Often in discussions around free will and predestination, one question in particular frequently arises. Are we just robots? I hope you ask that question. Paul writes that we are predestined. So I think we’re supposed to ask that question. Of course, the Bible never uses the word “robot.” But it does refer to people as “dead in their trespasses and sins”…as if we are the walking dead, cursed people, people who love nothing.
In Ephesians 1:13-14, part of the longest sentence in the Bible, Paul writes:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
If God chose us before the foundation of the world, it means He chose us before we made any choices, which means His decision to bless us is deeper than our decision to curse Him. In fact, even our decision to curse Him is utterly dependent on His prior decision to bless us and to create us.
God does not will evil, for evil is that which God does not will. And yet it seems that He wills that we would will what He does not will…or at least know what He does not will…that is, He “subjected creation to futility,” writes Paul in Romans 8. And He “consigned all to disobedience,” writes Paul in Romans 11. And yet Paul just wrote that God “chose us to be holy and blameless before Him in love.” He chose us and predestined us in love and to love.
Robots don’t love! Love is the good choice made in freedom. That means that God chose us to choose the good in freedom; that means “we love because He first loved us”; that means a good, free will is a gift of grace; that means that if you ever did freely choose the good, you would not be responsible for the choice, and thus you’d never boast as if to “the praise of your own glory,” and thus the choice would never feel like a duty or heavy burden. In fact, you might not even know you made it.
Remember what Jesus says to the sheep on His right on Judgment Day. “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. You fed me. You clothed me. You comforted me.” And they don’t even remember doing it.
It was like they were “walking in good works prepared beforehand.”
It was like they were choosing choices chosen from the foundation of the world.
It was like they were dancing; their “right hand didn’t know what their left hand was doing.”
It was like they lost themselves and found themselves dancing—dancing to another logos, another reason, another will, the will that undergirds all creation, the good, free will called love. They didn’t remember their choices, so they sure didn’t take credit for their choices.
Can you think of an instance when you made a good, free choice and didn’t take credit for that choice? As if the choice was a gift and not a duty? You know, if you have to make yourself choose the good, you’re not really choosing the good. You’re using the good to capture something you’ve judged better than the good, like praise for choosing the good.
And what is “the good”?
A rich, young ruler said, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? God alone is good.”
That makes it clear that God is the Good.
Well, this rich, young ruler had, in his words, “obeyed all the commandments in order to get eternal life.” And yet he didn’t know what eternal life was or what the good was. For it (or He) was standing right in front of him! In order words, he had read the book that told him about the good, and now he was trying to capture the good. But he didn’t know the good, so he didn’t love the good. In fact, he was trying to use the good to the praise of his own glory, which is not good but the very definition of evil.
So Jesus looks at him with compassion and says, “Sell all your things.” Forsake all your so-called success. “Come, follow me.”
Jesus is the Life. Jesus is the Good.
But the rich, young ruler went away sad. He was trying to capture the Good with good deeds and responsible choices. And the Good would not be caught…only followed.
Why does God make people who love nothing and try to capture the Good? That is…
Why did God make you, and me?
Why do we exist?
Why did God put that tree in the middle of the garden?
Why did God let an evil, talking snake into that garden?
Why did God subject the creation to futility and consign all people to disobedience? That is…
Why is there evil in the world? Even if we chose it, God chose to make us . . . knowing full well we’d chose it, knowing we’d chose to hang Jesus on a tree.
Why do bad things happen?
Why does anything and everything happen?
The politically correct, pastoral answer is: It’s the mysterious, unknown will of God. Yet, Paul answers all these questions in this one sentence, Ephesians 1:3-14:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be [exist] to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
It’s all to the praise of His glory!
But what is God’s glory?
In Exodus 24, we learn that it’s like a consuming fire.
In Exodus 33, Moses says, “Show me your glory.” And God says, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and proclaim my name, The Lord, I Am. And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.”
So God’s glory is His goodness, and His goodness is like a word proclaimed, an eternal choice, a free choice, a free will, a decision to be gracious and merciful.
God then hides Moses in the cleft of the rock as He passes by, for He says, “No man may see my face and live.”
In 2 Corinthians 4:16, Paul writes that God gives us “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shining in the face of Christ.” We die with Him and rise with Him. God’s glory is saving people in Christ Jesus. The name Jesus means “God is salvation.”
Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is the Word of God, the free will of God, the goodness of God, and the revelation of the glory of God. All things work for the praise of His glory, and we are predestined to live to the praise of His glory.
I asked you a moment ago if you could think of an instance in which you freely chose the good and didn’t take credit for the choice.
Well, have you ever fallen in love? If you have, I bet you didn’t say this: Wow, I’m really something for having fallen in love. I deserve a reward for falling in love. It was tough, but I read a book and realized it was the right thing to do. What a responsible fellow I am!
If you actually said that, wouldn’t it be clear that you have not fallen in love? In fact, you’re using love to the praise of your own glory.
So maybe a good free will is a will that’s been smitten by love, a will that’s fallen in love with love. And God is Love, and God is Good.
Who am I to choose the good? I am the beloved.
But I only choose because I’ve been chosen, for a good free will is a will that’s fallen in love.
So maybe God creates people who love nothing and then arranges all things (works all things) according to the counsel of His will: snakes, trees, crosses, even sin and death. He arranges all things so those people would try to capture the Good. And in this way, the Good would capture their hearts.
Maybe God arranges all things so that we would fall in love . . . and God is love.
Maybe creation is the stage for billions and billions of love stories; it’s like creation is a factory for creating billions and billions of good free wills: people who once tried to capture the good but now love the Good. And God is Love.
Paul sure seems to say that one great and glorious day everyone will be in love with the Good and live to the praise of God’s glory.
Romans 11: “He consigned all men to disobedience that He may have mercy on all.”
Romans 13: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me and every tongue give praise to God.”
This devotional was prepared by Kimberly Weynen, Peter Hiett’s assistant. It is primarily a compilation of excerpts from his sermon entitled Lunatics or Why You Exist and Everything is What it is. You can read, watch or listen to the sermon in its entirety here: http://relentless-love.org/sermons/lunatics-or-why-you-exist-and-everything-is-what-it-is/