A Voice in the
February 3, 2000
Foreknowledge, Predestination & Free Will
Foreknowledge, Predestination & Free Will
While I do not know every detail of aberrant theologies, there's a lot of 'interesting' views out there. Some think that God goes "eeny meeny, mynee mo...I pick you, you and you...the rest of you, tough luck!" They suppose this thought comes from Rom9:18-21 where it speaks of God's "will" in choosing one over another. And further support this with "and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed." (Acts13:48) So, they suggest that only people whom God pre-appointed/approved are even -capable- of being saved. And so, when God sets about to "draw" them (Jn6:44), that they have 'no choice -BUT-' to be saved, because God chose them, and God is "sovereign", doing all His Own will and purpose. (Is46:10) Thus, terms like "sovereign grace" and/or "irresistable grace" have come into being.
This view, however, begs Peters words that God "..did not purpose any to perish, but all to come to repentance." (2Pt3:9-litv) And furthermore makes God into a 'cruel' One when He pleads, "Do I actually delight in the death of the wicked? ..is it not that he should turn (repent) from his ways and live? ..why will you die? I have no pleasure in the death of him who dies, says the Lord Jehovah. Therefore turn and live." (~Ezek18:23-32) If man has 'no choice', such pleas are utter cruelty. It would be like the child who catches a fly, pulls its wings off, and then lets it go, saying, "C'mon, now. Fly!!" And then bursts into giggles because it buzzes around helplessly, not able to fly.
There is an opposite extreme that says something like, "God was working SO HARD in that person's life, and yet after all that effort, God was not able to save them. They didn't become a Christian." Such a statement limits God's "ability" to save, "Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened so that it cannot save..." (Is59:1a)
First of all, "Free Will" is implicit (implied/understood) throughout Scripture. God did not make man as automatons. God gave Adam and Eve 'options' to either eat of the forbidden tree or not. (Gen2:16-17) After the flood as man is developing Babel and their Queen of Heaven religion, God observes that "nothing which they have imagined to do will be restrained from them." (Gen11:6) As the Law is given to Israel God pleads through Moses, "Therefore choose life, that you may live.." (Deu30:19) When on earth, Jesus invited, "Come to Me all who labor and are heavy laden..." (Mt11:28) On the Areopagus Paul concludes his discourse to the Athenians with God's command for "all men everywhere to repent." (Acts17:30)
Notice, too, that God does not -limit- His desires. His desire is that "-ALL- men -everywhere-" repent. He did not purpose (plan/design it) that "-ANY- should perish". (2Pt3:9)
So, with that as background, on to the passage in question: "..because whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be the First-born among many brothers. But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."(Rom8:29-30)
Notice the order of the salvation process. Jesus said that "no one can come to Me unless the Father..draws him." (Jn6:44) Contrary to what CCC's "Four Spiritual Laws" states, that everybody is 'trying to reach God', the Scriptures are quite clear that "all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, each one to his own way.." (Is53:6) "Jehovah looked down from Heaven on the sons of mankind, to see if there were any discerning and seeking God: they have all turned aside" (Ps14:2-3)
Modern evangelism attempts to cajole people by appealing to their emotional emptiness, suggesting to the person they are talking to, that the person is -already- 'looking' for God. But Scripture tells us that mankind is NOT! So, unless we wish to call Jesus a liar, we accept this statement. The only way a person can be saved is if the Father comes and "draws" him; as we have seen recently where God 'introduces' Himself to Job. When we look at Abraham, it was God Who called Abraham, not the other way around.(Gen12:1) When Adam and Eve had sinned and were hiding (not seeking Him!), it was God who called out "Where are you?" (Gen3:9) Jesus called out, "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay in your house." (Lk19:5) The (sinner) woman of Samaria was one whom Jesus -specifically- sought out. (Jn4:4)
The parable Jesus told was the "parable of the -Sower-" (Mt13:18) Who scatters the "seed" (God's Word). It is a parable of how God presents Himself to various types of mankind. If the 'seed' is God's Word, and the "Word was God" (Jn1:1), the Sower sees to it that the "ends of the earth" know -of- Him. (Ps48:10, 19:1-4, Is52:7, Rom10:18, 1:19-20, 2:15)
Now, I don't think anybody has a problem with the fact that when a person is saved, they are "justified". (Rom5:1) And when we go to be with Christ and become "like Him" (1Jn3:2) we are "glorified" as we shed these bodies of "flesh and blood" of "corruption". (1Cor15:50-54) So, we won't address those points here...
