Predestination And Free Will

October 7, 2013

Below is an article that was written by my grandson, Kaleb George

Foreknowledge and Freedom:

An explanation

 

Among Christians throughout the ages there has been a constant theological debate. It is one that is beyond reason, but not against reason. It is beyond our comprehension, but not our ability to apprehend. It is a mystery, but not mysterious. It is the issue of predestination/foreknowledge and free will. The Bible affirms God’s sovereignty and our freedom of choice as being true. But they are not equal and opposite each other. In fact, when understood, they complement each other, providing a richer understanding of our Father, our Faith, and our responsibilities

There are four basic views about these doctrines – Calvinism, Arminianism, Irrationalism, and Traditionalism. Calvinism defends and exalts God’s sovereignty at the expense of man’s free will. Arminianism defends and exalts man’s freedom at the expense of God’s sovereignty. What I call the irrational view does not even try to have a stand on the issue, since the question of how sovereignty and free will relate to each is supposedly a mystery. The last view is the traditional view which tries to maintain a balance between sovereignty and freedom of the will. Before we go into looking a little deeper into these different views, first let’s lay the groundwork with Scripture passages that appear to affirm both the Sovereignty of God and the freedom of man, depending on the reader’s presuppositions, give a summary of the arguments for predestination and freedom, and then define a key term that is imperative to understand for this explanation

How the two concepts of predestination and free will correlate and work together is a hard concept to grasp, but not impossible. I will try to summarize the four views briefly, state their underlying presuppositions, and evaluate them Biblically. Please note: I will mostly be dealing with the extreme versions of these views. Not all Calvinists believe alike, nor do all Arminians believe alike. There are varying degrees of how strongly and to what extent people hold to and take their views.

The Bible is very clear in the fact that God, having foreknown all things from the foundation of the world, is sovereignly controlling all things and working all things to accomplish His perfect will,

and that we as humans created in the image of God have the freedom of choice.

The argument for predestination/election normally goes like this: It is obvious from many passages in the Bible that to join with the elect, we must be called of God: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” John 6:44. God is sovereign over everything, and this includes salvation. John says that we as children of God are “born not of natural descent, nor of human decision, or a husband’s will, but born of God” John 1:13. In writing to the Romans, Paul says that “it is not of him who will, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy… God has mercy on whom we wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden” Romans 9:16, 18. But God is also sovereign over the decisions of rejection of Him: “They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed” 1 Peter 2:8. God even has prepared vessels of wrath for destruction and vessels of mercy for glory (Romans 9:22-23). God’s sovereignty over the human will includes His initiating, pursuing, persuading, and saving grace, without which no one could ever be saved. Romans says in chapter 3 verse 11, “There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks after God.” The only reason why we love God is because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We can only be saved if the Father draws us to Him (John 6:44). We do not have any choice in regard to the initiating or attaining our own salvation. God initiates it brings it to completion out of His benevolent and irresistible grace, apart from any work or act of man.

The argument for free will normally goes something like this: we have the free will to choose to accept the pricking of the Holy Spirit unto salvation or reject it. We have the freedom to accept or reject God’s gift of salvation. Belief is our responsibility and is rooted in our ability to respond. Freedom is described as having no constraint, where one has authority over his own will, 1 Corinthians 7:37. Free choice is freedom that is not under compulsion but voluntary; it is not compulsion but consent of our own free will (Philemon 14). God has designed salvation so that whoever believes can be saved (John 3:16, 18; 6:37; Revelation 22:17). Thus God expects us to respond to His drawing us. What God

calls us to do He will give us strength to do (Philippians 4:13). But we can refuse His benevolent grace and not be one of the elect. We have the responsibility to use our freedom of will to choose God.

One thing that must be clarified before exploring the different views is the definition of God’s Foreknowledge.

