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FREE WILL AND PERSONAL CHOICE
Authored By : Bill Kochman (aka The WordWeaver)
Published On : April 22, 1997
Last Updated : February 13, 2012
A Discussion On Divine Will, Foreknowledge, Predestination, Faith, Love, Obedience And Making The Right Choices
Someone once asked me, "If God already knows what we will do, why did He even create us?" I believe that we are really dealing with several different issues in this question; that is, the issue of why God created us to begin with, the issue of God's foreknowledge, and the issue of free will. As I have pointed out in other articles, the reason God created us is quite simple. As with other things that God does, He created us simply because He wanted to; because it pleased Him to do so. This is made clear in the following verse from the Book of Revelation:
"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created."
Revelation 4:11, KJV
In the first chapter of Genesis, we repeatedly find the phrase, ". . . and God saw that it was good". In other words, His Creation pleased Him. These are not the only examples where we find the Lord doing things simply because it pleases Him. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us that it is His Father's good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. In other words, He wants to give it to us because it makes Him happy to do so:
"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
Luke 12:32, KJV
In his epistles to the Ephesians and the Philippians, the Apostle Paul tells us that God has not only made His will known to us, but that He has also put it in our hearts to want to do it, because it is pleasing to Him:
"Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:"
Ephesians 1:9, KJV
"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
Philippians 2:13, KJV
Concerning the foreknowledge of God, this is also something I have covered in other articles. Two verses which immediately came to mind are the following:
"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:"
Isaiah 46:9-10, KJV
Notice again in the above verses that God does all of these things for His own pleasure. Throughout the four Gospels, we find ample evidence of the fact that Jesus was fully aware of the reason His Father had sent Him to Earth; in other words, He had foreknowledge of it. At the early age of twelve, we find Him saying to his parents:
". . . How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"
Luke 2:49, KJV
Jesus made quite a few prophecies concerning the need for His upcoming Death and subsequent Resurrection. You will find this topic discussed more in detail in the article "The Blood Atonement: In Jesus' Own Words". In the book of Acts, Peter likewise informed the crowd that all of these things, (the Death and Resurrection of Christ), were accomplished according to the foreknowledge and will of God:
"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:"
Acts 2:23, KJV
Not only that, in addressing the churches in his first epistle, Peter tells us that we the Believers, the Elect, where chosen according to the foreknowledge of God:
"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied."
1 Peter 1:1-2, KJV
Paul also dealt with the theme of predestination and again tells us that we have become the adopted Children of God according to His good pleasure:
"Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,"
Ephesians 1:5, KJV
It should be noted that some have taken such verses as the above, and other Scriptures which deal with predestination, to make the false accusation that we are all just merely puppets in God's hands. These misguided folks claim that it doesn't matter what we do in this life, because the Lord has already decided who belongs to Him, and who doesn't. They say that if God wants us to be a part of His Heavenly Kingdom, then we will be; and if He wants to cast us into the Lake of Fire, then there is nothing we can do about it. In other words, we simply have no choice in the matter. They use this kind of erroneous reasoning to justify their unbridled lifestyles. Tragically, in my view, this whole idea concerning the futility of our existence is wrong; and is based upon a misunderstanding of the Scriptures.
Based upon my study and personal understanding of the Scriptures, I believe that foreknowledge, predestination, and free will work hand in hand. In other words, because of His foreknowledge, God has predestined us to be a part of His Kingdom; because when our time comes to decide, He already knows what choice we will make regarding Jesus Christ according to our own free will. Additionally, I believe that God has purposely limited Himself in this manner for reasons which I will explain shortly. The idea of free will is expressed in quite a few verses throughout the Bible. Here are a few for your consideration:
"I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:"
Deuteronomy 30:19, KJV
"And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
Joshua 24:15, KJV
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
Matthew 6:24, KJV
If our free will is not important in such matters as Salvation, then why does the Bible contain such verses as the above? In my article "Is the Message of Salvation Meant for All Men?", I expound upon this same concept. As I have said many times before, God did not create us to be mindless robots. He wants us to obey Him and to choose the way of Salvation because we love Him. He wants us to demonstrate our faith in Him by believing that He wouldn't tell us or command us to do anything if He didn't know it was for our own good. This is the same kind of faith that young children have in their Earthly parents. Most toddlers would never think to question their parents. They trust that what their parents are telling them is true, right and for their own good. It isn't until children start getting older, more self-confident, and reach that age where they think they know it all, that they begin to doubt and question their parents' judgment on different matters. While some of this just has to do with the growing up process, sadly, it also has to do with the rebellious attitudes and negative influence our children are exposed to in the Public School System, which is the Devil's breeding ground for anti-God thought!
