DAY 224 - Predestination, Foreknowledge, or Choice?
What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory . . .
What a topic to weigh in on! I still stand on the side of the train of thought expressed like this: “The way that leads to Life is narrow, and there is a wall on both sides to bump into as you move along making forward progress. One wall is predestination and the other is free will.” I believe both are needed. Beyond that, the topic can quickly degenerate into man’s wisdom and speculation, for systematizing God is dodgy business, as is thinking that one can know all there is to know about God. Where did God come from, anyway? Does a simple “I AM” not suffice? Does it not have to suffice? However, some things are worth a cursory look. A dilemma for many is that if God predestines, then what is the point? If it is all choice, then who ultimately gets the glory? Besides, we have found ourselves too weak to make the right choices. To be more succinct, what is it that man must do because God refuses to do it for him? At the same time, what is it that only God can do and man cannot? I believe God has a responsibility, and so does man. We are made in His image, and we see every family operating on that same principle: the parents have responsibilities, and so do the children. Some things only the parent can do, but there are also things only the children can do. Understanding our earthly relationship will take us a long way toward comprehending our heavenly one.
Romans 9:16 is an amazing passage and contains enough dynamite to blow to pieces 95% of all of those discipleship and church programs that proclaim what the Christian must do to be pleasing to God. The Amplified Bible states it in this way: “So then [God’s gift] is not a question of human will and human effort, but of God’s mercy. [It depends not on one’s own willingness nor on his strenuous
exertion as in running a race, but on God’s having mercy on him.]” This passage and more make it abundantly clear that God is in charge of gift giving, yet there is hardly a chapter in the Bible not dealing, at least on some level, with man’s free will or choice. Joshua 24:15, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Then there is the foreknowledge of God. I Peter 1:1 & 2, “who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”
First, definitions must be addressed, for we stand and fall by our definitions. Mine are as follows:
Predestination: pre-determined, planned beforehand
Foreknowledge: omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience
Free will: the ability to choose
There are two categories within the concept of predestination. There are those in Christ predestined for heaven, and there are those outside of Christ predestined for hell. This cannot be argued, for there are no other classifications. Those who are in Christ will receive mercy, and those outside of Christ will receive wrath, so it cannot be disputed that God did, in fact, make vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath. The question that arises is whether a person can choose which predestined group he is going to be in. First, lesser truths must be seen in the light of greater truths, such as “God so loved the world” and desires “that none should perish”; “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” If we know the heart of God, we can understand, in part, how He is acting.
Imagine two rooms adjoined by one door. In one room are those predestined to heaven, and in the other, those predestined to hell. The door is Jesus. God wishes that “all” men be saved. As those in the room for the damned attempt to escape through every window, God is gently latching those windows, not wanting any to escape except through the one Mediator, Jesus. He will not make the choice for anyone, but He will do all He can to make Jesus the only choice. In this, another greater truth is revealed, which is that God does not show partiality. In the room for the damned, God both hardens hearts and softens hearts of people that go through the same event. I know two fellows who broke their necks and are now confined to wheelchairs. Assuming that God permitted what He could have prevented, God permitted both accidents. Why? God, knowing every intimate detail about the men, understood how this particular type of accident for these particular men was the best option to move them into the room for those predestined in Christ. One man was broken, his heart softened and revealed, and he gave his life to Jesus. The other man was hardened, his unyielding heart revealed, and he is strongly anti-Christ. Did God harden one heart and soften the other? Yes, for He permitted the accident. God’s actions in permitting did not create the hard heart or the soft heart; His actions brought them to the light. So some might ask, “Who, then, made the heart that would be broken and the heart that is hardened?”
Man, in the image of God, is also an “i am,” but in all lower-case letters! This does not mean that man is God, or even a god. But there are things about the creation of man no man knows. Some might ask, “Why does one man have a hard heart?” My reply is, “That man is an ‘i am,’ period.” No answer beyond needs to be given, since no man knows everything about his creation.
Here is another greater truth: God is love, and His love compels Him to continue to work and give everyone in the room for the damned the best chance possible to make the choice to move into the other room. This He does, even knowing those who will not respond. Who among us can grasp that kind of love? In His foreknowledge, He knows who will be hardened, and yet He will not give up on them until the very end. Beautiful love! In my life, I came to the place where there was only one option other than Jesus, and that was suicide. God had been breaking me and softening my heart. My pride had been dealt a deathblow, and I was ready to move over and let someone else take over. I chose to believe in Jesus. Do I now have something in which to boast? No! First, He did the work of bringing me to the doorway. Second, man is not born again through effort inwardly or outwardly, but only from above. Even if I chose to believe in Jesus, God had to choose to give me a new birth, graft me into the Vine, and give me the Holy Spirit. James 1:18, “And it was of His own [free] will that He gave us birth [as sons] by [His] Word of Truth, so that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures [a sample of what He created to be consecrated to Himself ].” To be locked up in jail and to choose to be free does no good; someone amenable to that choice must come along with the key. Here is where we need to see the limits of free will. I can choose to go to the airport, but only the plane can take me away.
Once we have passed from death to life through rebirth, God will permit those in the room of the damned to throw bricks into the room housing those of us who have received mercy. However, He will only permit those bricks that will work for Him in furthering the revelation of His Son. A wicked man may take our job so God can reveal His provision, and so on. Romans 8:29 & 30, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
Back to the family, as parents we do all we can to see that our children make the right choices. Parents who have put themselves in the place of making all the right choices for their offspring are slowly going mad, and their children are not far behind them. Even when a parent sees his child making a wrong choice, the parent will not give up, even with foreknowledge of what is going to happen. I have seen parents outwardly give up on a rebellious child who is addicted to drugs, and yet all the parents’ lives they will secretly hope beyond hope for a turnaround in the child’s life. They will covertly work toward that conversion experience. Take a parent’s love, multiply it by untold billions, and see why God is constantly at work in the room of the damned!