God has perfect foreknowledge of all events. He has declared the end from the beginning and from ancient times what has yet to happen (Isaiah 46:10). His foreknowledge is knowledge of what will happen in time. To make this easier to understand, let me illustrate this. God is eternal [Psalm 90:2 “Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”]. This is not denied by any of the opposing views. God also inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15) Thus He lives outside of time (unless He so chooses to live in our chronological time, as He did in the Person of Jesus Christ). God created time but is not bound by it. He exists from eternity past to eternity present; He stands apart from time; He inhabits eternity [Colossians 1:17 “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”]. God does not exist on a time line. God stands back from the time line of human history (past, present, and future) and can look at the creation of the universe, the birth of the Messiah, and at the Second Coming of Christ at the same instant. Thus He knows what will happen before it will happen [Acts 15:18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works”; Isaiah 46: 9-10 “I am God…declaring the end from the beginning.”]. This is God’s foreknowledge – His previous knowledge of the future.

An easy to understand analogy of this concept of God living outside of time is to imagine a parade. You are on top of a tall building where you have a panoramic view of the entire parade, from the police cars blaring their sirens in front, to the Fire trucks heading up the rear, and everything in between. But only you have this perspective. Those on the ground watching the parade pass in front of them can only see a few floats at a time. In comparing this with the concept of God living outside of time, God would figuratively be at the top of the building (outside of time) where He could see all of the parade (history) and we would be on the ground (inside time). This analogy could also be applied and understood on the same basis of a passing train with all its railcars. We are sitting in the car at the railroad crossing wondering when it will end and watching each single car pass by, while God would figuratively be up

high, able to see us, the engine of the train, and the last rail car.

Now on to the views on how people try to understand the concepts of God’s sovereignty and our free will.

Presupposition:

The claims are contradictory and cannot be reconciled. It is an unsolvable mystery, only known to God.

Key Verse:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

The View:

This dual view holds that God both predestines all things, and that we have free will to make decisions. But it makes no attempt to reason this out or come to Biblical solutions, since the two doctrines apparently contradict each other. Verses of the superior thoughts, judgments and ways of God are used to justify these seeming irreconcilable truths. It makes no claim as to predestination as such or when or how God elects or how our free will works in God’s eternal plan. It merely affirms the two doctrines are true and ends there.

Presupposition:

God predestined all events and all the elect based on His foreknowledge.

The View-

This view holds that God predestined all events and all the elect based on His foreknowledge. This means that God first

looked at the timeline of human history and saw what would happen and who would believe. Based on what He sees will happen, He makes prophesy and determines His will; based on who He sees will believe, He makes them the elect. According to this view God foreknew first, and then decided how He would work in history and who He would make to be the elect. This view also holds that God is in sovereign control but does not actually determine what happens. It suggests that God’s foreknowledge (knowledge of what will happen) is

dependent on our free will. But this is contrary to Scripture since the Bible affirms the Creator-creature distinction. The Scripture is clear in that God is independent of His creation and He does not need us for Him to exist or to know. Thus God’s knowledge cannot be dependent on our actions. What God has, He is. If God has love, He is love and it is not due to us (1 John 4:19). If God has knowledge, He is knowledge and His knowledge is identical to His eternal and independent nature; it is independent of us.

Classical Arminianism holds that man is totally free to accept or reject God, being under no coercion from Him. It also holds that since God is all knowing, He is in sovereign control of the whole universe. He knew exactly what everyone would choose to do even before He created the world. Up until here, I don’t think we have a problem. But Arminianism goes on to hold that

based on the fact that God foreknew who would choose Him, God chose them unto salvation. This is where the issue lies. Geisler says, “If God’s choice to save was based on those whom He knew would choose Him, then it would not be based on divine grace but on human decision. It is contrary to the clear teaching that salvation does not spring from the will of man.” “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” Romans 9:16. John 1: 13 carries a similar note where it says: “[we] were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, not of the will of man, but of God.” John 15:16 says we did not choose Christ but that He chose us. This is not to diminish human responsibility. God calls us, thus He is the Initiator. But it is our choice to accept or reject Him. He chooses us but we have the freedom to go against Him, as we will see later.