But the part many people have troubles with is what comes before God's "drawing/calling" of us. (Rom8:30a) God "calls" the ones who have been "predestined". "According as He -chose- us in Him before the foundation of the world...having predestined us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ..in whom also we have been chosen to an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His own will." (~Eph1:4-11)
If we take our understanding from -only- what we have thus far considered, then it is easy to understand where Calvinism comes up with "irresistible grace". But we've already seen that God has given us free will, and He desires that "all men everywhere" would repent. It would seem that we have an irreconcilable dilemma here. And, indeed, many seminarians have debated this question over the centuries, and books have been written about it by 'scholars', and complete theologies and denominations have been built around these seemingly two -divergent- viewpoints. But, they are NOT divergent.
The part they for some reason leave out is where this passage -began-. Which is why I just now "left it out" until now, so we can understand where they come from, and then backtrack, to understand this. They leave out God's "foreknowledge". That is the -key- to understanding and coordinating God's "sovereignty" and man's "free will".
These verses began, "whom He foreknew, He also predestinated..." (8:29) Sojourners who are "elect..according to foreknowledge" (1Pt1:1-2) This 'foreknowledge' existed "before the foundation of the world". (Eph1:4)
Of all the things that one might compare between The Most High, and any other entities that might be called "gods", one of the most notable is God's knowledge. He proclaims, "To whom will you compare Me, and make Me equal, and compare Me, that we may be alike? Remember former things from forever; for I am God, and no other is God, even none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from the past things which were not done, saying, My purpose shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure...I have spoken, I will also cause it to come; I have formed; yes, I will do it." (~Is46:5-11) In this passage we see God's foreknowledge AND His sovereignty...His ability to do 'all things' and see to the completion of what He purposes.
Before creation, God knowing all things, He already "-knew- those being His." (2Tm2:19) Jesus "knew all men" (Jn2:24) just as He was "knowing all things that were coming upon Him" (Jn18:4) God "looks on the heart" (1Sam16:7) Jesus knows each one of us "even to the dividing apart of soul and spirit.." (Heb4:12) He -knows- this; He also -KNEW- it.
On the surface it seems like a 'freight train' forging ahead, pushing everything in its path out of the way, when salvation progresses:
As I was reading this, meditating on how to write this answer, I suddenly came to an understanding. God doesn't bother calling those who, in His foreknowledge, he knows would not heed His call. Because, when He calls He justifies. That's a 'given'. And when He justifies He also glorifies. That, too, is a 'given'. We are talking on the -individual- level here. When He was continually pleading with Israel in the O.T., they were -already- His "elect" nationally. (Is45:4) Albeit, in unbelief. But to the world as a whole, He knows each individual. He does not abandon the world; even those He knows -would- reject, were He to call... He has left Himself "witnesses" in creation. (Acts17:24-31, Rom1:18-20) They are "without excuse". They have God written on their "consciences" (Rom2:15-16) through the Sower.
