In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will. (Ephesians 1: 11)
The conflict between predestination and free will is one which causes an enormous amount of confusion,conflict and erroneous ‘theories of truth’ that have perhaps turned many from their faith, or at least to develop an unbalanced perception of the perfect plans of a loving God. The controversy clouds perfection.
In the debate, one simple fact is overlooked. God’s Word does not contradict itself. Predestination and free will are not mutually exclusive. They work together, two perfect parts to an utterly perfect provision. The error in understanding comes from excluding the second part of the definition of ‘predestined.’ It’s critical to look at both to resolve the contradiction.
First, predestined means ‘ordained beforehand,’ i.e. God decided beforehand. In this respect, the interpretation is quite correct. The problem comes in when we assume to mean that He decided upfront who would be a believer and who wouldn’t. This obviously excludes free will, and that’s the crux of the conflict. But this definition is misapplied. Our verse today tells us that predestination works according to His perfect will – and it is the will of God that ‘none should perish.’
We cannot, therefore, see predestination outside the context of God’s will for the whole of mankind, not some. Human beings were created for one ultimate purpose: fellowship with the Creator. That is our ‘predestined’ purpose, the purpose for which we were made. Predestination applies to the ‘up-front’ plan for mankind – the one humanity has ignored through sin and free will.
Which brings us to the second part of the definition. Predestination also means ‘foreknowledge.’ This is the bit most excluded by the controversy, and the concept is totally incomplete without it. We need to take a step back here and view God’s foreknowledge from the perspective of eternity, not from our literal worldview of time. God does not see on a temporal level. He sees all things in eternity – which means He sees the beginning and the end at the same time, along with everything else in between.
What this means is that He knew, right from the very foundation of the world, who would become a believer and who wouldn’t. Having that foreknowledge, He is able to call us, to draw us, to guide us to the place which was ‘ordained beforehand’ by His perfect will, the perfect purpose He ‘wills’ us all to have, the place of choice where we accept or reject it according to the free will he has given us.
There really is no contradiction, no controversy, and no conflict. It is the joining two perfect parts that both provide for free will. For those who persist in perpetuating a non-existent and exclusionary debate, perhaps they should consider the following:
Why would Christ have ‘so loved the world‘ that He was willing to die for the whole of mankind if only some were predestined for salvation? The cross is not only the perfect ‘plan’ to enable mankind to walk in the fellowship God desires for everyone, it is also the ultimate manifestation of free will. Christ’s sacrifice was ‘predestined’ so that lead the way for us, but it was His free will, His choice, to follow the road to Calvary.
The greatest tragedy of the predestination vs free will debate is that it provides mankind with a ‘justifiable excuse’ not to exercise free will. It’s a spiritual ‘cop-out.’ Jesus said: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice, and open the door…’ If any man…open the door. Any man means just that: Any. Not ‘the ones God picked beforehand.’
Free will puts the responsibility very firmly on our shoulders. We have the right and the responsibility to choose. If we ‘choose not to choose,’ we’re actually making a choice. There’s no grey area, and absolutely no place for misappropriating and confusing the foundational truth of God’s Word so that we can hang the blame for our wrong choice on Him. Predestination isn’t the end of free will. It’s the power that enables our choice, the exercise of our free will, to bring us into perfect unity with the will of God.
Father, Your will is perfect, your purpose complete. Help to walk in the truth, to walk in fellowship with You, so that my daily choices lead me to the place of perfect oneness with you. Help me to live the destiny for which I was created. Thank you for making the way, and for giving me the wisdom to see the path I should choose.