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Monday, October 12, 2009

Predestination and Free Will

"Now I have a peace
I've never known before
I find myself complete
My heart is spoken for."
~ MercyMe*

Predestination and Free Will

"Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the children of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine."
~ Numbers 8:14 (NKJV)

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
~ 1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV)

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure ... for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
~ 2 Peter 1:10-11 (NKJV)

"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day."
~ John 6:44 (NKJV)

As the Lord's ever-interesting timing would have it, I write this post while also having a stimulating email discussion with Sarah M. Salter about predestination.

I absolutely believe in predestination. I also absolutely believe God gives us the free-will to refuse the destiny He has offered us.

Here in Numbers, the Lord selected the Levites as His Own, to serve Him. Examples of unfaithful Levites abound. Those who refused their destiny perished because of it.

We did not come to Christ unless the Father chose to draw us. It is our place to accept His offer in faith, and make our call and election sure—or not.

I did include more Scriptures than usual today, and allow them to speak for themselves rather than say more. I invite discussion in the comments.

Father in Heaven, thank You for selecting those You've made Your Son's. Thank You for the ability to accept the gift You offer. If any reading these words have failed to do so, please lead and enable them to be certain with you that their calling has been made sure. Please send Your Spirit to enlighten our understanding and enable our diligence.

Contrasting points-of-view, questions and feedback are invited. Post to "Comments" or e-mail to Copyright 2009, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
* Lyrics of "Spoken For" © 2002 Simpleville Music


  1. I've always wondered if after Christ died, if we were all chosen/invited to partake in his free gift of salvation. I have wondered to the contrary though. I'll sit back and enjoy the thoughts of others... =) (The passage that stymies me is the one where I believe Paul suggests that perhaps some people were created to objects of scorn for the elect. Forgive me for not looking it up).

  2. I praise God that I chose His gift of salvation.

  3. Denise, He is a very compelling Lover, Whose wooing is hard to resist.

    T. Anne, I would guess you're refering to Romans 9:18-23:

    Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory ...?

  4. "I absolutely believe in predestination. I also absolutely believe God gives us the free-will to refuse the destiny He has offered us." I'm not sure I've ever come across a more aptly worded declaration for what I believe.

  5. If we look at the life of Paul, the road to Damascus, how could we argue against the idea that some are predestined for salvation in order to glorify our Father.

    The elephant in the room is a different question: Are some predestined for judgement and hell? What are your thoughts Anne?

  6. This is indeed good timing. My husband and I were having a discussion about free will and predestination last night. It stemmed from a discussion about how accurate the Bible could be after 2000 years. An interesting discussion indeed. I completely agree, though, Anne.

  7. Wendy, I'm glad to have succinctly summed it up for me, too. It seems so clear in my mind, I guess.

    Ralene, since the Bible was accurate when written, that wouldn't change with time. If you're referring to application, then I'd offer than since God doesn't change, I don't see how His Word would be any less applicable now than 2,000 years ago.

  8. Only one elephant in the room, Russell? Here's my fallible perspective.

    I see the default setting for all humanity as rejecting God—rebelling against Him as Creator, Owner, Lord. It is only those He selects—and to whom He offers mercy—who have a chance to receive it. None of us deserves it. No one who fails to receive it can cry "unfair" for not receiving it. As Paul says (see my 7:54 comment), "Who are you to reply against God?"

    I find it curious that Paul couches his words in the phrase "What if God ..." Did he sense how utterly repulsive his words would be and leave an out to avoid argument? Or did he give God the out, and leave the door open to another possiblity besides "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction"? I dare not speculate further on Paul's motive. And yet ...

    If everyone received eternal life as a matter of course, wouldn't its value and our gratitude for it be inherently diminished? Would free will really mean anything? Without free will, our love is automated into something less than love. If God compels love of us, and we have no choice in the matter, doesn't He leave open the question of whether He's been proven worthy of love?

    I realize that the question of free will is not the same as the question of predestination to damnation. Which is why I take the view that every human starts off predestined for hell, and God shows Himself merciful to save anyone at all. Any assertion that He isn't good unless He predestines everyone to life belies our belief that we have a right to it.

  9. Anne

    Predestination - Free Will - Hmmm?

    Your use of both “Predestination” and “Free Will”
    working together is a precious and interesting view
    of a topic that has caused problems and divisions for believers.

    Doesn’t it seem that those who believe it’s “either - or,”
    and only see one option, have some questions to overcome?

    1 - If “Predestination” is the only correct option
    and your adversary believes in, defends and teaches “Free Will;”
    Then did God “Predestine” them to believe in “Free Will?”

    For how else could they believe in “Free Will”
    unless God “Predestined” them to believe in “Free Will?”

    2 - If “Free Will” is the only correct option
    and your adversary believes in, defends and teaches “Predestination;”
    Then did God give them “Free Will” to choose “Predestination?”

    For how else could they believe in “Predestination”
    unless God gave them a “Free Will” to choose “Predestination?”

    When John Wesley preached, people would choose to follow Christ.

    When John Calvin preached, people realized, God had chosen them to follow Christ.


