seem to challenge the idea of God's Plan being predetermined and fixed in the traditional theological sense. However, God's Plan of Salvation actually demonstrates His respect for human autonomy and free will. He values humanity as bearers of His image and likeness. John 3:16 highlights God's profound love for humanity and reinforces the significance of His Plan of Salvation. Without this respect for human free will, history, and the divine decree would lose their profound meaning.
God's omniscience extends to all events, including human actions driven by free will, and nothing lies outside His all-knowing presence. He is both big enough and loving enough to have intentionally created human beings, knowing the ultimate cost He would bear to mend their cosmic failure. Despite our sins and shortcomings, God remains mindful of us. Even in His justice and wrath towards sin, He decreed to shoulder the burden of our sins and the weight of death upon Himself.
f. Protoevangelium, Human Being as the Agent and Beneficiary:
Throughout the Old and New Testament eras, God's sovereignty is evident in His selection of human beings as both agents and beneficiaries of His divine plan. The ultimate goal is to create 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.'
The selection pattern remains consistent, encompassing individuals, clans, tribes, and groups. God's calling varies, and the issue of 'conditional or unconditional choice' and the timing of calling are within God's domain. However, what matters most is how we respond to His calling and become beneficiaries and agents in His plan. Some chosen people may refuse the Gospel call, as seen in the parable of the King's Banquet (Matt 22:1-14).
God's grace of calling is not entirely irresistible, as exemplified in the history of Israel. Jesus, while visiting His people, was vehemently rejected, and He wept over Jerusalem for ‘not heeding His call at the time of His visit.’
g. Protoevangelium, the warfare:
The Protoevangelium depicts a Trinitarian conflict between the seed of the woman and the serpent, an unmatched and uneven confrontation between the Creator and the creature with zero possibility of parity. God decrees enmity and foretells the serpent's ultimate defeat. In this spiritual and physical warfare, Christ serves as the Captain, and The Holy Spirit provides power and strategy. The battles persist until the final Day of the Lord.
Salvation is a fierce personal battle. With God on our side, it is an un-matching conflict with the devil, yet it demands our active engagement in faith, constant vigilance, and endurance until the end.
Although salvation is a gift from God, justified by “faith,” we receive it by faith - John 1:12; 3:16, we must never take it for granted. Jesus and the Apostles emphasized the need to "resist the devil" and "endure until the end."
While nothing external can “sever us from God’s love,” saints can opt out of being in Jesus, and the apostate can give up on their faith or decide “not bearing fruit” (μὴ φέρον καρπὸν). (There will be no ‘apostate’ if one never had any prior beliefs to apostatize). (For ‘Apostacy, 1 Tim 4:1; Heb 3:12; 6:4-6; 10:26-32,39; 2Pet 2:1-4; 20-21).
This underscores the crucial significance of “continuous believing” (πιστεύητε -John 6:29) and abiding in Jesus and His words, as illustrated in the parable of the "True vine and branch not bearing fruit," where a branch was grafted into Jesus, the true vine, but ceased to bear fruit due to its decision not to remain in Him. And Jesus also said to His disciples as He warns them about coming persecutions: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
In this regard, the doctrine of “Perseverance of saints” is challenging to the Scriptural texts. From the first to the last pages of the Bible showcased “people” turned and changed - Adam and Eve decided to rebel against God in their perfect condition; Israel, God’s favorite and love to odious and enemy; King Soul, the choice of God for the first king of Israel, ended up losing his ‘kingdom over Israel forever’ which God intended; and King Solomon and many more. In NT, the “power workers in the name of Jesus” to “workers of lawlessness”, etc. ( For more who cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven -Matt 5:20,22,29,30; 7:21-23; 8:12; 10:33; 2 Thes 1:8-9; 2 Cor 6”8-9; Heb 4:1-11; 1Pet 4:17,18).
The doctrine of Predestination (Election) has been a subject of contentious debate within the Church for centuries, leading to division and hindering the unity and global evangelization efforts that Christ prayed for. This debate has obscured the message of God’s benevolent salvation and led to the formation of theological standards that sometimes interpret or dismiss Jesus’ teachings and other Bible passages.
The solution to this complex issue lies in adopting a top-down approach, starting with a deep understanding of the Protoevangelium. This foundational passage in Genesis 3:15 foretells the coming of a Redeemer and sets the stage for God’s divine plan of salvation. By examining this passage in its historical context and comparing it with other messianic prophecies, we can gain a clearer understanding of God’s redemptive plan and its significance for believers today.
The two primary motifs of God’s Salvation Plan, His righteous justice, and loving kindness, underpin the concept of Election. It is not about arbitrary or personal choices but rather a means of enacting God’s attributes within His eternal plan.
The logical sequence of the Protoevangelium emphasizes God’s foreknowledge and the role of human free will in the unfolding of His decrees.
The Plan unfolds throughout history, guided by God’s divine timing and the choices of human agents. While God’s grace is extended to all, it is those within the scope of the Protoevangelium who have the opportunity to respond in faith and become part of God’s chosen people.
The human element is central to God’s plan, as individuals and groups are selected to both carryout and benefit from His divine purpose. The call to salvation is not entirely irresistible, as history demonstrates that some chosen people may refuse God’s call.
The Protoevangelium also introduces the idea of spiritual and physical warfare between the seed of the woman and the serpent, with Christ as the Captain and the Holy Spirit as the source of power and strategy. Salvation is a gift from God, but it requires active engagement in faith, vigilance, and endurance.
In light of all these considerations, the doctrine of the “Perseverance of the Saints” faces challenges when one examines the full scope of biblical texts. It is evident that individuals and groups have turned away from God and their faith in various ways throughout biblical history.
Therefore, understanding God’s redemptive plan and the concept of Election requires a deep exploration of the Protoevangelium and the broader context of the Bible. It calls for a balanced view of God’s attributes, God’s sovereignty and His respect for human free will, and the role of human agents in His divine plan. Ultimately, it is a reminder of the profound complexity and depth of God’s love and purpose for humanity.
Soli Deo Gloria! Sola Scriptura!