Yes, the Sower scatters the seed around the world, so that the world is without excuse, because they have seen glimpses of Him; they ultimately will -all- bow the knee. (Phil2:10-11) But His personal "call" is only to those whom He foreknew. Perhaps God uses His servants to "plant..and water" but it is "God who [causes] to grow." (1Cor3:5-7) When people engage in evangelism, they cannot force, coerce, cajole, shame, scare, emotionalize, or lead people in "-the- prayer" into salvation. All they can do is preach God's Word. Then, if God is calling the person, they will do like the Ethiopian, interrupt and ask "Can I be baptized?" (Acts8) Or like at Cornelius' house, the Holy Spirit will -just- come into the prepared heart even while the speaker is speaking (no "invitations" necessary), because it was God doing the calling. (Acts10) Salvation is -not- from one person to another. A 'person' cannot save another person. Only God can do that.
So, how do we understand God's predestination arising out from His foreknowledge? How does He go about "choosing" the ones He is going to "call"? How does He "appoint" them? On what basis? Perhaps an example from human interactions might help a little?
A committee or 'board' is meeting, discussing things and making plans. Perhaps they are planning a 'party'? So they discuss, Who can we get to be in charge of decorations? What about Charlie? Well, he might be -able- to, but he's so busy, he'd probably turn us down. What about Susan, then? Sure, she's likely to say yes, and she has a real flair for that sort of thing. OK, what about refreshments? Jane is talented in that, and she always seems to enjoy doing it. So... it's settled, we'll ask Susan to do decorations, and Jane to do refreshments.
Now, if this committee has a pretty good idea that Charlie would likely say "no", it would be silly for them to even ask him, right? Because that would mean they would have to convene a meeting again, to see who else they might ask. So, -knowing- the people they are talking about, they come up with a roster of assignments, and then ask the various people to participate, based on their knowledge of the people and their likely availability to respond positively. These people are written down on their pre-planned 'list', and then somebody 'calls' on them.
The big difference between this 'committee' example and God is that the committee is not omniscient. They make assignments/elections based on "likelihoods". God, however, -KNOWS- the "end from the beginning". He knows that if He calls John to eternal life, that John will respond in repentance. But He also knows that [???], were they to be approached, will reject.
And then, there's "Chuck". He -specifically- made it clear to the committee, in no uncertain terms, that he would never participate in parties. The 'committee' knows he's antagonistic to the whole concept of parties. They certainly will not ask him to help. And, if he had caused disturbances in the past, they might even bar him from the party. Somewhat like Pharaoh, who sneered, "Who is Jehovah that I should listen to His voice...I do not know Jehovah." (Ex5:2) God foreknew Pharaoh, and Pharaoh taunted back at God, so God "hardened" Pharaoh, in order to show His "power" and "name". (Rom9:17-18, Ex4:21,7:13)
And so, as we learned from Job recently, when God -knows- the end of that person, there is nothing that will get in the way of that person responding to God's revealing of Himself to that person. He doesn't even allow satan to go beyond a certain limit in trying to keep the person from knowing God. And so Paul confidently affirms, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? ...for I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels [including satan]...nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom8:33-39) These are classic "eternal security" verses, -after- a person is saved. But considering God's foreknowledge, they are also good "predestination" verses, too. If He can keep a person safe -after- they've been saved, He also protects -beforehand-, until He has introduced Himself to them, for them to respond. (As many people have testified, in hindsight, of God's hand upon them, even when they were in unbelief, until they responded to God's call) God's love for those who 'would be' His was there even before He sent His Son to die (Jn3:16), which is 'why' He sent Him.
Praying for the Unsaved:
But We're All Dead:
But God had promised, For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (2:17)
Who's telling the truth? Well, we know the story; Eve ate the fruit and gave some to Adam. They did -not- die! They were still walking around. Discovered they were 'naked' and made some fig aprons, and were 'running' to hide from God. Last time I checked, a dead person could not engage in any physical activity, or care whether or not he was naked. So, what gives...?? Did God lie? It would appear, on the surface, that God lied, and Satan told the truth...??
So, what does Paul mean when he says, "You were once dead in trespasses and sins." (Eph2:1)? We -were- walking around...'alive'.
