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  • Love and Liberty

Was Judas Predestined to Betray Christ? (1)


The Savior said of himself (Matt. xxvi, 24), “The Son of man goeth as it is written of him [or, as Luke expresses it, “as it was determined of him”; but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.” Now, consider the hearing of this last declaration of the Savior concerning his betrayal, in the light of the theory that the treachery of Judas was necessary to the death of Jesus and the consummation of the atonement. The death of Jesus being not only foreknown but foreordained, then, if the betrayal by Judas was necessary to that death, that betrayal itself must have been foreordained likewise. How, then, could it have been better for Judas never to have been born? That could be true for no other possible reason than that by his betraying his Lord he incurred the divine displeasure and condemnation. But if that act was necessary to the consummation of the atonement, and was therefore foreordained, we are driven to the blasphemous conclusion that God holds a man guilty and damnable for an act that was foreordained as necessary to the fulfillment of his own purposes. We thus demonstrate that the instruments of the Savior’s death, the wicked human agencies involved therein, were all needless. Their doings were all as completely contingent and avoidable as any sins ever were. The theory that the betrayal was in the original plan involves the supposition that God can do evil that good may come, that Christ was hypocritical in his treatment of Judas and in his utterances to and concerning him. This supposition is so monstrous that any theory which involves it must be repugnant to the moral consciousness of mankind.

The words that I speak unto you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.” (John vi, 63, 64.) Was the unbelief of those individuals foreordained? Certainly not. Their unbelief was through their own volitions. It is not said that Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that would not believe, but “who they were that believed not.” But the words, “who they were who would not in the future believe,” are required for this text, in order to make it lend support to the theory of absolute divine foreknowledge. The beginning spoken of in the text could only date back to the incipiency of the unbelief in the minds of his disciples. The term “beginning” must have a definite signification, and in that connection this is the only pertinent signification. In speaking of divorces Christ said, “From the beginning it was not so”; meaning from the beginning of the marriage institution. “They who were eye-witnesses from the beginning delivered unto us,” says Luke. And so Christ knew the unbelief of the persons referred to from the beginning as soon as they began to doubt, or failed to believe, but not before. And if he knew from the beginning who believed not, who received not the life and spirit of his teachings, in like manner he knew who of the number should betray him: he knew him as soon as the conception of the crime was first entertained. He discovered the treachery in its incipiency. The betrayal did not proceed from foreordination, nor from a constraint to fulfill prophecy, but from an immediately preceding unbelief, vitiating the character, corrupting the nature, weakening the will, and preparing it for that fearful deed. Such rapid demoralization of a once noble nature, going on in full view of Christ, was ample ground for inferential knowledge respecting that particular individual among the small number of the disciples who should betray him. Jesus was a discerner of all hearts and the intents of all hearts. The act of Judas was, we claim, neither foretold nor foreknown prior to the formation of his purpose to betray his Divine Master. When that purpose was forming in the heart of Judas the Omniscient Savior discerned it, and when it was actually formed he both knew and foretold its consummation, but not before. If Christ knew all the time, from the moment that he commissioned Judas, that he was going to betray him to his foes, might we not suppose that he would have given some slight intimation of it to some of his friends much earlier than he did; and that he would also have provided himself against such a catastrophe according to the instinctive laws of self-preservation? And why did he not magnanimously rescue a poor erring mortal from temptations he knew he would certainly succumb to? Luke says (Acts i, 25) “that Judas lost his ministry and apostleship by transgression.” In good faith he had been put into the ministry by Jesus Christ. “He was numbered with us, and obtained part of this ministry,” says Peter. The disciples prayed, “Thou, who knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell.” We conclude, from a careful study of the subject, that Christ chose Judas because at the time of choosing him the prospect was flattering that he would prove himself to be a successful man in disseminating the pure doctrines of his everlasting Gospel.

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