  10. Thanks Anne,

    On one side we have Paul on the road to Damascus - predestination, maybe.

    On the other side we have Joshua asking the question, "CHOOSE for yourselves today whom you will serve..." Free will.

    Our Father is dynamic. Great discussion and thoughts.

  11. A. Amos, you make me smile. Peace.

    Russell, "maybe"? I'll confess that the one struggle I have with predestination is this: "Father, if you knew You were going to make me Yours, why did you let me make such a mess of my life first?"

    And as I type these words, I hear Him whisper, "That I might make My grace manifest, that I might perfect My strength in weakness."

    "Our Father is dynamic." Indeed.

  12. Earlier I did not have a lot of time to write.

    I guess I said "maybe" concerning Paul only because theoretically he could have still disobeyed God . . . theoretically.

    Your comment at 2:25pm seems to be on target in my mind. We all deserve judgement, some are utterly chosen, predestined like Paul, some answer the call, some reject the call.

    In my mind It is not exclusively one or the other. That is what I mean by God being dynamic.

    Think of the wedding parable. Some were invited, and chose not to come. Some where brought to the party. Dynamic!

    "Russell, do you believe in Predestination or Free Will?"

    Russell's answer, "Yes!"

  13. Jesus knocking on door came to me when I read your post and comments. I believe everyone is predestined to get a knock (many knocks?) on the door but only the free will open the door for Him. Can Jesus barge in? Yes! But then it might not even make any difference at all to the heart that has gone cold!

  14. Russell, for what it's worth, I don't subscribe to Calvanism's assertion of "Irresistable Grace," which in my mind eliminates free will. I think Paul was free to refuse the destiny being offered to him. But the Lord can be very persuasive. If I can get away with it, I think of Him as compelling but not compulsory.

    Bible Lover, interesting that you'd stop by and catch this post rather than the one for Oct 13th which is usually up at midnight. I'm a little behind schedule so perhaps I was being delayed until you caught this post. Blessings!

  15. Read at least Ephesians 1 through 3 entirely without stopping. Completely consider what Paul is stating. His statements are very clear.

  16. Anon 5:44 / Charlie ~

    Because you asked, I did read it. Are you arguing for "Irresistable Grace?" (Calvanism's "The Efficacious Call of the Spirit" vs. Arminianism's argument that the Holy Spirit can be Effectually Resisted)

    The following is a portion of my notes on an independent and prayerful study I did on Calvanism two years ago.

    The goodness of the Holy Spirit “leads you to repentance” (Rom 2:4) ... “repentance leading to salvation” (2 Cor 7:10). If the Spirit cannot be resisted, why would the flesh ever contend with the Spirit? Why the admonishment to “not quench the Spirit”—? Why, indeed, all the exhortations of the New Testament at all?

    If we were without ability to resist the Spirit, we not only could (1 John 2:27) but would walk without need of human teacher at all. The Spirit’s name—Paraclete—defines a role as Helper / Enabler, Counselor, Comforter, Advocate, Encourager, Exhorter. The role is one which makes possible everything that we are otherwise completely without ability to perform, does so “compellingly,” “irresistibly,” from the inside, and even draws us to do so.

    Even so, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” The Holy Spirit leads us to Living Water, even puts in us an irresistible “thirst for righteousness” so that we feel compelled to drink—but stops there, and does not forcibly pour the Water down our throats. We are not at all likely to refuse the Water under such circumstances, but the power to do so remains within us should we rebelliously refuse. Though we have no ability to “stand against” the Spirit, we still clearly retain the ability to resist Him.

    The Sovereignty of God is absolute, without question. Perhaps Calvinists see that the leading and enabling of the Spirit is so strong as to effectually make the call to life one that is never refused. But because of His love and grace, our Bridegroom does not force Himself upon us.

    When Gabriel greeted Mary as “highly favored ... blessed among women,” and announced to her that she would conceive a Son, she had already been prepared by the Potter. God “foreknew” that because of His Own work in her, she was a willing vessel for the power of the Most High to come upon her, and place in her the Divine Seed that would make her His instrument to create a human tent in which the Word would become flesh and dwell among us.

    But was it within her power to deny Him? Her words, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” reveal a heart that would not have refused—however: did she have the ability to say “no”?

    Moses, Sarah, Jonah, Samson, and Zechariah are examples of those chosen by God to do His work who responded with something less than a faith-filled “YES!” God did not choose another servant, but prevailed upon them to obey Him. In the case of the latter three, the consequences for initial lack of faith and cooperation were rather severe.

    But the situation with Mary was different. Here, the will of God was that He should come upon her in a far more intimate way. Where other servants were given no room to refuse their calling, what would have been the Lord‘s response if Mary had been a more reluctant servant? As He did with Moses, would He have reassured her of His accompaniment, reasoned logically, then simply said, “Now GO!” It is inconceivable (no pun intended) that the Lord would have compelled her to accept His divinely imparted Seed before she was a willing agent.

    Likewise, it is inconceivable that the acceptance of the gift of the Holy Spirit
    —God Himself entering and dwelling within us!—is forced upon us. God does do everything necessary to shape our will to say “yes”—but He does allow us to give the yes.


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