Category Archives: God

God’s Foreknowledge and Man’s Free Will

The basic question this study will attempt to very briefly and incompletely answer is “Does God’s foreknowledge preclude man’s free will?” Some say it does. They see a dilemma between the two concepts. Others argue that God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will are perfectly compatible.

First of all, the Bible clearly teaches man has free will. Many scriptures could be adduced which demonstrate that man has the freedom to either obey or disregard God’s will. For instance, Joshua charged the children of Israel, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Josh. 24:15). Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). Upon hearing Jesus’ teaching, “the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him” (Luke 7:30). On and on the list could go. Each example shows that man has a real choice of various and sundry options.

Those who argue that God’s foreknowledge does preclude man’s free will argue that if God knows what is going to happen in the future, then nothing else can happen but what He knows. If nothing else can happen, then man cannot be truly free but must do what God already knows. If we could do something other than what God already knows, the argument goes, then God would be wrong and, thus, not omniscient and, thus, not God. In order to get around this alleged dilemma some argue that God limits His knowledge of some future events. By limiting His knowledge, they argue, this allows man to exercise free will.

However, the Bible just as clearly teaches that God is omniscient. The Bible teaches that God’s knowledge is infinite (Psalm 147:5). God knows the secrets of men and the thoughts of their hearts (Psalms 44:21; 94:11). The thrust of Psalms 139 is that there is nothing that God does not know. Job finally was made to understand that no thought can be withheld from God (Job 42:2). There is no searching of God’s understanding (Is. 40:28). God knows what things we have need of even before we ask (Matt. 6:8). He searches all hearts and understands all imaginations of the thoughts (I Chron. 28:9). The Lord asks, “Can any hide himself that I cannot see?” (Jer. 23:24). He knows all of His works from the beginning of the world (Acts 15:18). And God even declares “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” (Isa. 46:10).

How, then, can this seeming paradox between God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will be harmonized? Consider the following.

First, it helps to understand God’s relationship to history. God is not part of the time line of human history waiting to see what unfolds. From the scriptures above, God clearly stands outside of time, above time as it were, looking down on our history. At any one moment, we see but a very thin, incomplete slice of time and space from our finite, fallible human perspective. But God sees everything, everywhere that happens at all times. Because God sits on this lofty perch, He can see the choices that people are making in the future just as He can clearly see the choices made by people of the past, and just as He can clearly see the choices made be people of the present time.

To be clear, it is not that He is forcing these choices, but He observes the choices of free will agents. In other words, the problem with the Limited-Knowledge Position is that it assumes that which it is trying to prove–namely, that if God foreknows a thing, then there is no free will. This can be seen when one understands that the event happens not “no matter what I do,” but precisely because it is what I decided to do! In other words, it happens not because God foreknows it, but God foreknows it because it is what happened!

Second, if knowing what happens in the future precludes man’s free will, then why doesn’t knowing what happened in the past preclude man’s free will also? I ate a cheeseburger today. I know this. Does that mean now that I had no choice in it? That I could have done nothing else? It is true that now I could make no other choice, because I have already eaten the cheeseburger, that time is passed. But God sees the future just as we see the past. For God to know what I will do in the future no more precludes my free will tomorrow than my knowing the past precludes my free will yesterday!

Finally, the case for God’s limited knowledge must overcome an extremely formidable obstacle–-the scriptures. Not only is God’s word replete with refined statements on the extent of God’s knowledge, it is also filled with examples of God’s foreknowledge of events and choices of men which in no way limited man’s free will actions.

In concluding, let me mention just one example. It was God’s will that all in Noah’s day repent of their sins. Inspiration tells us that God was longsuffering and waited in the days of Noah (I Pet. 3:20). Noah preached for 120 years to bring man to repentance (Gen. 6:3; II Pet. 2:5). Yet in God’s foreknowledge, He had Noah build an ark that would only hold Noah and his family (or at least a very few people) and two of every kind of animals. God said “the end of all flesh is come before me” (Gen. 6:13). God foreknew that everyone else would reject the truth. While God sent Noah preaching righteousness to the world that then was, He had Noah build an ark that would not accommodate every person in the world. If God could not have known or limited His knowledge of the future moral choices of all the individuals in the world, then, for all God knew, every individual may have repented.

So much more could be said, but to summarize: The Bible teaches that God is omniscient and it also teaches that man has free will. These two concepts are not contrary one to the other.

Eric L. Padgett

The High Calling Of God

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14)

Many people today claim that they are called of God by some mysterious, inner voice which only they can discern. For instance, one website states, “When I was younger, I just knew God wanted to do something special with my life…To feel called by God is to serve God by loving people.” Another website asks “How can you know whether God is calling you to conversion? Begin by asking yourself what, if anything, is changing in your outlook toward life, especially in the way you think.” Those who think they are called of God in this mysterious way fail to understand how the Bible teaches God calls individuals.

The Bible very plainly teaches that God calls not just some of us but all of us. It is a universal call. This call comes not through some “feeling” or “life change,” but through the gospel of Christ (II Thess. 2:14) and the gospel is to be preached to everyone (Mark 16:15,16). Therefore all men are amenable to the gospel of Christ, not just some, and all men everywhere receive this divine call (Acts 17:30,31). This call is not mysterious but clear and clearly defined in the word of God (Matt. 11:28-30).

This call is described as the “high calling of God.” This word translated “high” means “upward or on the top.” It is translated “brim” in John 2:7. The water pots were to be filled to the brim, to the very top. Everywhere else it is translated “above.” We are to set our affections on things above, for instance, and not on things on the earth (Col. 3:1,2). When something is described as “high” it means it is at the apex or the zenith. There is nothing higher or more important or more special. The gospel call is certainly the most important call there is. To respond to God’s invitation of salvation is the most important thing one can do in life.

