Freewill is always coupled with unpredictability in human behaviour. It cannot be otherwise. God gave man freewill, therefore He has set fluidity in motion, which means that He Himself is willingly deprived from knowing the future for each human being, simply by virtue of the nature of freewill. It is not good enough to declare that God knows everything from start to finish, as though He might be able to predict even the pattern of a butterfly’s flight and wing motions. A moment’s reflection will show that if that degree of foreknowledge is part of the Divine ability, then history must perforce be mapped out beforehand, and thus would render the concept of freewill null and void. History would be mere puppetry. Making things seem as though we have the ability to make choices, there would be Someone behind the scenes who knows that to be false. Under such an economy, we should end up finding out that we never had any possibility of making choices, but had been manipulated without us knowing it, from birth to the grave. No, we cannot entertain such contradictions.
The true majesty of God may be seen by the fact that He is able to watch the progress of each unpredictable step we take, and use each outcome to mould and shape our lives to His divine purpose.
One must be careful not to mix all this up with the theology of Foreknowledge and Predestination, which have to do with God’s choice of certain people for a specific task within the Kingdom in coming days. But the nature of freewill obtains within the lives of all, whether they beof the selected company or the rest of the world. Just because a person has been selected as part of the coming Kingdom rule, doesn’t mean that the outcome is inviolate, set in stone regardless of what he may do with his time in this life.
A powerful example of this principle is clearly enunciated in the life of the Apostle Paul. After being chosen for a very special task, namely to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, and after pursuing this task to the best of his ability for some 25 years, he lands up in prison in Rome. When writing to the Philippian church from there he spoke of forgetting “everything behind” and reaching out to “that which was ahead”, with the possibility of obtaining the “prize of the high calling”. Therefore he didn’t take it for granted that he would achieve that prize. On another occasion he wrote, saying that he needed to beat his body about lest having preached to others he might end up being disqualified. Again he said that he knew the One whom he had believed, and was persuaded that He was able to keep that which he had committed to Him against that day. In other words, he was behaving like the man who, week by week, would place a portion of his earnings in a deposit account at the Bank, storing it up against the future. It was only at the tail end of his life that he was informed by the Lord that he had finished his course with joy, and that a crown of righteousness was laid up for him.
In Hebrews, believers were warned that having received such bounty from the Lord that they partook of the powers of the age to come, if then they turned their backs on all that was imparted by the Holy Spirit, they must be prepared for severe punishment, seeing that it was a gross insult to Divine Goodness. Such words could not have been written if, by “foreknowledge and predestination” it was possible for believers to adopt a careless, thoughtless, impure, and unholy life whilst still expecting the promised prize at the end of the day.
God chose Saul to be king over Israel, promised him great things, and expected him to comply with all the regulations of the Mosaic Law through his reign. But he disregarded some of these injunctions, and was disqualified from being king in the sight of the Lord. Through Samuel, we learn that God “repented from making Saul king”. That suggests a limited knowledge of Saul’s behaviour on the part of the Lord. But even so, it didn’t present insuperable difficulties to the Divine Plan. Man’s bad choices will not prevent Him from reaching His goal and his good choices will further His plans.
Examples such as these show us that God watches to see which way we shall go, and engineers our lives step by step accordingly. If we take the royal road, we enable Him to plant us ahead, but if we falter and deviate to the left or the right, then other criteria come into play by which God steers us to the best goal we can achieve. Nothing is absolutely certain through the years of our earthly sojourn. All depends on whether we walk according to the light granted us at each stage. In other words the human will is never abrogated by God, but allowed to operate without divine imposition.
Even when God calls someone for a special task, from that moment onwards the operation of the human will comes into play at each stage, determining whether he progresses towards the end God has in view, or whether he turns aside, or turns back, to a more humble, less exalted end than God would have wished for him. The fact that God is able, at each stage in our lives, to guide and direct us in accordance with the operation of our freewill, in no way diminishes the greatness of God, but rather enhances it, and shows just how amazingly capable He is of achieving His final goal for humanity regardless of all the unpredictability of mankind.