Some Arminians take the doctrine of human responsibility to such an extreme that they deny God’s omniscience. These people are called Open Theists. They hold that God created us with unlimited will

and freedom to the degree that even He, the Creator and Sustainer of our existence, cannot exercise control over our will nor can He intuitively know how we will use our freedoms. However, they do hold that God can make pretty accurate predictions on what decisions and actions we will take, as evidenced by fulfilled prophecy. They believe that our free choices can change the future and what God has determined and known from before the foundation of the world what will occur. This extreme view is most certainly un-Biblical and undermines many crucial doctrines. It makes God dependent on His creation since He is not powerful enough to control it and it even makes man more powerful than God since man can change what God has declared will happen. In effect, it makes man a god.

Presupposition:

God predestined all events and all the elect independent of His foreknowledge.

The View –

This view holds that God predestined all events and all the elect independent of His foreknowledge (knowledge of what will happen in time). Calvinists hold that God decided what events would occur and who would be saved regardless of our personal choice and without looking at the timeline of history. God decided first, then He sovereignly forces His will on history and human beings to accomplish His perfect will. According to this view, nothing we do is outside the will of God since all our actions are predetermined based on the will of the Father. God says in Daniel 4:35 “He does according to His will in…heaven…and…the earth. No one can restrain His hand.” But the extreme Calvinist view negates human responsibility.

If God has predetermined everything and nothing we do is outside His will, then whatever we do or think is the will of God. I once heard a lecture from R.C. Sproul JR. about being in God’s will. He told

a story about a man from his church who came to him wondering what God’s will was about a job opportunity he had been offered. Sproul responded by saying that if he took the job, it was God’s will; if he turned down the job, it was God’s will; if he took it then lost it, it was God’s will; if he turned it down and later accepted, it was God’s will too. So, in essence, whatever action we take is the will of God for us, even if it is obviously sinful or in direct conflict with our Maker! This teaching almost makes us to be our own gods because whatever we do is right – even if we do evil! Now, most Calvinists do not take this teaching to the extreme that God wills evil (though some do but cannot explain how God who is Holy could be the author of sin and evil; even Augustine, the originator of this extreme view, did not believe that God created evil) but this is the logical result of this thinking. This thinking makes God the source of evil and good, of sin and righteousness. But this is contrary to Scripture. It is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18) and therefore cannot be the author of it. “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace” 1 Corinthians 14:33. Evil does not come from God; it can’t. Sin comes from us and we were captive to sin before we accepted Christ. But this does not mean that sin is unavoidable. Norman Geisler said, “…we are born with a propensity to sin but not a necessity to sin. Actually, while it is inevitable that we will sin, it is not unavoidable that we must sin. Even though we are depraved and by nature bent toward sin, nonetheless, each sin is freely chosen…There is no responsibility where there is no ability to respond…”

Christian historian Rodney Stark in his excellent book “Victory of Reason” has this to say about our God and how our God differs from pagan gods: “…the Christian God is a judge who rewards ‘virtue’ and punishes ‘sin.’ This conception of God is incompatible with fatalism. To suggest otherwise is to blame one’s sin upon God: to hold that God not only punishes sin but causes them to occur. Such a view is inconsistent with the entire Christian outlook. The admonition ‘Go and sin no more’ is absurd if we are mere captives of our fate. Rather, Christianity was founded on the doctrine that humans have been given the capacity and, hence, the responsibility to determine their own actions.” This brings out a key point with extreme Calvinism. This Calvinistic view of God is borrowed from pagan Greek philosophies. The Greek view of the gods

