Be Transformed by the Renewing (Renovation) of Your Mind

- (Romans 12:2)


Hope in Believing: Predestination & Free Will

First of all, let me start by stating I am not a theologian.

But here are some thoughts I had while reading on the elliptical at the gym yesterday (God talks to me a lot there):

…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. (Eph 1:4-6)

There is some controversy in the Church about the concept of “predestination.” Now I did not launch a big study on the use of the term in the New Testament. I did look it up in the Strong’s Concordance. In the Greek, it simply means to “determine before” or “to ordain.” Ordain means “to invest with ministerial or priestly authority,” to “authorize,” or to order or decree by virtue of superior authority.” (American Heritage Dictionary).

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it like this: “to destine, decree, determine, appoint, or settle beforehand.” The Free Dictionary adds, “To fix upon, decide, or decree in advance.”

The Cambridge Dictionary asserts, “If an action or event is predestined, it is controlled by God or by fate.” Is this true???

I think perhaps never in my lifetime have I ever witnessed the accepted meaning of words to undergo more alteration than in just the last few years. In addition, I think it is safe to presume that the definitions in dictionaries are not a result of divine inspiration in the way that the Bible is. I am always saying that the meaning of any Biblical passage must be understood through the grid of Scripture. In my mind, the true meaning of predestination as it is uttered by God through the writers of the New Testament has to reconcile with the Biblical reality of “free will.”

Let me appear to digress. God teaches us a lot about spiritual and natural truth through the experience of parenting. And even if you’ve never been a parent, you have at least been a child of parents, or perhaps have some idea of what the heart of a parent is supposed to be. Each time I gave birth to a child, and even while my babies were still in my womb, I had great plans. I had intentions of striving to be the best mom ever! I greatly desired my children to be healthy, happy, loved, and successful in life. I purposed for them to be in church, raised to know the Lord, and to be born-again. I planned to do everything I could to make all of that happen. You could say that I “predestined” my children to have GREAT lives. This was the destiny “I” had planned for them.

Did all of that happen because I predestined it? Sadly, no. Enter free will and bio-psycho-social-spiritual forces that acted on and in each of my children, apart from my feelings, wishes, decrees, expectations, authorizations, support, and intentions.

I propose that God’s “predestination” might have similar constraints. Just like I have loved each of my sons, regardless of anything, from the moment I knew of their pre-born existence until now, God declares that He “so loved the world” (I assume that “the world” includes everyone). He’s a Father! He loves every single human being He has ever woven in a womb, and His intention was and always has been to include each person into His family and lead them in an amazing, productive, and fulfilling life. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). But there was a condition, a caveat: willingness and obedience. Of their own volition. Free will. Who was God talking to back then? Unregenerate Israelites in exile, pre-Christ. Who is He talking to now? You and me and, I think, everyone else.

In the song, “Beautiful Boy” about his son Julian, John Lennon offered the lyric, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Boy, howdy!

Does everything “intended” happen?
Does everything “authorized” happen?
Does everything “decreed” happen?
Does everything “willed” happen?

Have you ever “invested” in something or someone who did not rise to their potential? Has God invested in people who did not rise to their potential?

My experience has been that few things, if anything, have gone exactly according to plan. Sometimes very much not so!

But we’re not God, are we? God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, we are decidedly not. He has all power and authority and we don’t. I hear it said all the time, “God is in control.”

I ask myself, does God, as a heavenly Dad, always get what He wants?
Does everyone get saved, or do some choose the path to destruction?

Does God want children to be molested?

Does God want human beings to be sex trafficked?

Does God want natural disasters that kill thousands?

Does God want terrorists to blow up cars and buildings with people in them? Does he want armed robberies and school shootings?

Does God want animals to suffer sickness, torture, or abandonment?

Does God want the Earth poisoned with chemicals?

Does God want people to fork themselves to death, or die by the needle, bottle, pipe, or pills?

Does God want broken hearts, loneliness, deformities, disabilities, mental illness, cancer, and car wrecks?

Does He want bone-crushing, life-hemorrhaging loss?

God has power, but is He controlling? Is He exerting His will over mine or yours or anyone else’s?

If God controls everything, then He must “will” these things, right? He is using it to “teach” or to bend a person’s will, to avenge, or to punish. I’ve heard it all. But how do we reconcile those notions with the fact that good and perfect gifts are FROM GOD (which implies they are willed, or wanted, by God) and that He tempts no one with evil? The growth and character that develop through overcoming hard things can be counted as gifts, but the horrors like those listed above are not gifts. They are a result of sin, sickness, and death coming into the world through transgression. Not gifts!!

What about the people who ARE overtaken?

What about the people who CAN’T cope and kill themselves?

What about the circumstances that DO overwhelm and destroy?

What about the people who DON’T make it, in any sense of the word?

