Romans 8:28-30, Predestination

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

//While this is far too great a topic for a short Dubious Disciple post, and while I consider myself by no stretch of the imagination a theologian, I thought it might be interesting to list a few verses that contribute to the Free Will vs. Predestination debate, and see if they generate any argument.

The above is the primary verse quoted by those who believe God predestined some to be redeemed, others to be lost. But if that isn’t clear enough, here’s a few more New Testament verses:

Ephesians 1:4-5, For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.

Romans 9:15: For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.  

Acts 13:48, When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

But what about the other side? How about if we’d rather believe we have some semblance of a choice in the matter? Before delving back into the New Testament, let’s start with God’s expectation of obedience throughout the Old Testament, which is easily summarized in this one passage:

Deuteronomy 11:26-28, See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse–the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God.

Will this simple matter of us choosing our own destiny carry forward into the New Testament? Are we in command of our own will? There, it’s not so clear:


Galatians 5:1, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

1 Corinthians 7:37, But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing.

Revelation 22:17, The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

While these verses are encouraging, they only provide hints of free will. None of them directly address the issue of  whether or not we are masters of our own destiny. Did God give up on his Free Will experiment after the Old Testament, where his people seemingly couldn’t learn to behave?

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3 Comments

  1. This raises some good questions. I apologize in advance for a long response. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but God has used this topic in my own spiritual journey in a profound way, I so can’t not say something here.

    I’m not sure how this fits in with your post, but please don’t take it as a contradiction or ‘argument’. I think more like ‘companion thoughts’ take them or leave them. You’re right to point out that both the aspect of God’s choice and our choice are emphasized in Scripture. The verses you quote are some of many we could use. I used to be a die-hard ‘free choice-er’. I was utterly opposed to what theologically we call Calvinism or ‘The Doctrines of Grace’.

    There are many verses that speak to our choice, our responsibility. For one thing, God is often saying things like Isaiah 45:22 “Turn and be saved” or Matthew 11:20-22, where Jesus indicates that the fate of these cities would have been different had they repented.

    There’s also the similar statements in Scripture like Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” He is calling people to make the choice to repent. Clearly we must have that choice.

    Clearly our choice matters even in the Old Testament. ’2 Chron 25:4 -”but each one shall die for his own sin” and in the New Testament we are encouraged to “Enter by the narrow gate” both OT and NT proclaim this here and many other verses.

    But the constant thread running through Scripture parallel to this and above it is that God’s sovereignty in His choice is what really drives the universe. These two may at first seem mutually exclusive, and I don’t think they are, but that’s another novella post.

    God’s choice is the prime driver in this universe.
    “We love because He first loved us” John 4:19
    John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
    Romans 9:16 – “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”

    God ordains all that happens. He ordains the results of chance (Prov 16:33), even our actions and intentions (Prov 16:9, 19:21, 20:24, 21:1, Gen 50:20). All our days are ordained for us before one of them even comes to pass (Psalm 139:16). Isaiah 46:9-10 sums it up well with “For I am God, and there is no other;I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
    And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass.
    I have planned it, surely I will do it.”

    This is a very short list of the verses that speak to this in one way or another. Suffice it to say that it is tempting for man to put too much stock in his own choices. I’ve been there. But Scripture just isn’t written that way. Yes we have choice, but that choice can’t gainsay God, in fact all our choice ever does is steer us in the path God wanted us to go in the first place. Uncomfortable? Yes, by nature we are man-centered things. But also incredibly freeing.

    • It is obvious that God is in charge. At the same time it is obvious that we get to make many choices in life. We actually can do what God does not want us to do. People do it all the time. Moses didn’t do what God wanted him to do in the journey to the promised land and because of it didn’t get to enter into the promised land.
      We get to chose to repent or not. Both work together. To some it might seem to be that there are contradictions, but I see a God that makes the both his will and ours work together. It is after all his rules that the universe runs by. Have a good day.

  2. Jeremy, I gave you the wrong link, didn’t I? I see you found me anyway. Sorry!

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