was that they were impersonal, distant, controlled all things, and did not interact with people. Often this view had an ultimate impersonal force that governed them and caused all things to occur. This force was called fate. The Calvinistic view of God that has Him making arbitrary decisions regardless of the responsibility, character, and personalities that He gave each one of us is extremely close to the Greek view of Fate (known before the Greeks as the tablets of destiny). But God is not fate, impersonal, or distant. He is near to every one of us and especially to those who call on Him. He also knows all that will come to pass and those who will repent. But this does not mean that God is arbitrarily forcing people to sin or to love Him. Justin Martyr, opposed to the view of God as Fate, explained the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and human decision when he said: “God, wishing men and angels to follow His will, resolved to create them free to do righteousness. But if the Word of God foretells that some angles and men shall certainly be punished, it did so because it foreknew that they would be unchangeable (wicked), but not because God created them so. So if they repent, all who wish for it can obtain mercy from God.”

The extreme view of sovereignty that denies human responsibility also nullifies the commands all throughout the Bible that challenge us to choose God, remain loyal to Him, testify, witness, go into the harvest, love Jehovah, honor our parents, pray, praise God, be just, repent, show compassion, submit, show reverence, and the list could go on and on. Geisler summed it up this way: “…what we ought to do implies that we can do it. Otherwise, we have to assume that the Moral Lawgiver is prescribing the irrational, commanding that we do what is literally impossible for us. Good reason appears to mandate that if God commands it, then we can do it. Moral obligation implies moral freedom.”

If God predetermined all that will happen and we can only do that which He wills and He wills that some specific people will obey and some will not, then why on earth did He give us the commandments, the prophets, the Bible, and ultimately Jesus Christ? Irenaeus noted this very thing when writing: “If then it were not in our power to do or not to do these things, what reason had the apostle, and much more the Lord Himself, to give us counsel to do some things and to abstain from others? But because man is possessed of free will from the beginning, and God is possessed

of free will in whose likeness man was created, advice is always given to him to keep fast the good, which thing is done by means of obedience to God.”

When Jesus was here on this earth, as He was traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover just before He was crucified, He made an astounding statement that flies in the face of the extreme sovereignty view. Jesus is lamenting the fact that Jerusalem, God’s holy city, has been in rebellion to the point of killing and stoning prophets and others who preached repentance. Matthew 23 verse 37 says, “How often I [Jesus] wanted to gather your children together…but you were not willing.” Here Jesus Himself, being fully God, willed that Jerusalem would return to Him. But the rebellion and unwillingness of the city caused God to postpone His wonderful plans to establish His kingdom there. Here is an example of God, who will accomplish His perfect will, putting off that will to a later time because of the people’s free choice to reject Him. The early Church father Irenaeus said this about this passage: “This expression… set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free [agent] from the beginning, possessing his own soul to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God… in man as well as angels, He has placed power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves.”

Calvinists use three basic passages in the Bible that they claim support their views. They are

John 6, Romans 9, and Ephesians 1.

John 6

is one of the top three chapters used in support of Calvinistic predestination. This chapter has such statements as “No one can come to Me unless the Father…draws him” (44), “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” (37), “Did I not choose you?” (70), and “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (65). Even reading these verses in context, one can come away with an idea of unconditional election and irresistible grace, so these verses deserve special attention.

Upon examining verses 37-40, something interesting is found:

there are two different things that will be given to Jesus and raised by Him “at the last day.” Verse 37 includes both categories while verse 39 has only one and verse 40 has only one. It is obvious that one category is speaking of people, even Calvinists and Arminians agree with this. The other category is debated. Some propose that verse 39 and the first half of 37 is speaking of the disciples, but I disagree with this proposition. Jesus is referring to inanimate objects or things, not individuals or groups or a church (the terms “it” and “nothing” are used instead of personal pronouns such as those found in verse 40 and the second half of 37).

