I was reading (in the New Covenant writings) some of the Epistles to the Messianic Communities in the Diaspora this weekend and noticed how Shaul (Paul) and Kefa (Peter) write in a way that seems to indicate God has predestined those who will be saved.
We have Ephesians 1:5 (“Having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,…“) and Romans 8:29-30 (“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”)
Even in Psalm 139: 16 it says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
There are other verses in the Bible that seem to indicate we were chosen beforehand, that we are the elect, the special ones who have found favor, yadda-yadda-yadda. It got me wondering if there really is something to the idea of predestination, which says God has already made His decision about who will go and who will not.
But then I came to my senses. I thought that if we are predestined, then the prayers for my children, and everyone else’s prayers for those who are not saved to be saved, are useless. The divine commission to make disciples is a waste of time because those who are chosen will become disciples without us and those who are rejected , well, tough luck! Why waste my breath, why “kick against the goads” to make Believers out of non-believers if those who are to be will be and those who are not to be are already screwed?
Ridiculous, isn’t it? All these verses don’t mean that an individual is chosen and another individual is rejected, it means that God has formed the way for everyone to find salvation through Messiah Yeshua. It means that what He has done is to choose life for us and provide the means for us to take hold of it.
In Ezekiel 18 God says that he doesn’t want anyone to die and that He wishes all sinners would turn from their sin, and live. God isn’t a liar, so if He wants people to turn from their sins, then he must have made it possible for us to make our own decisions about what we do or don’t do.
Ergo: Free Will.
Another argument for free will is that God owns everything, He is in control of everything (although that doesn’t mean He does control everything- He can, but He chooses what to control and what to leave alone) and yet, there is one thing that He cannot control or have unless we give it to Him: our love, faithfulness and obedience. If we have the ability to choose to give God our love and faith, then we have the ability to choose to reject Him.
Ability to choose is called Free Will.
Next time you run into a Calvinist, or anyone who says that God has predetermined or predestined those who will be saved, enlighten that person with Ezekiel 18 and the above argument for free will. You can even throw this in, if it comes down to it: if God has chosen who will be saved and who won’t, then why did He need to send Messiah Yeshua to die for our sins? After all, those chosen are already in and those rejected have no chance, so why provide a means through which your fate can be changed? If your fate is sealed before you are born, then why tell us that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved?
Without free will, this whole Messiah “thing” makes absolutely no sense.
God has given us free will: it was evident in the Garden, it is clear throughout the history of the Jewish people and the writings of the New Covenant. It is clear from the many times God has stated through the Psalms and the prophets that He wants us to turn from our sin so that we can live. Why ask us to turn if He has already decided?
I’ll tell you who really doesn’t want you to have free will- religion. That thing called “religion” is dogmatic, stoic, and enabling. It doesn’t want you to think, it wants you to follow. It doesn’t want you to question, it wants you to obey, blindly. It doesn’t want you to decide for yourself what is the truth, it wants you accept without question what it tells you is the truth.
God has no religion, only rules. He tells us how to worship Him, and how to treat each other. And we have the right, the God-given right, to decide for ourselves if we will do what God says or not.
Free will is a two-edged sword: it cuts both ways. Do as God says and the world will hate you, do as the world says and you have to reject God (He still loves you, but His judgment will be righteous.) So, whatever you choose, understand that it is your choice. If you choose to do what you are told by religion, without question or investigation, that is a choice.
We all have been given free will to make out own choice- better make sure it’s the right one!