God created us in His image, not to be His playthings like dolls or robots, but to have free will so that we could choose to be His friends. Because God has perfect knowledge of all things, past, present and future (Psalm 139:1-6), the topic of man’s free will always brings up the question of how God can know who will be saved, and who will reject His freely given offer of salvation, without interfering with that choice. That is a mystery we will not fully understand until we reach glory (1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:9; Colossians 1:27).
Nonetheless, let me offer an imperfect example by way of illustration. After 33 years of marriage, I know at least some of my husband Richard’s preferences rather well. I can therefore reasonably accurately predict that if he had an uninterrupted evening of television programming to watch by himself, he would choose a live airing of a Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game over a rerun of a “chick flick.” If he were to make that choice, it would not be the result of my influencing his decision in any way, even though I had correctly foretold the outcome.
My knowledge of my husband is incomplete, for only God knows the hearts (Deuteronomy 8:2; 13:3; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 44:21; 139:23, etc.). Yet in His perfect knowledge, He has known from the beginning of time who would be saved by placing their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of His Son (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), and who would be lost and doomed to hell by not believing in Him (John 3:18), instead trusting in their own good works or worldly “wisdom” (Luke 16:15).
Did God choose who is to be saved and who will be doomed? Some believe that is the case, citing Ephesians 1, which says “he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world,” and “He predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself (v. 4,5). A similar verse is 2 Thessalonians 2:13, which says that “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”
Yet if God chose some to be saved and others to be damned, that would contradict Peter’s assertion that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). It also would be out of character for God, Who is love (1 John 4:8), to decide to send some of His creatures to hell before they even come on the earthly scene and have the opportunity to choose salvation. The apostle Paul, also writing under Holy Spirit inspiration, also states that God wants “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Considering the bulk of Scripture in context (2 Timothy 3:16), and rightly dividing the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), I believe we should therefore conclude that God created us with free will in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), and that He has known eternally who would trust Christ and who would reject Him, without interfering with that choice. Paul always addresses believers rather than the unsaved, so when he refers to “us,” or “you” he speaks of the church, or believers in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (1 Corinthians 1:2).
In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, which says that “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth,” I believe that the choice made by God was not who would be saved, but the means of salvation. Namely, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to indwell us and make us holy with Christ’s righteousness at the moment we realize the truth that we are sinners (Romans 3:23) and that Jesus died and rose again to save us (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
I believe that the “predestination” Paul describes in Ephesians 1 refers not to whom will be saved, but to what is the predetermined destiny for those who will be saved. God the Father has blessed us (believers) with all spiritual blessings (v. 3) “according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (v. 4). In other words, God chose from the beginning of time that those who placed their faith in His Son would be sanctified, or made holy, (1 Corinthians 1:2,30; 6:11; Hebrews 10:29; 13:12) and justified (Acts 13:39; Romans 3:24-30), or freed from sin, by His shed blood (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 5:9)) and His righteousness.
It was for God’s pleasure that He “predestinated believers unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself” (Ephesians 1: 5). In other words, He determined ahead of time that believers in Jesus Christ would become children of God and joint heirs with Christ (v. 11), sealed by His Spirit (v. 13) until He redeems us completely by giving us a glorified body like that of Christ to enjoy throughout eternity (v. 14; Romans 8:29).
God knew from the beginning of time who would trust His Son, and He predetermined their destiny, which is to be like Christ, to rise from death to eternal life, to be called by the Holy Spirit, to be justified by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, and to live in His glory (Romans 8:29-30).
Because God knew in advance who would be saved, He also predetermined a unique plan and purpose for every believer. He “saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9).
God thinks peaceful, not evil thoughts, of each of His children, to give each of us an "expected end," namely, fulfillment of His purpose for which He specifically designed each of us, blessing each of us with talents, desires, resources and opportunities uniquely tailored to that purpose (Jeremiah 29:11).
Does this unique, perfect plan for each of us negate our free will? No, because at every step along the way, we have the choice to accept or reject what He would have us do. Sadly, therefore, we are unlikely to completely realize His preordained purpose, but we will come closer if we consistently yield to the Spirit Who guides us, rather than to our sin nature leading us astray (1 Corinthians 15:31; Romans 7:14-25; Ephesians 4:22-32).
Abraham would not have become the father of the great Hebrew nation giving rise to Jesus Christ had he not taken that first step of faith toward the Promised Land (Genesis 12:1-4) or had he not been willing to sacrifice Isaac when God commanded it (Genesis 22). Yet there is hope for each of us, for even Abraham stumbled many times, making wrong choices along the way (Genesis 12:11-13; 16:2; 20:2-3). Through it all, Abraham trusted God, and he was saved because his faith was accounted to him for righteousness (Romans 4:9-16; Galatians 3:7-14; Hebrews 11:8,17).
I believe that when we face Christ at the judgment seat of believers, we will not have to account for our sins, which are paid for in full by His shed blood (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2). Rather, we will be confronted with every idle word we have spoken (Matthew 12:36), every missed opportunity He offered us, and every door He opened that we declined to walk through (2 Corinthians 5:10).
I believe that the tears Jesus wipes away from our eyes at the Judgment Seat of Christ will flow from these lost rewards, for only Jesus Christ could perfectly fulfill God the Father's purpose for His life, having completed the work His Father set out for Him to do (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
Adam’s rebellion (Genesis 3) came as no surprise to God, Who has complete foreknowledge of all things. From the beginning of time, He also knew that His solution to Adam’s sin was His plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, God taking on human flesh (John 1:14) to be the perfect, sinless sacrifice Whose suffering could reconcile sinful man to Holy God (Colossians 1:20).
Praise God that when He sees believers, He no longer sees our sin, but only the perfect righteousness of His Son, with which we are clothed (Isaiah 61:10) once we place our faith in Him! May we use the God-given blessing of our free will to make the right choices, in accordance with His perfect plan (Jeremiah 29:11) for our lives!
© 2014 Laurie Collett
Edited, expanded and reposted from the archives
I have to say that we do not have a full knowledge of what God thinks regarding mankind, for if we did then we would not be 'working out' our own salvation. God is Spirit, and it is a journey in Christ that enables us to fully achieve knowledge of the Father, just as children in the flesh grow through the teaching of their parents. God bless you for sharing the scriptures Laurie.
As our late pastor once said, many years ago, when a person approaches Christ, he sees an open door on which above is written, "Whoever will enter". The person walks through the door, then turns around to read, "Chosen by God before time began."
It was a shame that John Calvin misunderstood predestination, and he thought that God's grace is limited, and He predestined for some to be damned without any hope of repentance. Today, we call this heresy, "Hyper-Calvinism." Yet it was him who also discovered that Eternal Security of the Believer is not only Biblical, but without it, no one would make it to heaven, as it takes just one minor stumble to make one a lawbreaker, and subject to judgement, according to James 2:10.
Blessings to you and Richard.
What an excellent analogy about the open door!
John Calvin's doctrine on eternal security is well-founded in Scripture, while "Hyper-Calvinism" fails to recognize God's grace and infinite love. Praise God that once saved, there is nothing we can do to lose our salvation, just as we did nothing to earn it.
Thank you for sharing your Biblical insights. May God bless you and Alex,
God's ways and thoughts are higher than ours, and we cannot understand Him fully until we reach Heaven. While here in our earthly body, may we allow His Spirit to guide us in our knowledge of His Word.
Thanks as always for your comment. May God bless you and yours,
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