So what are these “things”? Looking at this passage from a Kingdom context (after all, the whole Bible is telling the story of God building His everlasting Kingdom, and the Messiah coming to establish it on earth for all eternity and it was the central message that Jesus, His disciples, and Paul proclaimed throughout the Gospels and the Book of Acts) it would follow that these terms are referring to Christ’s Kingdom, redeemed creation, all authority, all might, and all dominion. These things will be given to Jesus the King. This proposition fits perfect. The term “last day” always refers to the time of the end when Jesus returns to set up His eternal reign. When He returns, the Father will give Him all that pertains (will come) to Him. Christ will receive His Kingdom and be exalted in all power, might, dominion, and authority in a redeemed creation.

Verse 40 and the second half of 37 refer to people. All those who come to the Father will be given to the Son. When will they be given to Christ? When the Father gives Him the Kingdom, after the resurrection. God invites us to enter into the Kingdom, but it is our decision to enter or stay without (Matthew 22:1-14, Luke 14:15-24). Who are those who will be given to the King and enter His kingdom? Whoever believes in the King (3:16; 6:47) and anyone who eats of His bread (the bread of life – verse 51 and 54). This is not a predetermined or pre-selected special elite class of people that God chose to save regardless of their submission to or rebellion against Him. No rebels will enter Christ’s kingdom. Only those who submit and follow their King will be allowed in. These followers of the Way will come to Jesus when He returns to set up His Kingdom, because the Father allows them to enter the eternal kingdom and gives them to Christ at this time (verse 65). Those who do not sub

mit will not be given by God the Father to God the Son to spend eternity with Him in paradise. These rebels He will destroy with an everlasting judgment. This leads us into the next key verse in John 6.

Verse 44 is another verse that needs clarification. Calvinists claim that God draws only a few select individuals. But the Bible says that God loves the world and is not willing that any should perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). His grace is offered to all but is received by few. He draws all, but not all accept. If God does not draw some it is because they would not have accepted His grace in the first place. God knows all men’s hearts. He draws (speaks to, convicts) by the Holy Spirit. But man is free to reject the Spirit’s pricking.

“If the sinner voluntarily rejects the offered mercy of God, he is culpable for doing so, and is therefore amenable to the charge of culpability and responsible for the divine tribunal because of it… So man is responsible for sin because he is both the author and actor of it… [Thus] the sinner is free in accepting or rejecting the invitations of the gospel. If he accepts them, he does so freely under the actuation of the Holy Spirit. If he rejects them, he does so freely without this actuation and solely by his own self-determination.”

– W.G.T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, pg 298-299

As for verse 70, this does not refer to Jesus selecting believers throughout time, but rather Him selecting those people, disciples, who He would use for building His kingdom. Even Judas, called a devil by Jesus, was chosen in accordance with God’s foreknowledge of what Judas would do (Psalm 41:9; Acts 1:16).

Ephesians chapter one

is also a favorite of Calvinists. But by reading this passage without any preconceived ideas about Calvinistic predestination, it is clear that this is not what it is teaching. This passage is designed to bring glory to God. We are saved, all to the glory of God. We were predestined to Glory, to be holy, without blame, to redemption, to praise Him, through the Son. This passage does not teach that God predestined individuals to salvation or damnation. Those who freely trusted in Christ are destined to or chosen for the things mentioned in this chapter. All those who have and will believe were predestined before

the foundation of the world to be conformed to the image of Christ. Another thing about this passage to note is where the sentences begin and end. In the King James Version, there are two sentences (one – 3-6; two – 7-11) and it ends with “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” Other versions divide this passage into more sentences, probably to make reading easier for today’s generation. But, nevertheless, it is clear that this passage is refering to all those who freely trusted in Jesus Christ.

Romans chapter 9

is probably the most used passage to support the pre-election of the saved to adoption and the predestination of those who God chose to destruction. But even a brief look at this chapter in context shows that this was not what Paul was teaching. Paul was dealing with the rejection of the Messiah by Israel. He said that because of their rejection, which God knew would happen and had a plan for it, God would then go to the Gentile world to gather a people for Himself. This was actually a fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. This passage deals with God’s election of purpose, God choosing to use our mistakes to glorify Himself and to advance His plan for man. No where in this passage does Paul teach God has chosen certain individual people (regardless of their choice to repent and serve God or not) for everlasting destruction. (For a more detailed study on Romans 9, see my notes at the end of this article.)

