Some things about God can be a mystery to us. Scripture tells us that God is Sovereign and we were predestined but we have free will. But how can those two concepts possibly work together?
Here, we will look at God’s Sovereignty in three areas: our Predestination, free will combined with the problem of evil, and predestination and prayer.
Scripture is very clear that God’s plan for the world and our salvation was pre-ordained and his purpose can’t be thwarted. I have listed some scriptures at the bottom of the page. Romans 9:10-24 is an important verse to look at here. It says that God’s purpose is according to His choice. It is not based on any of our works. In a nutshell, it’s God’s universe and He can do what He wants in it, in order to further His plan. Does this mean we have no free will? I like to think of this scenario which apologist, Frank Turek explains, in this analogy: Suppose you are a football fan and you have recorded all the Sunday football games on your recorder because you’re going to be away. Then, before you get a chance to watch the game, your friend texts you all the final scores. You’re thinking, “Oh great! I didn’t want to know the scores!” But you know them now. Just because you now know the outcome of the game, does that mean the players on the field didn’t have free will in the game because you know the outcome? Of course not! They’re still freely doing what they’re doing on the field. God knows the outcome because He is outside of time. He’s in eternity. From His perspective, its already happened. God knows the end from the beginning. Just because its already happened in His mind, doesn’t mean He’s causing us to do it. We still have free will. God knew before He created me that I would be a believer and He knew before He created Richard Dawkins that he would be an atheist. But just because He knew the outcome doesn’t, mean He’s causing us to do anything directly. We still have free will. God is just.
Our Free Will and Responsibility for Evil
Look at Romans 10:11-13. It says whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed and whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. This implies our free will choice. Romans 9:21, says the potter has the right over the clay. Yet Jeremiah 18:8, tells us that we are responsible for our own actions. It tells us that God is willing to relent from His judgment if we are willing to repent. So we are ultimately responsible for our own free will choices. God is not the author of evil.
Why would God create someone He knew would go to Hell? Is He obligated to stop that creation? No because God uses even unbelievers to further His plan and get His will done. Further, as Turek points out, if God didn’t create unbelievers, then you and I probably wouldn’t be here since there’s most likely unbelievers in our ancestry. In the Bible, Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers and ends up in a position of prominence in Egypt. He puts grain aside in case of a famine. There is a famine and Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt for food. Joseph sees them and says, “You sold me into slavery but what you meant for evil, God meant for good.” God can bring good from the evil that we, and unbelievers do. So God allows people to be created because they freely choose whether to believe in Him or not, even though He knows what they’re going to do. He is just.
Predestination and Prayer
Is there any point in praying if everything is predestined? What God has ordained will come to pass whether you pray or not, right? Author John Piper answers that question this way, “That depends on whether God ordained for it to come to pass in answer to prayer. If God predestined that something happen in answer to prayer, it won’t happen without prayer.” Wait a second, does this mean that every answer to prayer is predestined or not? Piper says it is. He says that if the prayer doesn’t happen the answer doesn’t happen. So the event is contingent on our praying for it to happen. So how can an event be contingent on our prayer and still be eternally fixed and pre-destined by God? Piper attests that our prayer is as fixed as the predestined answer. He continues that the effect will not happen without the cause because God doesn’t ordain effects without causes. Think of it this way, would a lamp illuminate a room without electricity? No. Because the brightness of the lamp is the answer to prayer and the electricity is our prayer. The scripture says, in Matt. 7:7 says Ask and you shall receive. James 4:2 says You do not have because you do not ask. Jesus wants us to ask. That’s why He tells us to pray unceasingly in 1 Thess. 5:17.
God’s predestination and our free will work together to produce the outcome that God planned in the first place. He predestined us but gave us free will. God’s sovereignty and our free will run parallel to each other.
Scripture references: Job 42:2, Psalm 135:6, 2 Kings 19:25, Isa. 46:9-10, Jer. 1:5, Gal. 1:15, Matt. 24:22-31, Luke 18:7, Rom. 8:29-33, Col. 3:12, 2 Tim. 2:10, Titus 1:1, 1 Peter 1:1-2, John 1, Eph. 1:4-5