However, as far as the Lord's children are concerned; whether we be young or old biologically-speaking, God still expects us to have that same respect for, and faith in His Word, as well as obedience to His Will. While it may be blind faith while we are young, as we become older, more mature, and sometimes more wiser in our own eyes, our faith and obedience get tested. It is then that we discover if our faith in the Lord is really motivated by love, or just by a fear of retribution. As the Apostle Paul said, it must be faith which works, or which is motivated by, love:
"For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love."
Galatians 5:6, KJV
"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God."
Ephesians 3:17-19, KJV
"Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Ephesians 6:23, KJV
"Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;"
1 Thessalonians 1:3, KJV
"And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."
1 Timothy 1:14, KJV
In one sense, we can say that we must have the faith to believe that God loves us so much that He wouldn't require anything of us that isn't for our own good. Again, the Apostle offered some excellent advice on this topic:
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
Romans 8:28, KJV
On the other hand, if we only believe in and obey the Lord because we are afraid of what He might do to us if we don't, then this is not faith motivated by love. It is faith motivated by fear. This is not the kind of obedience the Lord wants from us. Godly fear or reverence certainly has its place in the Christian life, but as I have pointed out in other articles, we are not to walk around in fear all day just wondering if God is going to strike us dead with a lightning bolt. Again, this is another totally unfounded accusation made by the enemies of God. This same principle of obedience through love applies to our flesh children as well. If they only choose to obey us because they are afraid of us, then something is terribly wrong somewhere. They should want to please us by obeying in order to show their love for us; just as we should strive to do the same with our Heavenly Father. It should also be noted that there is godly fear, or reverence, and there is satanic fear. The Lord does not give us the latter:
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
2 Timothy 1:7, KJV
This topic of faith, fear and love is discussed more fully in my article entitled "Dracula: Fighting Fear With The Word, Faith And Love". If you look at the Bible as being our Driver's Manual to assist us in this life, then you will have a good idea of what I am trying to get across. Being the loving Father that He is, God has provided us with everything we need to know to make it through this life safely and on to the next. Of course, if you go out driving somewhere without having properly passed a driving test and gotten a driver's license; if you haven't even taken the time to read the Driver's Manual, well then of course you are asking for trouble; and might even end up in an accident! Not only will you get a ticket because of your foolishness and failure to obey the law, but you might even end up getting hurt, or worse yet, you might hurt someone else! You would think that this would be enough to wake up anyone; but sadly, it isn't. As a Christian, you must remember that God's still small voice is always there telling you:
". . . This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left."
Isaiah 30:21, KJV
As most of us can testify, sometimes it is difficult for Christians to know which is the right choice to make. There are times that we choose what we think is right or God's highest will for our lives, but in the Lord's eyes it really isn't the best option. Such was the case in the story of Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus of Bethany. Mary had made the right choice by sitting at Jesus' feet to listen to Him, while Martha did what she thought was best in her own eyes, which was only second best in God's eyes:
"Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
Luke 10:38-42, KJV
We can find comfort in the fact that if we are having a hard time making the right choices in our lives, God is more than willing to help us out. In the Old Testament, after King Solomon had ascended to the throne of his father David, he felt quite incapable of leading the Children of Israel. One night the Lord appeared to him in a dream, and this is what happened:
"In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days. And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and offered up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants."
1 Kings 3:5-15, KJV
Just as Solomon asked the Lord for understanding in his day, we can likewise ask the Lord for His Divine Wisdom and Guidance to help us make the right choices in our daily walk with Him. In the epistle of James we find the following verse:
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
James 1:5, KJV
Notice what James is saying there. God will liberally, or freely give you the wisdom and understanding that you need. He is not going to upbraid you for asking. In other words, He is not going to rebuke you or get mad at you for asking. Quite to the contrary. Consider what Jesus said:
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."
Matthew 7:7-8, KJV
We also need to remember that this life is really meant to serve as a kind of school for us. If we were mindless robots which obediently did everything right, we wouldn't learn anything, would we? Our spiritual growth would be stunted and we wouldn't make any progress in the things the Lord is trying to teach us. At the same time, while we are to grow in Spirit and Truth, we must never forget the simplicity of the Gospel of Salvation. We must remain in touch with the roots of our faith. Additionally, we must not become so bogged down in knowledge that we lose our simple childlike faith. Consider these Scriptures:
"But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 19:14, KJV
"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."
2 Corinthians 11:3, KJV
"Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth."
1 Corinthians 8:1, KJV
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."