Yes, God will do all His pleasure and accomplish all He knows what will come to pass, but He accomplishes it without negating or disregarding His beloved creation’s responsibility. According to extreme Calvinism we are essentially robots, who have no freedom, no will, no responsibility, and no choice to love God or hate Him. We are pre-programmed to do what we will do and think and nothing we can do (or think) will change it. The tablets of destiny and Greek philosophy become the standard for hermeneutics (Biblical interpretation).

Now that we have looked at the two prevailing views on the issue of predestination, election, and free will we now have a better under

standing of them. We have seen their valid points and their attempts to not do away with a doctrine of Scripture. But both of these positions end up diminishing and even abolishing other doctrines and when taken to extremes they make man more powerful than God and in effect make him a god deciding good and evil with actions. If whatever I do is right or in accordance with the divine, than I have become god or a god. This heretical doctrine lies in both extreme views.

Augustine had this to say with regards to these two views: “The conclusion is that we are by no means under compulsion to abandon free choice in favor of divine knowledge, nor need we deny -God forbid!- that God knows the future, as a condition for holding free choice.” Please note that Augustine said this (as well as all the other quotes in this article) before he reverted to his Platonic Manichean Gnostic beliefs of a sovereign yet static fate (God) in his arguments against the Pelagians.

Now, as mentioned earlier, what you read about the views are not held by all Calvinists or by all Arminians. There are various levels of belief and

action upon that belief in both of these camps. There is one last view that we will look at. This view tries to balance God’s predestination and human responsibility in reasonable terms.

Presupposition:

God predestines all events and all the elect in accordance with His foreknowledge

The View-

This view holds that God predestines all events and all the elect in accordance with His foreknowledge. This means that God looked at the timeline of human history and at the same time knew what would happen, what He would do, what actions we would take, and who would become the elect. But this does not nullify our free

will – it complements it. Based on this view, God’s foreknowledge and Predeterminism are one in Him. Whatever God knows will happen, He determines to accomplish; whatever God determines to do, He knows will come to pass. If God is an eternal Being, then His thoughts must be eternally coordinate and unified. We who have chosen Christ are predestined to adoption and sanctification (Ephesians 1:4-5) and to have an inheritance (11)

according to the foreknowledge and will of the Father. God knows from all eternity what will come to pass – therefore it will come to pass. But we most freely act in accordance with God’s foreknowledge and therefore fulfill what God knew what would come to pass. Therefore one and the same event can be both determined and freely chosen at the same time. Determined solely because God in His infinite foreknowledge knew it would happen.

Augustine had this to say about God’s foreknowledge and free will: “No one sins because God foreknew that he would sin. In fact, the very reason why a man is undoubtedly responsible for his own sin, when he sins, is because He whose foreknowledge cannot be deceived foresaw, not the man’s fate or fortune or what not, but that the man himself would be responsible for his own sin. No man sins unless it is his choice to sin; and his choice not to sin, that, too, God foresaw.”

As we have seen, nowhere in Scripture does the idea of people being predestined to salvation or destruction independent of their free will exist. The closest teaching to support this view is the concept of hardening. To this we shall turn our attention and draw the framework of the balanced view.

Scripture is quite clear that God hardens people unto their own destruction and shows mercy to others. The best way to understand this is to look at the classic allegory of the potter and the clay. Take a moment and read Jeremiah 18:1-11 and THEN Romans 9:14-24. The picture given is the Potter (God) forming vessels (people – believers and unbelievers alike) to be used for His glory and His purposes to accomplish His will. When the clay is hard, has clumps, is stubborn or weak, God works with it until He gives up (due to the form of the clay) and forms a vessel of dishonor or wrath. This vessel is still usable for Him. Notice that this vessel of dishonor was not formed based on its characteristics, but rather

in accordance with its characteristics. Jeremiah 17:10 says, “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to every man

according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” It is not based on our choices as the Arminians say (this makes God dependent on man), nor is it independent of our actions as the Calvinists say (this makes God to be static Fate). Just as God forms vessels of wrath adapted for destruction, like Pharaoh, He also makes vessels of honor adapted for glory. But He forms these vessels in accordance with the formability and usefulness of the clay.

