Can you answer some of my questions about the controversial topic of God's predestination versus our free will?
I have been struggling with the idea of predestination vs. our own free will. I read an email response of yours entitled "Which do you feel is true: God's predestination or our free will?" It left me seriously thinking about this controversial subject. Could you answer some of my questions about it?
I understand your struggle with this topic, and there are many others along with you in that boat. Basically, I do believe that there is a one-to-one correspondence between God's predestination and our free will; that is, predestination and free will are mutually inclusive.
However, since God is the Creator, He must initiate everything that happens. In essence, He is the "Chicken" (who wills everything to happen) that comes before the "eggs" (us and everything we think, say, do, and will).
I realize that most people probably would not be able to accept this premise, which I can understand. In effect, it is a "slap" in the face of our prideful, self-image belief that we alone are in control of our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. Yet, His thoughts and ways are far above our own (Isaiah 55:8,9); so we cannot even begin to grasp many of the things He does, especially when they do not make sense to us.
In case you have not read other things I have written about this topic and have the interest and time in doing so, links to them can be found in the Who Is God? section of my email responses page. Specifically, you might be interested in these questions and responses:
<< Matthew 23:37: Why does Jesus express the desire to save Jerusalem if most of them don't even have the choice to be saved? And why does Jesus make it seem like they have free will completely by saying "but you were not willing?" >>
Everyone has a choice, even though it is a predestined choice (I believe). Moreover, no one has an excuse not to make a freewill choice to accept Jesus and, thus, be saved.
Jesus came primarily to save the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 15:24). He even told His disciples to go only to the lost sheep of Israel, not to Gentiles (10:5,6).
However, it was predestined for Israel, as a whole, not to be willing to accept Jesus as Messiah. As a result, the gospel message then could be given to everyone elseóthat is, to Gentiles. Salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22); without Israel's general rejection of Jesus, we non-Israelites/Jews would be lost.
It is an extremely ingenious plan by God. The fact that it involves the loss of a significant number of His chosen people, Israel, shows how He is willing to suffer indescribable grief and heartache for the sake of everyone else that He created, that is Gentilesóa great many of whom will reject the message and remain lost themselves.
Essentially, Israelite "branches" were broken off of their "olive root" so that Gentiles could be grafted into that root (Romans 11:17,19). As the end of the age nears, though, more and more Israelites and Jews are accepting Jesus as Messiah and Lord. As such, they are being re-grafted into their own "olive root," just as we Gentiles have been grafted into this root (11:24). Thus, many are being grafted and re-grafted.
Incidentally, there are many Christians who erroneously believe that God permanently has rejected Israel because Israel, as a whole, has rejected Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Furthermore, many believe that the Church is the "new Israel," having "replaced" or "superseded" Israel due to their rejection of Jesus/God. Nothing could be further from the truth, as explained in my two-part commentary, Godís Covenant: with Israel or the Church?
<< John 5:24/Revelation 22:17/Matthew 10:32-33/James 4:4: Is "whoever" only the elect? >>
I believe that only those whom He has elected or predestined to know, choose, and receive Him can be saved. So yes, I would say that "whoever" is only the elect.
<< Acts 10:34/Romans 2:11: Wouldn't God be showing partiality by controlling the condemnation and salvation of souls? >>
In Acts 10:34-36, Peter was saying that God did not show partiality or favoritism to Israel or the Jews as far as receiving the good news about Jesus Christ. God was going to accept people from all nations who believe. This seems obvious to Christians now, but it was not obvious to believing Jews back then, as evidenced by the fact that they were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on Gentiles or non-Jews (10:45).
In Romans 2:7-11. Paul also is distinguishing between the Jews and the Gentiles, just as Peter did in Acts 10:34-36. Good things and bad things alike will come first to Israel and the Jews, then to the Gentiles. God will not show partiality or favoritism to either group, including when it comes to salvation or condemnation.
<< How can you or me or any other follower of Christ be even sure that we are saved? (1 John 5:13) >>
This is a topic that is debated a great deal among Christians. As for myself, I view certain things which, if they apply to us, indicate that we are saved:
<< 1 Timothy 2:3-4/2 Peter 3:9: Does God exclude the "pre-programmed" lost souls from these verses when he says "any" and "all men"? >>
I don't think so. I believe that God would like for all human beings, whom He has created, to come to a saving knowledge and acceptance of Him. Realistically, though, He knows that this cannot and will not happen. Thus, by predestining many not to choose Him, He voluntarily is grieving Himself for their inevitable loss.
There is no question that God is loving and compassionate. He is looking for those who know Him but have strayed from Him to repent and to return to Him, and He will be gracious and compassionate to them, showing pity and relenting from punishing them (Joel 2:13,14). However, for those who are lostóbecause He has selected them to be lost, with no chance for redemption, since He has not extended to them the gift of faithóthey never will repent and turn to Him, so He will not show compassion on them.
<< You said, "Love is not genuine and sincere unless one has a choice of those to love." If God dictates or controls our actions (like a play with a script), then I just don't understand how it's even possible to genuinely and sincerely love him back. >>
Well, our emotions and the feelings they evoke within us are very real to us. They are one of the countless amazing things that God has created as part of our human natures. Genuine, sincere love is one of those emotions.
I feel that the strongest love we can have is for someone who has forgiven us, and even has demonstrated love and compassion for us, after we repeatedly have wronged that person and have done nothing to deserve forgiveness and love in return. I know that God could have chosen me as one of His pieces of "pottery" destined for destruction (Romans 9:21,22); but He did not, even though that is what I (and all of us) deserve. For all of these reasons, I love Him beyond measure, and I always will.
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