Notice that when Jesus judges us, He does so, knowing our "soul and spirit". (Heb4:12) When Adam and Eve died, they died -spiritually-, even though their -soul- (and bodies) were still functioning. When a person is saved, it is the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.." (Rom8:2) We are still in these bodies of "corruption" (1Cor15:53-54) they are subject to death, "but the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (Rom8:10) Adam was a "living soul" but salvation through Christ Who is the "last Adam a life-giving Spirit" (1Cor15:45) which is how the New Birth (Jn3:3) is a -spiritual- birth. (Jn3:8)
However, the Spiritual is not without the flesh. We as humanity begin as a "natural body", and when we are resurrected/raptured we receive a "spiritual body". (1Cor15:42-49) Humanity cannot get to heaven by starting out as a spiritual body. If such were the case, we would be like angels. But we are of the earth, and the ultimate end of our salvation is the transformation of these bodies of corruption, into something "like Jesus" when we "see Him as He is" (1Jn3:2)
This is something the charismatics seem not to understand. They have their 'spirit-filled' experiences, and try to divorce the experiences from their bodies, by such things as being "slain". Emptying their minds, and leaving off control of their bodies. But Paul -specifically- ties the physical -with- the spiritual. Prayer, which is a spiritual experience, he also says needs to be "with the mind". Singing and praise, spiritual experiences, also are to be "with the mind". (1Cor14:15) The salvation experience results in a "renewing of your mind". (Rom12:2)
So, in a round-about way to get back to your original question; yes, we were "dead". Spiritually. But our bodies and minds still function. The body/mind is the realm of the -soul-. Even after a person is saved, there is still the struggle between the flesh and the spirit. (Rom ch7) While the spirit wants to please God, the flesh still has a "mind of its own". The Spirit does not just come and "take over" with the person not having any choices. Again, back to charismania, Paul exhorts, "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets." (1Cor14:32) Prophets were ones who proclaimed God's Word, and wrote the Scriptures. And yet, even in their "burdens" from the Lord, they did not lose their 'individuality'. Every book of the Bible, written by different people, while it is God's Word (2Pt1:21), the writing style and personality of the 'writer' is still obvious, because we as people -do- still have 'control' of ourselves. That's why one exhortation to Believers is for "self-control". (Act24:25, Gal5:23, 2Tm1:7,etc.)
Thus, yes, we were "dead" in sins, but as live 'physical' beings, with soul/mind, we have been given -choices-. If you will... "Free Will".
Many called, Few chosen
This can be cleared up quite easily as we look in our lexicons. When Mt20:16, 22:14 say, "many are CALLED but few chosen" this word "called" is like an "invitation" ...like, to a banquet. Remember the "parable of the Sower" who spreads the seed of God's Word to the "ends of the earth", and how different ones respond. Jesus also made a generic invitation "Come to Me..." (Mt11:28) But we know that most of those people ended up screaming, "Crucify Him..!" They did not respond to the invitation in salvation.
If we go back to that 'committee' and the 'party' plans, this "call" would be like the crew boss getting on the intercom and making a general announcement that "there is going to be a party for anybody who is interested."
But when we look at Rom8:30, those "whom He called"; this "call" is a -personal- call, "to call BY NAME". Remember our committee example of "Susan and Jane".
Or, think of it like a large company that puts an ad in the paper, that they are "hiring". The ad "calls" people in the community to come and fill out applications. And they come by the hundreds... nameless faces all lined up, waiting their turn. (Mt20:16,22:14) But once the personnel director reviews the applications, then the company calls those it has selected. Perhaps the hundreds of people are still waiting around the building, so a company representative comes and announces, BY NAME, the ones who now need to come back in and complete the paperwork to be hired; and now there is 'personal' communication as the newly hired ones are introduced around, & shown the ropes.(Rom8:30)
Many are called/invited, by the Sower's making sure everyone to the "ends of the earth" has knowledge of Him; but only a few are chosen (picked/called by name) based on His foreknowledge of their hearts as He sees their "soul and spirit".