One extremely important thing to notice in Jeremiah 18 is that as God is forming a nation, a people, or an individual for glory and is blessing them and has promised to build and plant them. If they do evil and refuse to obey, be submissive and moldable for God’s purposes, God will relent and will instead pluck up, pull down, and destroy them, in perfect

accordance with their actions. On the other hand, if God is forming a nation, people, or individual for destruction in accordance with their rebellion, if they repent and turn from their evil, God will fashion them into a vessel of honor and be able to use them. Notice that it does not matter what we choose, God will use us to advance His sovereign plan. Now, how we will be used will be in accordance with how pliable we are. If we are hard to begin with, He will continue to harden us in accordance with our own hardness unto our own destruction. This is precisely what happened with Pharaoh. God did not arbitrarily harden his heart. Scripture says that first Pharaoh hardened his own heart and that later God hardened it more so that God could make His name great (Exodus 7:4-5).

The following points are asserted by the traditional view:

1.

God has a master plan for mankind and creation that He established before the foundation of the world.

2.

God is the Creator of all things and is sovereign over His creation and is able to do with it as He pleases.

3.

God has given man freedom of thought and action to love God or hate Him.

4.

Man is morally responsible for his uncoerced actions. If an action is coerced, it is not free and man has no responsibility for that action.

5.

God calls all men to repent and does not want to destroy the wicked out of His love for them.

6.

God loves all people but a different more special love is shown to those who have elected to follow Christ.

7.

Atonement is limited in its application (to those who believe) but unlimited in its extent (available to the entire human race). For atonement to be applied it must be accepted.

8.

God is the one Who initiates salvation, Who completes it, and Who sets the rules for attaining it. All we do is repent, believe, submit, and follow, as is commanded for all men to do.

9.

God molds us and uses us in accordance with our own free actions and willingness to be submissive to His hands or rebellious to His hands.

10.

Jesus Christ will not lose any of those given to Him when they are given as He inherits His eternal Kingdom.

Norman Geisler, in his book “Chosen but Free”, summarizes very simply how the concepts of foreknowledge, election, free will, and personal responsibility work together in regards to Salvation (my summary and Bible references):

God loves everyone in general (John. 3:16). God chose to express His special love to those who will accept it (John. 1:12). His love is not based on His foreknowledge of who would accept it but on His choice to have a bride to whom He could express His special love (1 Peter 1:2; John 1:13). God’s love works persuasively but not coercively. We must freely respond to God’s love in order to enjoy it. Even though God loves all, nevertheless, He knows all are not going to respond to it (John 1:11). God chose to accept all who respond and make them the special object of His love and have an intimate relationship with them (John 1:12). Those who do not have this special relationship to God would not have accepted it.

Chosen But Free, 3rd edition page 147

Norman L. Geisler

The Bible commands us to study. As we study the Scriptures we may come to different conclusions on certain matters and therefore to make a dogmatic assertion that our view is the view of the Divine is wrong. We must be humble enough to admit that we may be mistaken in our views because we will not find what the perfect interpretation of the Word of God is until we are resurrected. Whatever the case may be, certain truths stand and will stand for all eternity such as the one stated in the most famous Bible verse of all: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that

whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

Romans 9

is talking about Israel and its rejection of Christ as the Messiah and God’s purpose for this rejection.

Rom 9:11-13

(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but

Esau have I hated.

Verses 11 -13.

