Proorizo: Who Planned Good Friday?

Word of the Week

 March 18, 2023


Proorizō: Who Planned Good Friday?


They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.

Acts 4:28


Good Friday is coming up soon, giving us a chance to ponder the death of Christ which changed the world.

It was a day of black tragedy, orchestrated by a cast of villainous characters: Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod, and the hostile crowds.  When early believers faced their own persecution, they recalled these evil plotters – but they looked beyond to a deeper Plan.  Their prayer recognized that the death of Christ happened because of decisions God had made long before that day (Acts 4:28).

We experience celebrations and catastrophes, and it is natural to talk about the men and women who were responsible. But that’s not the whole story.  The Bible clearly teaches that God is still on the throne, operating behind the scenes to accomplish His purposes.

The Greeks had a word to describe this truth, of course.  And a closer look at it will remind us of a reality that provides stability in every situation.

The word for “decided beforehand” is proorizō (praw-aw-RI-zoh), which occurs 6 times in the New Testament.  It is usually translated “predestine, choose, determine, set apart beforehand.”

It is built on the Greek word horizō, which means “to determine, decide” something.  Adding pro at the beginning means that you determine it ahead of time.

I remember this word by thinking of the English horizon. If you’re piloting a Cessna over the Great Plains, you can see the horizon in the distance, the circle marking the boundaries of your vision.  In classical Greek, horizō meant setting the boundaries of a piece of land.  The Greek Old Testament used it similarly for the boundaries of the Promised Land.

Horizō in the New Testament

People can make decisions.  When the believers in Antioch heard that the church in Judea was having a rough time, they organized a relief project.  Each of the believers determined how much to send as a contribution for the Judean believers (Acts 11:29).  They looked at their available funds, and decided which portion they could share.

In the other 7 uses of the word, God the Father is the one who makes a decision about the course of events.

  • He determined the death of His Son (Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23). Humans may have plotted Christ’s demise, but it was part of God’s plan.
  • He has appointed the Son as Judge of the world (Acts 10:42; 17:31).
  • He set the boundaries for the nations of the world (Acts 17:26).
  • He declared Jesus to be the divine Son (Romans 1:4).
  • He decided the time when Israel had an opportunity to turn to Him in obedience (Hebrews 4:7).

God is the One who formulates the plan, not only for Good Friday, but for everything involved in providing our salvation.

Proorizō in the New Testament

Adding pro adds a second layer of meaning, making it clear that God makes His choices beforehand.  He is not a quarterback calling audibles at the line of scrimmage; He designs the plays before the game even starts. He laid His plans in eternity past.

  • He designed the entire sequence of events that provided our salvation before the ages of time began (1 Corinthians 2:7).
  • He slated us for adoption into His family before the foundations of the world were laid (Ephesians 1:5).
  • He included us in His will, so to speak, granting us an eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:11).
  • He thought about us before we ever came to know Him, and He marked out the boundaries of His kingdom to include us (Romans 8:29-30).

Not only does God have everything under control, He has planned it all from the beginning.

Some people are uneasy with this teaching of Scripture.  They fear that it takes away our freedom of choice, making us mere robots.   But the Bible clearly leaves room for meaningful choice.  The people behind the crucifixion of Christ were responsible for their actions, even though there was no way they could derail God’s plans.  I constantly make choices to obey God or yield to temptation, and those choices make a difference.

I take great comfort from the concept of proorizō, the fact that God is not surprised by anything and that He uses even wrongheaded choices and rebellious sinners to carry out His purposes. For an expanded consideration of this concept, we can go to Psalm 139, especially verse 16:  “And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them.”

God knows it all, controls it all, and loves me.  I do not have to be afraid!


Study Hint:

Etymology – the origin of a word – can be risky.   You can’t explain the word butterfly by imagining a piece of butter that flies!  You should always check the actual usage of a word, rather than depending on its origin.  In this case, however, you can understand the meaning of proorizō rather well by looking at the two words used to form it.  Horizō means to determine something, to set up the boundaries.  Adding pro to the beginning means that the decision was made beforehand.  So the combination means that someone determines an outcome before the event actually happens.



Q: I have always wondered why Romans 5:8 uses the present tense when it says, “God demonstrates His own love to us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Why doesn’t it use the past tense to talk about the death of Christ?

A: That’s a logical question.  The death of Christ happened in the past, so you might expect a past tense verb.  Commentaries will have varied technical explanations, but here is my take on it.  It is true that Christ died as a historical event, as the rest of the verse says.  “Christ died” is in the Greek aorist (past) tense, the typical verb tense for past events.  The opening phrase, “God demonstrates,” makes sense if you figure that God continually proves His love for us by pointing to the death of Christ.  Any time anyone wants to know, “Does God love us?” the Lord can say, “Yes, I do – and I can prove it.  Just look at the cross.”  It’s a continuing evidence based on a past event.


Coming Up

When the Bible talks about “holiness,” it almost always uses the same terminology.  But there are a few verses where you’ll find a different Greek word for holiness.  Next week, we will check to see if there are some aspects of holiness that we haven’t thought about.


©Ezra Project 2023

3 Responses

  1. Thanks for taking the time to share all this information and knowledge which really appreciate and learn from.

  2. Is it possible that since Isaiah 46:10 states that God declares the beginning from the end that God knew beforehand who would receive the offer of pardon through faith in Christ and thus He predestined those individuals to be granted eternal life. If so, then both predestination and free will are accurate.

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