Can Free Will and Predestination be Reconciled?

Bill asked (last week in the side chat, a question we didn’t get to):

How do you reconcile free will with predestination as described in the Bible?

We have two principles at work here:

Principle 1:

God is in control and all things happen according to the good pleasure of His will, according to the counsel of His will. This is true both in what God directly performs, and what God allows.

Ephesians 1:5

having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

Ephesians 1:11

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will

Principle 2:

God speaks to us and deals with people with real choice, not as pre-programmed robots. From how the Bible speaks to us, we have every reason to believe that our choices matter.

Acts 2:38

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Revelation 22:17

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

Mark 8:34

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

I understand that our more Calvinistic or Reformed friends will say, “The people in Acts 2 can only repent because God leads them to repent.” Or they will say, “The people in Revelation 22 can only come because God leads them to come.” Or they will say, “The people in Mark 8 can only desire to come after Jesus because God gives them the desire.”

For the moment, let’s not contest any of that – that God must work in a person before they can repent, or come to Jesus, or desire to follow Him. Nevertheless, God doesn’t repent for a person. God may give the gift of repentance, but He won’t repent for someone – they must do it. God may draw a person, but they still must come. At some point, human response – faith; trusting in, relying on, clinging to Jesus – is essential.

I want you to notice that Bill asked about free will, and I responded by talking about real choice. I don’t like the phrase “free will” and I try to avoid it. There are many ways in which our will is not free; our will can be bound in many ways. For me, “free will” is questionable; but “real choice” is essential.

What I want to know from the reformed or Calvinistic believer is this: “Forget about free will. Tell me if men and women have real choice. Tell me if people can choose to accept or reject Jesus Christ and the good news.” If human beings don’t have a real choice – if someone believes that God’s predestination means we are programmed in some way, robots in some way – then just tell us.

So, we’re left with these two principles:

Principle 1:

God is in control and all things happen according to the good pleasure of His will, according to the counsel of His will. This is true both in what God directly performs, and what God allows.

Principle 2:

God speaks to us and deals with people with real choice, not as pre-programmed robots. From how the Bible speaks to us, we have every reason to believe that our choices matter.

Bill asked, “How do these reconcile?”

To be honest, I don’t try to reconcile them. I hold them as complimentary truths, and I believe that God (1) works all things according to His will, and (2) made human beings in His image, who have the capability and responsibility of making real, meaningful choices.

Someone once asked Charles Spurgeon, “How do you reconcile predestination and free will?” Spurgeon answered, “Why do I need to reconcile friends?”

In God’s great, sovereign plan, His predestination and the real choices of human beings work together in the accomplishing of His plan.

  • If my understanding of God’s sovereign plan cancels out the truth of our having real choice, something went wrong.
  • If my understanding of our having real choices cancels out the truth of God’s sovereign plan, something went wrong.

I’ll be honest – this works for me. I’m ok with recognizing the truth of both principles and leaving it to God to work out the details. I don’t feel that I must sacrifice one for the sake of the other. I’m sympathetic to those who feel more bothered – even tortured – by this issue, but that’s just not where I’m at.

How should I distribute tithes and offerings between more than one place?

How would I know if splitting the tithes and offerings between two places for God would be acceptable? Are there any Scriptures to show me?

This is a great question. God bless you for being a giver. God bless you for tithing and offering unto Him. I think this is glorifying to God. It reflects the heart of God for His people, that we should be generous people. God is a giver, and we should be givers.

You asked about knowing how to distribute your tithes and offerings, ways by which you can show your generosity. The Scriptures talk about this in passages like 1-2 Corinthians and the Pastoral Epistles. For example, in 1 Timothy, Paul explains that those who labor in God’s Word should receive double honor; he says that they should be compensated in a particular and special way. Obviously, the early church didn’t have many resources to support pastors and teachers of the congregation. But as much as they were able to, they regarded their support as a priority for the church.

In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul quotes from the Old Testament, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and concludes that those who labor in the Word should be rewarded by those who receive the Word. There are many Scriptures to that effect in the New Testament.