It is a high calling because it comes from God. If some important person were to call upon us to do something, we would not hesitate to do it. We would be honored that they thought to call upon us. And yet, there is no one more important than God. But when He calls, so many either shun Him or begrudgingly respond to His call. It seems many value more a mere mortal request above that of a divine one. But because this call comes from the throne of God, it is, indeed, both a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1) and a holy calling (II Tim. 1:9).

We should never mistake our own conscience for God’s voice. Our conscience can be defiled (Tit. 1:15) or seared (I Tim. 4:2) or evil (Heb. 10:22). God’s voice does not come mysteriously, in some better-felt-than-told experience. God’s voice is objectively written down for us and all to see, read and hear. We do not have to guess at what God wants us to do; we just need to read and understand it (II Tim. 2:15).

May we press toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Eric L. Padgett

Good Change, Bad Change

Change! Everything nowadays seems to change. I guess this has always been true. The leaves change, seasons change, fashion changes, individual people change, looks change, technology changes, tastes change, moods change, landscapes change, cities change. Even slick politicians promise us “Change!” The list could go on. But change for change’s sake is not a good thing in most instances. All change is not good. There are some things that should not change and that don’t change.

For instance, God does not change. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Psalm 90:2). Yes, people may change over time, because they are less than perfect. But God, being perfect, cannot change, lest He be less than perfect. Nor does Jesus Christ change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). It is good that God does not change because this provides stability for us in our lives and world.

God’s word does not change. Heaven and earth will pass away before God’s word ever changes (Matt. 2:35) and even then there is not a chance of it changing because it, too, is perfect. “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever” (Psalm 12:6,7). The law of the Lord is perfect and therefore does not change (Psalm 19:7). Truth does not change.

Morality and right and wrong do not change. Some people think that what was moral in the first century is no longer moral, that there is no objective, moral standard of right and wrong. But since God provides the standard through His word of what is right and wrong, and since neither God nor His word changes, then moralty and right and wrong do not change. What was morally wrong two thousand years ago, even six thousand years ago, is still wrong today and will always be wrong. The Psalmist declared, “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth” (Psalm 119:142; cf. Psalm 119:60).

Furthermore, the Lord’s church does not change. The same church that was established by the Lord on the first Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection (Acts 2; Matt. 16:16-19) is the very same church which will be translated into heaven without spot or blemish (Eph. 5:27). There are many who try to change her, who try to lower her standards, who try to make something of her she was never intended to be, but the Lord’s church remains the same because the gates of hell cannot prevail against her (Matt. 16:19).

All these things do not change. Some men want to change them, some men try to change them, but God’s will resists those feeble attempts. Those who try to change them, however, who try to add to or take away from them, will meet with unwelcomed and unbearable reprisal (Rev. 22:18,19).

What does need to change is the heart of man. The heart of every man needs to be set free from an evil conscience (Heb. 10:22). Men want life their own way on their own terms, but the way of man is not in himself (Jer. 10:23). It is man that left God and, thus, needs to be reconciled unto Him, not the other way around (II Cor. 5:19ff). This is good change, when men turn back to God. We need more of this kind of change.

Eric L. Padgett

Show Us The Father

“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18).

The Creator of all things is not visible to the corporeal eye (Col. 1:15; Heb. 11:27). No time in human history has any mere mortal man seen God as He is, having never seen His shape nor heard His voice (I John 4:12; John 5:37). God has manifested Himself to man in various ways, as when Moses saw God’s “back parts,” (for no man can see His face and live–Ex. 33:20-23), or when He appeared to Abraham on the plains of Mamre (Gen. 18:1-19:1), or when He appeared to the prophets (i.e., Is. 6:1-13). But God Himself, as God, has never been seen by merely mortal eyes.

And yet, men have seen God in a way that is perhaps just as clear. The Lord said, when asked by Philip “Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us” (John 14:8), “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:9). This statement of Jesus cannot mean that The Son and the Father were numerically identical for on other occasions the Father spoke from heaven while the Son was on the earth (Matt. 3:13-17). Nor does it mean that Jesus’ physical body is what the Father looked like, for God is a spirit (John 4:24) and a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39).

The Bible teaches that Jesus “hath declared Him” (John 1:18). Jesus is “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). Just as the sunshine reveals the sun, so does Jesus reveal the Father. Jesus said “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19). “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30).

In everything Jesus did, He acted as would the Father (John 8:28). Just as the Old Testament was written for our learning (Rom. 15:4), the Gospel Record reveals to us, not only the historical account of Jesus of Nazareth, but they afford us a look into the divine nature itself. How do I know the love of God (John 3:16)? By looking at how Jesus loved. Jesus said “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). How do I know the purity of God (Hab. 1:13)? I can see it in the sinlessness of Jesus (Heb. 4:15). How do I know the power of God (Ps. 147:5)? I can see it in the miracles of Jesus (Mark 4:41; John 3:1,2). All that can be known of God can be seen in Jesus (John 10:30)

Jesus reveals the Father in both His actions and His words. “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (John 6:45). To hear Jesus is to hear the Father! To hear and follow the Son of God is to be able to partake of that divine nature which Jesus manifested to us. Peter said “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Peter 1:3-4). Through the knowledge of Him we can fellowship, participate in, the divine nature!

How sublime a thought. Our mortal eyes may have never seen the Father, but we know Him nevertheless. Not only do we know Him, but we partake of His divine nature. We become one with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ, and through this the world may be led to believe in Jesus (John 17:21).

Eric L. Padgett