Could it be that God, in all His authority, wisdom, and power to control has chosen to self-limit? I think so. Put another way, could it be within God’s ability to control that He chooses not to, and simultaneously that He’s brilliant enough to “work it altogether” for the good of his overarching purposes, down to the minutia and in spite of the choices of individuals, groups, and nations? I temper these ideas with the understanding that I am thinking out loud, based on the encounter I had with Scripture yesterday at the gym. These are evolving thoughts, and I am sort of still just in the “wow” mode. It’s like contemplating eternity.

Or the manifold wisdom of God.

He gave us the right and capacity to choose. He wants us to love and choose Him, just like I want my boys to love and choose me.

Verse 4: …just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…” Wait, what? Pretty sure the sperm and egg that formed my physical body did not exist before the creation of planet Earth. Did my spirit and soul exist before the world did? I don’t know. I’m fairly certain my consciousness did not. But I do know that God exists outside of, and apart from, time. It makes sense to me, then, that He already knew who would exist before they existed and what choices each person would make once they existed. In other words, He already knows who is and who isn’t His. He is at the beginning and at the end of all stories, so of course He knows! Haven’t many of us had the experience of coming back into the fold of God’s family, after a season of indifference, rebellion, or outright rejection, and concluded that God had His hand on us the whole time, even though previously we could not perceive it? For US, those who love God and are called according to His purpose, He has been and will be “working all things together for good (Romans 8:28). “All things” to include ALL--good, bad, joyful, painful, just, unfair, righteous, evil, and everything in between. I think this promise possibly predates and is active disassociated from our loving Him, in the sense of time.

The benefits of the cross—salvation, healing, deliverance, and provision—in my present understanding, were pre-planned, pre-ordained, and pre-destined for us, God’s spiritual children. While His hand is retroactive, we could not and cannot tap into our inheritance without…. CHOICE.

Furthermore, Ephesians 1:13 states, “…after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
Different translations of this verse word it a bit differently, but I think the KJV gets it right…. the Holy Spirit living inside of us, by virtue of God’s offering and our acceptance, is the “seal” or “proof” of His ownership and is the “earnest” of our inheritance. When I bought a house, I put down “earnest money” --- that is an exceedingly small portion of the total purchase price. This was to indicate my intention and “seal” my promise to move forward with the purchase and pay the whole amount. So, what I recognize this verse is saying is that the “holy Spirit of promise”—and all that He makes available in salvation (another good study)—is but a down-payment, a preview, a miniscule representation of the FULL inheritance that is to come when our redemption is complete at the end of time.

WOW!!!! What does this mean to you and me, and why is it such a potential source of emotional comfort???

Because every blessing named in Deuteronomy 28, the 23rd Psalm, the benefits of the cross, and the many promises asserted throughout the Bible—all of it is included in the combination of the “earnest” (down-payment) and the full inheritance. Whatever you don’t get here you will get there, because every promise of God will be fulfilled when we choose adoption as sons and daughters, heirs with Christ!

2 Corinthians 1:20: For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen.
Isaiah 55:11: So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Matthew 24:35: Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slack concerning His promise…

This has incredible implications for the things we are standing on God’s promises for, which in my case is primarily the salvation, healing, and deliverance of my children and restoration of damaged family relationships. My pastor told me recently that the significance of me as an intercessor is that it ensures God will avail my loved ones the greatest opportunities possible to accept Christ, and receive the eternal inheritance that comes with that. Glory to God!!

While I am believing to see the “goodness of God in the land of the living” concerning the healing of my family, I am quite certain that if I go to my grave having not seen it, but open my eyes in heaven and they are there, that anything that happened or didn’t happen down here on Earth will be swallowed up and cease to matter in that moment, or ever again. For example, the worst, most hurtful words ever spoken to me were by my sons. I was shut out of first apartments and 21st birthdays. So many milestones have been missed, so many holiday celebrations and family gatherings have been marred by my children’s absence, and on some occasions I have been uninvited. There has been enormous confusion and pain all around. So much has been stolen from me, from them, from you and from yours.

“What I am doing is better than a thousand 21st birthdays!” is what He told me one day.
So when I say it’s coming, I truly mean I know IT’S COMING!!! The only thing that can get in the way is a choice. And this praying mamma is believing for a Jonah experience, if that is what is necessary to get the job done.

I heard this Sunday school song in my spirit just now as I was typing:

  • I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy
  • Down in my heart (where?)
  • Down in my heart (where?)
  • Down in my heart
  • I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy
  • Down in my heart (where?)
  • Down in my heart to stay
  • I've got the peace that passes understanding
  • Down in my heart (where?)
  • Down in my heart (where?)
  • Down in my heart
  • I've got the peace that passes understanding
  • Down in my heart (where?)
  • Down in my heart to stay
  • And I'm so happy
  • So very happy
  • I've got the love of Jesus in my heart

I have peace and joy today today because my eyes are fixed on Jesus, and every day He leaves me manna on the ground.

Gretchen Stockman
September 17, 2022