“The pattern is not set; it is fluid and constantly changing.” (Madeleine L’Engle)
The Creator who does not require things to be “set in stone” (i.e. predestined in this sense) is greater than a God who knows everything in advance. The Lord acts upon the basis of human decisions and actions deriving from his freewill to choose. Examples of this law of consequences are as follows –
- Abraham’s obedience over Isaac, and the blessing as a result. Gen 22:16-18
- Eli’s disobedience, and the loss of priesthood. 1 Sam.2:30, 3:12-14
- Reuben’s defilement of the concubine, and loss of firstborn privilege. Gen.49:3-4, I Chron.5:1
- Cain’s refusal to repent, and his loss of firstborn privilege. Gen.4:11-12
- Noah’s righteousness saved him and his household from the flood. Gen.6:9
- Lot’s wife’s disobedience caused the loss of her life. Gen.19:26, Luke 17:32
- Ananias and Sapphira’s falsehood led to their untimely death. Acts 5:1-11
- Israel’s cry for deliverance brought forth God’s saving hand through Moses. Exod.3:9
- God’s promise of the land was forfeited because of the spies’ evil report. Num.14:11-25.
- God chose Saul to be king, but he disobeyed, and lost his kingship. 1 Sam.15:11
- Man was created to fill the earth, but due to violence the flood came. Gen.6:6-7
- Judas Iscariot was chosen to be one of the 12, but lost his place due to betrayal. Acts 1:25
- Abraham pleaded with the Lord over Sodom, and obtained a promise. Gen.18:24-33
- Elijah prayed for drought, and then rain, and was heard by the Lord.Jas.5:17-18, 1 Kings 18:42-45, Luke 4:25 The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Jas.5:16
- David’s prayer caused the Lord to repent over the destruction of Jerusalem. 2 Sam.24:16
In Abraham’s case, the blessing was extended through generations, whereas in Eli’s case the promised blessing of priesthood was withdrawn. One cannot take God’s promises as though set in stone. They depend for their fulfilment on human obedience or disobedience.
Joel 2:13-14. Rend your hearts and not your garments . . . who knows whether the Lord will repent and leave a blessing. A clear example of this was the repentance of Nineveh at the preaching of Jonah. God waits for man’s response, and then acts accordingly.
Jesus said, “Ask, seek, knock”. Matt 7:7-11. But in Jas.4:2 we read, “You have not because you ask not”. Those who wait upon the Lord shall mount up on eagles’ wings . . . Isa.40:31 The outcome of situations depends upon the response of man to God in prayer. When God receives the awaited response, He then acts accordingly.
Choose you this day whom you will serve. Joshua 24:15
You will see me no more until you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Matt.23:39, Luke 13:35. From Psalm 118:26
If any man wills to come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me. Matt.16:24 This shows the operation of man’s freewill to choose. The rich young man was given that choice, but went away, and this caused the Lord’s sadness. See Mark 10:21 (Jesus loved him) Matt.19:22. Examples such as this prove the total error in the Calvinist dogma of election. One might also bring forward Rev.22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say Come; and he who is athirst, let him come, and he who will, let him take the water of life freely. Also, in the parable about the wedding supper, (Matt.22:1-14) the King tells His servants to go into the highways and hedges and compel people to come to the supper. Such language is utterly at variance with the Calvinist concept of election. No one doubts that “election” exists, and has Scriptural warranty, but the subject of election is not understood.
The days of creation are prophetic of God’s timetable, but important events do not necessarily fall at the exact millennial boundaries. There is instead what may be called a “cluster effect”. This shows that although God has a timetable for His purposes, no one can predict exactly when things will happen. The most important example of this comes from the Lord’s statement about His return. “No man knows the day of the hour, neither angel, nor man, nor even the Son, but only the Father.” See Matt.24:36, 25:13. But Peter tells us that by our good behaviour we may “hasten” the day of the Lord. This shows the interaction between God’s will and purpose, and the human freewill. See 2 Peter 3:12 and Luke 12:36.