How do predestination and free will work together?


How can free will exist if predestination exists, if everything is already determined by the time we are formed in our mothers’ wombs?

I would like to take a look at a portion of the Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians so that we can understand this concepts of free will and predestination and how they work together. How can man have free will if God is sovereign, especially in the area of man’s salvation? Here is how the epistle begins:

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus : 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation -having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1)

From this text, we have several affirmations about God:

  • God chose us for salvation in Christ before the foundation of the world.
  • God chose us beforehand to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ.
  • God formed a plan for our salvation in which He carried out at the right time.
  • God chose us beforehand to serve Him in praise and glory.

Now we must pay attention and be careful because all of these affirmations are valid for those who, after hearing the Word of Truth, the Gospel, BELIEVED in HIM. Here is where free will comes in to play. Many people have heard the message of the Gospel over the years but not all of them have chosen to believe. The Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross so that WHOEVER believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life. God chose those who believe in Christ beforehand and He knew them before they ever made a decision, just as the Scriptures claim:

29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8 )

God knew the people who would believe in Christ before they were ever born. He knew that they would enter the New Covenant through Christ.

There is another place in the Scriptures that I would like to take a look at, about the Antichrist and his followers.

9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. 13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (II Thessalonians 2)

The ones who are saved are the ones who believe in the Gospel, that is how they demonstrate their free will. Those who do not receive the Gospel also demonstrate their free will by rejecting the Word. One finds pleasure in obedience to God and the other finds pleasure in wickedness. Both of them demonstrate their free will. God, who is Omniscient, knew about their decisions before the foundation of the world but He did not choose for them. God does not choose for you either. How will you use your free will when it comes to God and spiritual things? Have you chosen eternal life through Jesus Christ?

Translation by: Erik Brewer