The idea that God foreknows and predestines / predetermines / pre-appoints a person may imply that a
person doesn't have complete freedom in making choices.
What exactly is the relationship between God's sovereign will and man's free will?
Can human beings act freely or are our lives predetermined and inevitable?
While the Bible does not explicitly say, the apostles saw no conflict with the apparent tension.
Among those who debate this tension, there is little dispute that the Bible has numerous verses attesting to
the sovereignty of God and that nothing can prevent the fulfillment of His predetermined plans
(2 Kings 19:25;
Dan 4:35). What is debated is how God's sovereign plans are
carried out with human beings.
Does God dictate every thought and action of a human being?
This view holds that God predetermines and human beings do not have free will.
Or does God program human beings to think they have free will?
This view holds that God predetermines and human beings, from their perspective, have free
Or does God plan with the foreknowledge of how each human being will use his freedom?
This view holds that God fully predetermines and human beings have complete free will.
While theologians fiercely debate, there isn't any clear biblical data that provides a clear understanding. One
can only surmise what the biblical evidence suggests.
In Romans 9:10, Paul quotes
Malachi 1:2-3 to illustrate the sovereignty of God's choice of
Jacob over Esau before they were born. Without any regard for achievement, there was something that God foreknew
about each that caused Him to love one and hate the other.
In Acts 1:23-26, Barsabbas and Matthias are
submitted to replace Judas Iscariot. Just before lots are drawn
(Prov 16:33), the apostles prayed, "You, Lord, who know the
hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen…" In this instance the apostles indicate that God's
choice is not arbitrary and is based on the foreknowledge of a person.
There are a few instances where one is chosen for a purpose before they were born such as
Jeremiah (Jer 1:5), John the Baptist
(Luke 1:15-17) and Paul
(Gal 1:15). Paul's election is particularly striking as the
accomplishments of his prior life as Saul was violently antagonistic towards Christians
22:3-5), and this experience motivated him to serve Christ all
the more (1 Cor 15:10;
In the Old Testament, Joseph's brothers intended evil upon him; however, God's plan intended it
for good (Gen 50:20). A similar example is seen in the New
Testament where God's predetermined plan included the actions of "wicked men"
The question of whether a human being has complete and autonomous free will may never be conclusively answered
in our lifetime. However, just as we are held responsible for our actions
(1 Sam 13:13-14), we are accountable to the exhortation
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