Free will or predestination?
There are many scriptures that speak of Christians being chosen:
- Romans 8:33
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
- Romans 11:5-7
So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened
- Ephesians 1:11
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will
- Colossians 3:12
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, ...
- 1 Thessalonians 1:4
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you ...
- 1 Peter 1:1-2
To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who 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:
Predestination is the Biblical truth that God in His sovereignty chooses certain individuals to be saved.
The problem with predestination when it is understood as “determinism” (saying that God pre-determines who will be saved and who won’t be) is that it means God has pre-chosen to send some people to Hell. This clearly goes against the teaching of 1 Timothy 2:4 God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
There are many other scriptures that speak of man’s responsibility to believe and respond to the gospel and God’s desire for all to be saved:
- 1 John 2:2
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
- John 3:16
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
- 2 Peter 3:9
The 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.
- Acts 17:30
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
So these Scriptures teach that Christ died for the sins of all men and wishes all men to be saved but that individuals must take responsibility for believing in Jesus.
Are we free to choose to come to Him through the gospel then?
The apostles certainly preached as though people could choose to repent or not. Here is Paul in Acts 18:4:
Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
Or again in 2 Corinthians 5:11:
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.
And the Bible does hold people accountable for their choice: 2 Thessalonians 2:10:
They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
How does predestination and an individual’s responsibility to choose for Christ work together?
Take Pharaoh for example. The account in Exodus says Pharaoh hardened his heart (Exodus 8:15; 8:32), but it also says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 10:20; 10:27)
This shows that God’s sovereign purposes and decisions are borne out and justified in human history. He works to save those who will be saved. He works to harden those who will harden themselves against Him. In other words, God predestines those who will be saved, but in human history they must choose Christ in order to be saved. Both facts are equally true.
We may not be able to get our minds around the twin truths that God chooses us and that we choose Him - but it is wonderfully reassuring to know that He longs for as to receive His grace, and be filled with His peace. And He has provided all that is necessary to make it happen.
Indeed as the Bible makes very clear all who believe in Jesus Christ will be saved. John 3:16 states whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life Romans 10:9-10 ... 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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.