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?
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;
Job 42:2; Ps 115:3;
135:6; 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 will.
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 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" (Acts 2:23).
When the prophet Samuel is seeking to anoint the next king, God tells him, "Do not look at his appearance or at the
height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but
the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Sam 16:7). On that basis, God chose David to be the
shepherd of His people (2 Sam 5:2), because he was seen as "a man after My heart, who
will do all My will" (Acts 13:22).
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
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…"
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 (Acts 7:58;
8:1-3; 22:3-5), and this experience
motivated him to serve Christ all the more (1 Cor 15:10;
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 of faith. And God's choices do not seem arbitrary and are seemingly based on the foreknowledge of a person...