I would say that your priority in giving should be to those either in your congregation, such as the pastor who ministers the Word to you, or perhaps to other ministries which bring God’s Word to you in some way or another. The priority should be your local church and those ministries that bring you God’s Word.

The principle some Christians use is to bring their tithe, or 10%, to their local church; and what they give beyond that tithe or offering, they may distribute to other ministries which help the poor and needy, and do good in the world, in Jesus’ name, to the afflicted and disadvantaged. Those are wonderful things for believers to give unto. But I think there is a clear Scriptural priority. It doesn’t tell us exactly what that should be. Follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit for you, personally, to know what that should look like. But it should be a prioritized upon the local church where you are fed the Word of God by your pastor, and perhaps, if you want to include by extension some other ministries or outlets from which you also receive the Word of God and are fed spiritually.

I can’t give you an exact number or proportion of how much to give, but I would refer you to those relevant passages in 1 Corinthians 9 and 1 Timothy 5.

What is the difference between loving God with our heart and our soul?

We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Now, I think we must take that as an entirety. God is telling us to love Him with our entire being. I don’t think the reason for listing the different categories was so that we could separate those categories or have a different love for God in our heart than in our soul, mind, or strength. No, the idea is that we should give an entire love to God, from our entire person and our entire being. I really don’t think Jesus’ purpose or intention in that was to make a division between those things, or to get you to focus a different kind or different proportion of love to different things. The package together speaks to us very powerfully that we are to love God and honor Jesus Christ with everything that we are, in everything that we have: mind, strength, soul, heart. All those things go together.

Can the devil take our lives before our appointed time, if we depart from God’s will?

Are our lives in God’s hands always? Can the enemy take our lives before our appointed time, if we depart from God’s will for our life?

First, the devil does not hold the keys to life and death. Now, I’m not saying that the devil is unable, with permission from God, to be the agent of somebody’s death. The Bible tells us that the devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But the devil is not the ultimate power over life and death; God is.

God is sovereign over life and death. Because God has that power, we believe it’s impossible for the enemy to do that in the life of a believer. The devil has no authority over the life of a believer in any sense. God allows the devil to do what he can and cannot do. It may happen that God allows the devil to be the agent by which an unbeliever meets their death. But it only happens under the allowance of God.

Regarding believers, I do not believe that the enemy can take our lives before our appointed time if we depart from God’s will for our life. I don’t think it works that way for the believer. The power of life and death is in God; it’s not in the devil. Anything that the devil may be able to do in his terrible work of stealing, killing, and destroying, he does only under the allowance of God in a particular situation.

Is it better for a Christian to marry an unbeliever than to live together outside of marriage?

My 55-year-old believer friend wants to marry her live-in boyfriend of eight years. He’s a non-believer. Her pastor told her that it’s better to marry than to fornicate. She trusts her pastor implicitly. How do I respond?

Well, this is difficult, because this situation involves a believer living in significant compromise. There’s the option of making things better, and there’s the option of working towards making things best. I also have some questions that would be more suited to her particular life situation. I believe that there have been some situations, especially if younger children are involved, where it would be better for a believer to marry the unbeliever that they’re living with, in order to provide a better and more proper home, even though it’s not good or it’s not best that they would marry an unbeliever. Based on the age of your friend, it may be that there are no young children involved, and this may be only out of convenience. I would have to know more about the situation in question.

But certainly, the best thing would be for her to only marry another believer in the way that the Bible speaks. We understand that the Bible says that a Christian, a believer, should marry only another believer. But it’s not because those who have yet to believe upon Jesus Christ are all filthy, terrible marriage candidates, and there could never be any happiness or peace in that marriage. That’s not the reason why.

There are some people who are not yet believers, who would in fact make a good husband or wife for somebody who’s a believer. Unbelievers are not automatically disqualified from marrying believers because they’re all rotten, terrible people, and a Christian should never have anything to do with somebody who does not yet believe. No, that’s not the reason.

The reason is that if someone is truly a disciple of Jesus Christ, then the ultimate purpose and goal of their life is following Jesus and honoring Him. That’s what we mean by being a believer: somebody who is a disciple of Jesus Christ. How can they really be joined together with someone who does not have the same life purpose at all?

