Predestination & Free Will

A.  The Issue
Predestination and free will are two biblical doctrines that believers often struggle to reconcile.  How can God be sovereign and yet hold man responsible for his choices, particularly the choosing of his eternal destiny?  A common viewpoint is that God predestines certain individuals for faith and salvation and others for unbelief and condemnation, the paramount issue being God’s unconditional choosing of selected individuals whom He wants to save.  A contrasting viewpoint says that God extends an invitation to all men and that each person can freely accept or reject His offer of salvation.  The key issue in this position is man’s ability to respond to God’s gracious way of salvation.

B.  The Biblical Teaching
Diligent Bible study is required to find consistency in the passages that appear to support both of the views mentioned.  In our study, we believe that God, in His sovereignty, has given man the ability and responsibility to respond to Him.  While predestination is a biblical doctrine, it has to do with God’s plan for Christians, those who have responded to the gospel by an act of their will.  That plan begins with adoption into His family
5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— (Ephesians 1:5)

and continues through growth and glorification
29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also
glorified. (Romans 8:29-30).

The fact that God does not pre-determine man’s decisions, yet has given him a free will, is evident in both Salvation and Growth.

1.“In Salvation”  In the act of Creation, God gave Adam and Eve the responsibility of tending the Garden of Eden.  God’s sovereignty saw fit to give mankind the capacity of a free will, one that can choose to respond in obedience or disobedience.  In violation of God’s will, Adam and Eve chose to disobey His command and consequently received a curse.  Like these original parents, all of us have followed in their footsteps by turning away from God by our own choosing
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

12All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.” (Romans 3:12)

23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, ( Romans 3:23).

Likewise, our sin has earned us the penalty of death
19 “Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has
been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. 20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the
guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to
him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.

21 “But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and
right, he will surely live; he will not die. 22 None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because
of the righteous things he has done, he will live. 23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign
LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

24 “But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man
does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of
and because of the sins he has committed, he will die. (Ezekiel 18:19-24)

23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23).

In response to sin, God put into action a plan of redemption.  He loves everyone and does not show favoritism
16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have
eternal life. (John 3:16)

34Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35but accepts men from every
nation who fear him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34-35).

His love was demonstrated through Christ’s death on the cross, where He experienced death for everyone and became the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world
9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered
death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)

2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1John 2:2).

God desires all men to come to a knowledge of the truth, to repent and be saved
2Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:2)

9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to
perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).

He invites all to believe in the Lord and call upon His name for salvation
16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have
eternal life. (John 3:16)

21And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Acts 2:21).

Whoever responds to the gospel by believing, repenting and being baptized will be saved
16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)

38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And
you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38).

Human response must be possible because God commands all men to repent and be reconciled to Himself
20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s
behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

30In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30).

He rewards those who seek Him and comes near to those who draw near to Him
6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he
rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
(James 4:8).

The truth is, the gospel of Christ would not be “good news to all men” unless it was truly available to everyone
10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
(Luke 2:10).

Doesn’t God draw people to Christ?  Those who come to Christ are drawn by God through the gospel message, which is power for salvation for all who believe
44″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)

32But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:32)

16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the
Jew, then for the Gentile. (Romans 1:16).

Faith is birthed through hearing the word of Christ and leads one to call upon the Lord for salvation
9That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will
be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are
saved. 11As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12For there is no difference between
Jew and Gentile the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13for, “Everyone who calls on the name of
the Lord will be saved.”
14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not
heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is
written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
16But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17Consequently,
faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:9-17).

The purpose of the gospel is to convince people “that Jesus is the Christ” and to believe in Him
31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life
in his name. (John 20:31).

Only when the message is combined with faith is that of any use
2For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them,
because those who heard did not combine it with faith. (Hebrews 4:2).

Can a spiritually dead person choose to believe?  Indeed, the Bible says that sinners are spiritually dead
1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, (Ephesians 2:1),

yet spiritual death does not imply the inability to respond.  It refers to the inability to “resurrect” or save oneself.  As in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the young man who was “dead” due to his rebellion came to his senses and returned to his father where he found “life”
24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:24).

Spiritually dead people can look to God, and are thus raised through faith in the power of God
11In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men
but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in
the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12).

Salvation is a gift of God, given to all who respond in faith
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that
no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Aren’t the elect the ones whom God saves?  God does not elect, or choose, specific individuals for salvation.  Salvation means to be     “in Christ”, the Elect One.  All who believe are in Christ and are God’s chosen people
9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the
praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9).

According to Jesus, many are called but few are chosen.  As Jesus’ parable of the banquet proved, the chosen ones are not those who are invited but those who accept His invitation
14″For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14).