Election in verse 11 is not salvational election but rather purpose election. In this case, His purpose is choosing a people, a group to carry His name. God elected Jacob for a certain work and Esau for a certain work. But God does not elect independent of His foreknowledge. He knows what will be the condition of our hearts in the future. He knew if we would be submissive to Him or rebellious. He knew how we would use our free choice. This is why God could say, “The older shall serve the younger.” This would not happen solely because God decreed it but also because God knew Jacob’s and Esau’s hearts and ways before they were born or could do any good or evil. Nowhere in this passage does God say He predestined Jacob unto salvation and Esau unto destruction. This passage is dealing with God’s election of purpose in accordance with His foreknowledge of our uncoerced actions. God even had a purpose for Israel’s chosen rejection of the world’s Messiah.

As for God hating Esau, there are two points to consider. One is that this is referring to Nations, not specific individuals (Malachi 1:2-3). Second is that the Hebrew word for hate means to love less. This is made clear in passages like Genesis 29: 30-31 and Luke 14:26 and Matthew 10:37. God’s expressed love is the same to all people and nations regardless of religion. But God’s received love is greater for the believer.

God in this passage is not dealing with His choice of who will be saved but rather which lineage will be His chosen one to bring salvation to the rest of the world. The Jews came not only from Abraham – but from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Savior did not come from Ishmael or from Esau. But this does not mean that they and their descendents were chosen for everlasting destruction and could never be saved. All this passage shows is that God has selected a chosen group with which to show Himself to the world.

Rom 9:14-24

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh,

Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Verses 14-24.

What God decides to do has no unrighteousness in it. It is right because it is in harmony with His law and His holiness. He can choose to pour out mercy on whom He will and compassion on whom He wills. It is His choice, but it is not arbitrary. As we shall see, it is done in accordance with our submission to Him.

Verses 17- 18.

This section deals with God’s selection of a Gentile for His ultimate glory. God chose to harden Pharaoh’s heart and raise him up so that God’s name could be great on the earth. At first glance this may look like God predestined Pharaoh unto destruction and there was nothing he could do to the contrary. But upon examining the text in Exodus, we notice something interesting. First of all, Pharaoh hardened his own heart first (Exodus 7, 8, and part of 9). Later it is God who hardens Pharaoh’s heart (chapters 9 and 10). God is not hardening his heart actively, but only passively in the sense of giving him up to his own sinful desires (Romans 1:24). Pharaoh himself did the initial hardening. Furthermore, God did not arbitrarily harden Pharaoh’s heart for eternal destruction. Exodus 7:3-5 and Romans 9:17 (God’s purposes for hardening Pharaoh’s heart) have nothing to do with God choosing or predesti

nating people or Pharaoh for salvation or destruction. It is dealing with God’s election of purpose. God elects (or raises up) certain people or nations for a specific purpose, though that purpose is accomplished in accordance with our free will. However, God can show mercy and cause us to break our stubbornness and advance His Kingdom, or He can harden us in our rebellion and still use us to advance His Kingdom (Exodus 7:3-5).

Verses 21-24.

If one comes to this text with the presupposition of eternal predestination, then this section appears to validate this belief. But just as with the rest of the chapter, in reality it has nothing to do with predestination of eternal destiny. God is the potter and we are the clay (Jeremiah 18:1-11). God will use every vessel for His glory and for His own purposes to advance His plans. If we are submissive to the Potter’s hands, He will make us into vessels of glory and honor. If we reject God and refuse to cooperate and be conformed to His will, He will form us into vessels of wrath, dishonor, and destruction. The point here is that it is up to us as to what vessel He will make us into. The ultimate decision is God’s, but is in accordance with how we conform to the molding and shaping of the Potter’s hands (Jeremiah 17:10). Nations and people being prepared for destruction by God can be changed and adapted into vessels of glory if they repent and turn from evil. Vessels being prepared for honor can be adapted for dishonor if they rebel. Romans 2:5-10 looks at the same principle.

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