The biblical principles about these things need to be understood and applied in ways full of wisdom and full of awareness about the real-life situation. It would seem probably best for your friend not to marry this person, and for your friend to marry someone who is a believer. I know that’s far easier said than done. I can say that very flippantly. In this situation, there are two sins at work, honestly. You have the sin of fornication or sexual immorality, which is living with someone with whom she has not made the commitment of marriage; and you have the sin of marrying an unbeliever. Frankly, it is not always easy to know which sin should be chosen in this. Obviously, the best choice is to choose neither and instead to live in a way that would honor God. It will take a radical obedience. But this is what God calls His people to if we would be true disciples of Jesus Christ. I’m going to try to remember to pray for your friend, because it’s big thing that she’s going through. I pray that God would give her wisdom to really honor Jesus with her life.

Are trespasses and sins the same thing?

Essentially, they’re the same thing, but the wording of it indicates a slight distinction. A trespass is to go over a boundary. Think of people trespassing onto property where they shouldn’t go. Trespassing is going over a boundary that you should not pass; a line is drawn, and you cross it.

The technical definition of sin is to miss the mark. There’s a target and you miss it; you’ve missed the mark. So, they’re very similar, with a slight distinction. The same action could be described as both going over a boundary and missing a mark. The Scripture often uses these as general terms, without any emphasis on a specific aspect of it, to describe sin and its many effects.

Is Charles Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution a lie from Satan?

Is Charles Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution, a lie from Satan? Does science lie to us about macro evolution and monkeys that became humans?

Let me be specific here. I appreciate that you made the distinction in your question about macro evolution. Because the principle of evolution is true. Biological organisms on Earth evolve. That’s unquestioned. There’s a difference between what could be called “micro evolution” and “macro evolution.”

Micro evolution is where a dogs adapt, sometimes through natural selection, sometimes through purposeful or guided selection, into all different kinds of breeds and aspects of dogs. That’s micro evolution. Then there’s macro evolution, which would be something like, to use a silly hypothetical, an amoeba becoming a dog becoming a human.

Micro evolution is true; it’s glorious and should be studied to the highest extent. Macro evolution really has no concrete scientific evidence behind it, to my knowledge. Friends, I’m trying to be very transparent with you: I’m a pastor, Bible teacher, and Bible commentator; I’m not a scientist. But if there is persuasive evidence for macro evolution, meaning one species of organism literally becoming another species, like a reptile becoming a mammal, then I’m unaware of it, and it’s certainly not widely publicized, if there is such evidence for that.

So, there are aspects of Charles Darwin’s work and evolutionary theory, which are understood and true. But the aspect of macro evolution, proposing that human beings evolved from single-celled organisms over a process of thousands of years, without a god involved at all? Friends, that is a lie from Satan. And it’s been a very damaging and troublesome lie. It’s been damaging and troublesome because at one time, at least in the Western world, human beings lived with a vital awareness that they were creatures and had some responsibility towards a Creator. That understanding seems to be completely absent in the present day, and our world is not the better for it.

Therefore, I don’t believe that macro evolution is true at all. I know that there are people who try to propose the idea of theistic evolution. That proposal is very troublesome to me from a biblical perspective. I don’t buy into it at all. But again, we’re not trying to express any difficulty with the concept of micro evolution, or just simply what happens through natural selection.

What is a good Bible reading plan or devotional for the new year?

That’s a great question. I would challenge our viewers with something that I’ve often said. If you want to do something good in your reading through the Bible, get a journal or notebook with plenty of pages, and begin going through the Bible chapter by chapter. I think it’s good start at Genesis and go all the way through to Revelation. I won’t tell you how much to read every day, or to do it within a year, although January 1 is a great day to begin.

Start reading through the Bible chapter by chapter and write a one-sentence summary of every chapter of the Bible. Write it with your own hand. Even if you do it electronically, write it yourself. That’s the goal: a one-sentence summary of every chapter of every book of the Bible. It will make you read the Bible thinking, “Hey, I’ve got write a one-sentence summary of the steps. So, what’s this chapter about?” It’s kind of scary how often we read our Bibles on “autopilot;” when we’re done, we can tell you almost nothing of what we just read.

