Predestination and Free Will

Scholars have debated the subject of predestination and free will for centuries. I will not solve the question in a brief blog article, but I hope to add some practical thought to the question.

In today’s YouTube video, Rudy Ross has one of the best explanations I have heard. You can find the video on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.

The Text

Verse 5 opens with a word that is translated: “destined, determined beforehand, ordained, or predestined.”

Ephesians 1.5-6 – He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will,

To the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

The Goal of History

In his commentary on Ephesians, Ralph Martin places verses 1-11 in the context of threats that the early Christians were facing.

On one hand, there was a cultural belief that humans were at the mercy of powerful cosmic forces of luck, fate, or chance that ruled the world.

On the other hand, Paul declared that God and not the cosmic forces were the moving force behind history.

God has “destined, determined beforehand, ordained, and predestined” that all of human history acknowledge the absolute authority of Jesus Christ.

Whether it looks like it or not, history involves “a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him [Jesus], things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1.10).

According to Ralph Martin, the issue of predestination is more about God’s predetermined actions in history than his choice of individuals for salvation.

Christians who are apparent victims of world forces are not at the mercy of malevolent forces.

God has blessed them and granted them a relationship with the Holy Spirit in the heavenly places (verse 3).

Followers of Jesus are included in God’s plan for the ages that will reveal Jesus to be the head and Christians to be the body of Christ.

A Closer Look at the Debate

I remember a very painful discussion with a friend over predestination and free will when I lived in Louisiana.

My friend took the predestination position and I contended for free will.

I believed that it would be unjust for God to condemn someone for eternity if that person was predestined to unbelief.

My friend talked about Biblical references to predestination. He basically claimed that I was using logic and he was depending on Scripture.

I took the problem to my wise pastor for counsel and he told me that both of us held only a part of the truth. He used an illustration of railroad tracks to make his point.

Both tracks of a railroad are necessary. They run side-by-side and never come together.

(1) Predestination – God is all-knowing and knows the decisions we will make before we are presented with choices.

An example of foreknowledge is what Jesus knew about Judas long before Judas was confronted with the opportunity to betray him.

John points out this fact.

John 6.71He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.

Before the events that led to the crucifixion, Jesus knew Judas would betray him.

John 13.11For he knew who was to betray him.

(2) Free Will – God did not create robots. He gave humans the ability to choose to follow him or reject his will.

Humans are held responsible for their behavior based on their free ability to choose.

How Jesus dealt with Judas reveals the free will aspect of his behavior.

Jesus knew that Judas was about to betray him, but he washed his feet and served him the elements of the Passover meal.

Jesus was asked who would betray him.

John 13.26Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.

I join many Bible students who believe that Jesus was giving Judas one more opportunity to respond to his love.

Judas was not a robot, destined to betray Jesus. He had the ability to accept Jesus’ offer of love or reject it. He was responsible, based on his choice.

(3) Holding the Views in Tension

A few years ago, I read a book on this subject by two highly qualified scholars. They taught at the same seminary, and had a deep love for Jesus and the Bible, but differed on free will and predestination.

If two respected scholars can not come to an agreement, then possibly there is not enough information in the Bible to make a conclusive decision.

Like the railroad tracks that never come together, we can hold each view in our hearts and not try to resolve one side or the other.

In the mystery of God, we are predestined because of God’s foreknowledge of all events. We are also free to choose our response to Jesus.

We do not have insight into God’s foreknowledge. That is the realm of God.

We do have control over our choices. We are wise to respond to God’s amazing grace and love through Jesus.

YouTube Video and Prayer

I recommend today’s YouTube video. Rudy Ross has an excellent discussion of this topic. It can be found on the Bob Spradling channel.

Please email your prayer request to The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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