2 Peter 3:9 NIV
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
In this lesson, we will look briefly, and I hope simply, at the question of free will versus predestination.
Upfront, I will tell you that I firmly believe that God created us with "free will" and that scriptures and the very nature of God back this up.
Naturally, in a macro sense, before the foundation of the world God DID predetermine His master plan and all of the elements of that plan.
However, per scripture and the nature of God, He didn't predestine our every move and especially our decision to accept Christ as Savior or reject Him and be eternally damned.
Let's take a look.
CALVINISM vs ARMINIANISM
PREDESTINATION vs FREE WILL
Predestination, in Christian theology, is the doctrine that everything has been predetermined by God, even the eventual fate of each individual soul.
This doctrinal belief is known as Calvinism.
Calvinism (named for founder John Calvin) believes in unconditional election, as defined below by Wikipedia;
Per Wikipedia, “Unconditional election (also called sovereign election or unconditional grace) asserts that God has chosen from eternity those whom he will bring to himself not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people; rather, his choice is unconditionally grounded in his mercy alone. God has chosen from eternity to extend mercy to those he has chosen and to withhold mercy from those not chosen. Those chosen receive salvation through Christ alone. Those not chosen receive the just wrath that is warranted for their sins against God.”
Opposing the theological school of thought of Calvinism, is a doctrinal belief known as Arminianism.
Per Wikipedia, “Jacobus Arminius taught that Calvinist predestination and unconditional election made God the author of evil. Instead, Arminius insisted, God's election was an election of believers and therefore was conditioned on faith. Furthermore, Arminius argued, God's exhaustive foreknowledge did not require a doctrine of determinism.”
Also, per Wikipedia, “Roger E Olson, a Baptist theologian expressed it this way, ""Arminianism," [...] is simply a term we use in theology for the view, held by some people before Arminius and many after him, that sinners who hear the gospel have the free will to accept or reject God’s offer of saving grace and that nobody is excluded by God from the possibility of salvation except those who freely exclude themselves. But true, historical, classical Arminianism includes the belief that this free will [to repent and believe unto salvation] is itself a gift of God through prevenient grace."”
Adherents to either Calvinism or Arminianism are found in most major Protestant denominations.
Sometimes they even co-exist within the same Protestant denomination.
GOD IS OMNISCIENT
Those that believe that every step we take and all that happens to us has already been determined before our birth, believe in “Predestination.”
Where this gets a bit confusing is considering one of the characteristics of God.
One of the characteristics of God is that he is ‘Omniscient” meaning that He knows the past, present and future of one and all.
In other words, as Websters defines it, “God knows everything.” Therefore, He knows what will happen before it happens, even our decision to accept or reject Christ.
I do believe that certain events and happenings HAVE been predestined by God, as part of his master plan.
God predestined the life and death of His Son Jesus Christ, before the foundation of the world. God also predestined the Old Covenant and the New Covenant at the same time.
He predestined His chosen people under the New Covenant, being the Church or body of Christ, however He did not predestine or predetermine WHO would belong to this body, only the body itself, to be holy and blameless in His sight. Further He has predetermined the future inheritance of each believer.
Ephesians 1:4-5 NIV
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[a] predestined us for adoption to sonship[b] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—
However, the choice and decision to accept Christ as our Savior, belongs entirely to each individual.
When we are saved, we then belong to the predetermined body of Christ that God would use to show the world His love, mercy and grace….and who would inherit His eternal kingdom through their free will decision about the Cross of Calvary.
CHOOSE YOU THIS DAY, WHOM YOU WILL SERVE
As for me, I hold to the Arminian doctrine. I do not believe in “predestination”, pertaining to each person who has ever lived.
Otherwise, this would mean that God has chosen beforehand who would be saved and who would be eternally damned.
The following scripture tells us of God’s desire for everyone to be saved, which would not be possible under the doctrine of Calvinism.
1 Timothy 2:3-4 NIV
3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
If you believe in predestination, you certainly believe in different characteristics of God than I do.
I certainly believe in the omniscience of God, and that He knows what I am going to do before I do it. This is God’s foreknowledge.
However, He hasn't predetermined my every move, otherwise I would be nothing more than a robot. He just knows ahead of time, because He knows ALL things.
This gets to the heart of the theological debate. Does the fact that God knows what I am going to do, mean that he predestined or controls what I am going to do?
The answer has to be NO.
Otherwise, at the sole discretion of God, He would choose who shall inherit His kingdom and who shall be eternally damned, with no opportunity for the grace and mercy offered at the Cross.
THIS would not be the God of love, mercy, grace and forgiveness that I know and serve.
THIS would not allow humankind to have "free will” and the right to choose.
Remember, Joshua told the Israelites to “choose you this day, whom you will serve… but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Humans have always had a choice, since Adam and Eve. They were “free” to eat of any tree in the garden, except one. God gave them a choice.
God is omniscient, so He knows what will happen tomorrow.
He knew Eve would eat from the forbidden tree.
He knows who He is going to heal, because they will fervently pray in Jesus’ name and it is in His will. He hears their prayers and it is according to His will.
He knows ahead of time, but it is still a result of the fervent prayers of the righteous.
James 5:16 KJV
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
He knows who will accept Jesus as Savior and be found righteous in His eyes, welcoming them into the body of Christ.
He knows them by name, but it is still their choice and decision, made of their own free will.
He just knows ahead of time.
John 3:16 NIV
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
I firmly believe that God has foreknowledge and humankind has free will.
Otherwise, we would have no choice in the matter of serving God or eternity.
In closing, God hasn’t written the screenplay of our lives, He just knows how the movie ends.