1 Corinthians 13:2, KJV
Here again, we see the interrelationship between faith and love, or charity. Without these, our knowledge means very little. I have written several articles on this topic including "The Only Credentials You Need" and "The Wisdom of God vs the Philosophy of Men". Contrary to modern man who prides himself in his knowledge and scientific achievements, Paul tells us in his epistle to the Hebrews, that it is our childlike faith which pleases God most of all. Even though our mind and the world around us might be telling us otherwise, we must have the faith to believe simply because God says so:
"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Hebrews 11:6, KJV
As long as we have faith in our Creator, and diligently seek Him when making our decisions, we should run into few obstacles of our own design. This doesn't mean that we won't have problems in our lives; it simply means that if they do come along, hopefully they will be because of some outside cause, and not because of sin in our lives. Another thing to bear in mind is the fact that if we didn't have the freedom to make our own choices, and if we automatically did everything right, then we wouldn't even have a need for a Savior, would we? After all, we would be perfect, and Jesus certainly did not come to save the "perfect":
"When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Mark 2:17, KJV
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly."
Romans 5:6, KJV
It is through our sins, mistakes and shortcomings that we will hopefully learn and grow into the wise Christians the Lord wants us to be. If there is one major lesson the Lord is trying to teach all of us, it is that without an acceptance of His rules in our lives, we will not only end up messing up our own lives, but we will negatively affect the lives of others as well. In short, we are supposed to be learning obedience to God's laws through the things which we suffer, which are sometimes a result of our own poor choices. Surprising as it may seem, in his letter to the Hebrews, the Apostle Paul tells us that even Jesus learned obedience through the things which He suffered:
"Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;"
Hebrews 5:8, KJV
When you consider the exponential effect of worldwide disobedience to the laws of God, it is easy to understand why the world today is in such sad shape. It also explains why the world will only continue to worsen as man continues to stubbornly depend upon his own wisdom and his own strength in his decision making, instead of looking to God for the answers. What some don't realize is that as far as God is concerned, there are only two kinds of wisdom; the one which descends from above, and the other which is of the Earth:
"This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy."
James 3:15-17, KJV
The truth of the matter is, the laws of God are not really as complicated as one might think. In fact, in the Gospels, Jesus summed them up in the following two verses:
". . . Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Matthew 22:37b-40, KJV
It's really just that simple: THOU SHALT LOVE! But you see, modern rebellious man has for the most part rejected the wisdom and laws of God which have come down from above. Like the Scribes and Pharisees of old, they have embraced the wisdom of Satan instead, the wisdom of the god of this world, the wisdom of the Earth. It is for these reasons that humankind has made many wrong decisions which have resulted in the chaotic unbalanced world we live in today. Contrary to what some God-hating atheists like to claim, it isn't God's fault that the world is the way it is today. He isn't the one who is causing the wars, or the violence and hatred, or the famines, or the economic embargoes, or the withholding of relief from those who need it. These are sinful selfish man's doings; and that is precisely the point here. While God had foreknowledge that all of these things would happen, the reason that He didn't stop them from occurring is because He is trying to teach us something; and that is that we can't do it on our own. We need the Lord's help. We are incapable of ruling ourselves.
This is the very same lesson He was trying to teach ancient Israel when they chose to have an Earthly king rule over them instead of the Lord Himself. This topic is discussed more fully in the article "The Children of God and Politics". Without God's supernatural love burning in our hearts, we are incomplete beings. Sadly, true Divine Love is one ingredient which Jesus specifically said would be lacking in the Last Days:
"And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."
Matthew 24:12, KJV
If you would like to read more about this, please refer to the article "Selfishness: A Prophesied Sign of the Endtime!". Unless we have the right foundation in our lives, we are building our houses upon the sand; and this is something which the Lord specifically warned us against doing. It is for this reason that the modern-day systems of man will all soon crumble when they are smitten by the Rock described in the prophecies of Daniel:
"And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever."
Daniel 2:44, KJV
A final point to remember is that it is through our personal choices, our sins, and the mistakes that we make, that we truly come to understand the forgiveness, mercy, love and compassion of God. As the Scriptures tell us over and over again, God's love and mercy is boundless:
"It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23, KJV
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:38-39, KJV
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9, KJV
God's Love and Mercy is truly great, but our decision to believe in Him, and to obey Him, has to be by our own free and loving choice. During this current period of Grace, He won't force Himself upon anyone. However, should we refuse to accept what He offers, we should be conscious of the consequences of our actions, and realize that some day we are all going to have to face our Maker:
"But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."
Matthew 12:36, KJV
"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God."
Romans 14:12, KJV
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
2 Corinthians 5:10, KJV
"Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead."
1 Peter 4:5, KJV
Realizing then that we will all be held accountable for our words and actions, how much more should we be willing to acknowledge the Lord in our lives, and seek His answers in our decision-making? Just think of how much trouble and pain it will help us to avoid. As it is written in the Book of Proverbs:
"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV
Let's all try to make the right choices in our lives so that God is glorified in the end:
"Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
1 Corinthians 10:31, KJV
Please don't forget; the most important choice you will ever have to make is to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. If you haven't done it yet, I hope that you will do it today. Your time may be much shorter than you realize! I pray that this article has provided you with some valuable counsel, and that it has been a blessing to many.