This was the case of the nation of Israel.  Though they were God’s chosen nation, individuals had to choose to believe in order to be true “children of Abraham.”  Though the nation was chosen, not every child of Israel was saved.  Jesus wept for Israel because He longed to gather them to Himself, but they were not willing.
21But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”
(Romans 10:21)

37″O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your
children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37).

The choice has been given to man to either receive or reject Christ.  It is his responsibility to respond with faith.  Those who reject Christ and do not believe will stand condemned
18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not
believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18).

Those who resist the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and reject God’s purpose for their lives are sternly warned
51″You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy
Spirit! (Acts 7:51)

39You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that
testify about me, (John 5:39)

But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.
(Luke 7:30).

Yet God is patient, not willing that any should perish but waiting for all to come to repentance
9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to
perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).

2.“In Spiritual Growth” Predestination does not refer to salvation but to God’s plan for believers, a growth plan that takes them from conversion to full maturity in Christ.  His plan is for believers to be adopted as children of God
5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— (Ephesians 1:5)

and conformed into the likeness of Christ
28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his
purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the
firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28-29)

for the praise of his glory.
12in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:12)

Predestination is based on God’s foreknowledge
29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

2who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for
obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1Peter 1:2).

What does God know beforehand?  The Scripture does not say specifically, but we know this much – because He is omniscient, He knows how each individual will respond to the gospel invitation.  He also knows His plan for believers.

But knowing does not determine all that will happen.  Believers continue to possess the capacity to accept or reject God’s plan for them.  It is God’s will that believers abstain from sexual impurity; that they rejoice always and pray without ceasing.  Yet the fulfillment of these is left to the believer’s choosing.  While everything does happen according to God’s overall plan, not every individual decision is in agreement with His desires.  God predetermined man’s free will, but He does not determine his choices.

We believe it is inconsistent to hold the position that one can respond to God’s call through an exercise of free will, but following conversion, loses that freedom.  Just as we are saved by faith, we must continue to walk in faith
17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just
as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17).

God’s Spirit works to provide direction and power, but just like conversion, we must respond to the call by keeping in step with the Spirit and sowing to please the Spirit.
25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians. 5:25)

8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit,
from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)

We must be careful not to grieve the Spirit nor quench His work in our lives
30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)

19Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; (1Thessalonians 5:19).

There are many serious warnings given to believers to remain faithful and to grow in their faith to make their election clear
12if we endure, we will also reign with him.  If we disown him, he will also disown us; (2Timothy 2:12)

12See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (Hebrews 3:12)

10Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the
greatest care, (1 Peter 1:10)

20If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it
and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would have been better for them not to
have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was
passed on to them. (2 Peter 2:20-21).

Each believer will be held accountable for how he builds on the foundation of Christ.
10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one
should be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what
it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.
14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but
only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)

Eternal rewards will be based on how a believer lives.
10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done
while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

To those who overcome, God promises he will never blot their name form the Book of Life.
5He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will
acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. (Revelation 3:5).

But to those who return to unbelief, they will be cut off from God.
20Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.
(Romans 11:20)

God not only responds to the faith of those who call upon the Lord for salvation, but He also responds to the faith as it is expressed in prayer.
20 They were helped in fighting them, and God handed the Hagrites and all their allies over to them, because they cried out
to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him. (1 Chronicles 5:20)

22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)

10He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to
deliver us, 11as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in
answer to the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:10-11)

Prayer can change the outcome of situations.  This does not violate God’s sovereignty, because He has established this as His chosen way of working through believers in this world.

C. Conclusion
In conclusion, we believe that God is sovereign, but in His sovereignty He has given man the great ability and responsibility to respond to His Word.  This position is consistent with the character of God, Who in love offers salvation to everyone, and in justice holds each man accountable for his own choices.  Knowing that their lives are not predetermined encourages believers to be actively involved in the work of the kingdom.

1.Because salvation is of God, we will worship Him humbly and gratefully.  WE will praise Jesus Christ for His atoning death and thank God for his patient love for us.

2.Because we believe God issues His call to unbelievers through the Gospel, and because He desires all to be saved, we will be fervent in sharing the biblical message of God’s universal love with everyone we can and give them the opportunity to respond with faith, for faith comes by hearing the word of Christ.  We will be aggressive in missionary work that takes the gospel to other nations.

3.Because of our ultimate accountability, we will challenge believers to live responsively and responsibly.  We have been given “everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him”
3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his
own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3).

We will teach people to be responsive to the Holy Spirit and the Word.  God is faithful to provide a way of escape from sin, but we are responsible to take that path
13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond
what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13).

We can do all He asks through the strength He provides
13I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13).

4.Because our prayers move the hand of God, we will pray boldly and continually as a church.  We will pray believing we can impact people near and far through the power of intercession.

[Approved: May 2003]