So, my constant recommendation to people in their Bible reading is read through the Bible, one chapter at a time, and to write a one-sentence summary of every chapter of the Bible. When that’s done, you’re going to have a really cool notebook. That’s why I say you should write it out with your hand, because you want a cool notebook when you’re done. But if you want to key it into your phone or whatever, it’s not nearly as satisfying, but that’s up to you. Write a one-sentence summary of every chapter of the Bible.

How do you get victory over a besetting sin?

That’s a great question. Really, it’s a discipleship question. If I were to give you a really detailed answer, it would mean sitting down with somebody over a cup of coffee and talking maybe for a couple hours and doing some deep probing about where things are at in your life. But I can give you some general principles.

First, give attention to the basics of the Christian life: reading your Bible, regular prayer, getting together with other Christians, giving your time in some way to serve God and His people. Give attention to those basics in the Christian life, even if you’re still struggling with that sin. You need spiritual strength in your life. And I believe that God has ways appointed by which He builds spiritual strength in our life. Part of that is found in the basic Christian practices of discipleship. Spending time in God’s Word, not just reading it on autopilot, but really thinking about it and meditating upon it. Scripture memorization. Remember that phrase from Psalm 119? “Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Prayer. Give attention to the basics of the Christian life.

Secondly, make sure you’re putting a genuine focus upon Jesus Christ in your life. I have experienced for myself and have seen it in many other people as well: people who are so troubled by a besetting sin that they put far more focus upon their besetting sin and a desire for victory than they put upon Jesus Himself. Friends, we should not be in that place. Keep a focus on Jesus. I’m not saying give no attention to the besetting sin; God forbid. But make sure that you’re pursuing Jesus, and that you’re relying as much as you’re able on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Give attention to the basics, put a focus upon Jesus, and thirdly, in some cases, it’s wise to make yourself accountable to another brother or sister in Christ. Accountability is not a magic bullet or a magic solution. Accountability only works as much as you want it to work, as much as you’re willing to be honest, open, and transparent about it. It also depends somewhat upon the capability of the person who’s supposed to be holding you accountable. So, accountability with another person is good. But I think it’s even more important to give attention to the basics of the Christian life, to keep a focus on Jesus, and then have some accountability.

I’ll give you one other solution. Don’t neglect fasting as you face besetting sins. Fasting is a way that we help subdue the strength and the power of our flesh. It’s a way that we tell ourselves “No” for the glory of God. Don’t neglect that as a tool to find increasing strength in the battle against sin.

Does the Bible ever tell Jews not to be circumcised or observe the Jewish feasts?

Does the Bible ever tell Jews not to be circumcised and to observe the Jewish feasts? I know it says Gentiles don’t have to live like Jews. But should Jewish people still follow Jewish traditions and feasts? Jewish people certainly have the liberty to follow Jewish traditions or feasts, but they should not feel that it makes them any more right with God. If a Jewish person wants their male children to undergo ritual circumcision, they have perfect liberty to do it. They just shouldn’t think it makes them any more right with God. They have perfect liberty to keep the feasts, especially as they are fulfilled in Jesus Christ: Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, and all the rest of them. They just shouldn’t think that it makes them any more right with Jesus Christ. That’s really what we’re talking about here. The simple truth is that we are put in right relationship with God, not by the things we do – whether by good moral works, ceremonies, or traditions – but by who Jesus is, and by His perfect obedience to the Father in what He did for us, especially at the cross. They have freedom to do as they please; if they want to observe the Jewish rituals and feasts, that’s wonderful; praise the Lord. But it just doesn’t make them any more right with God.

Why is wisdom called “she” in Proverbs?

Can you please tell me why wisdom is called “she” in Proverbs? I thought the Holy Spirit is wisdom. This is very confusing.

I don’t take that as a big deal. Wisdom is honored as a “she” just because, let’s face it, women often reflect a lot of wisdom. But it’s not being used for the Person of God. Wisdom here is being personified, such as somebody might personify faith, or goodness, or something like that. Wisdom is being personified, but it doesn’t mean that it’s saying that God is “Lady wisdom”. It’s simply a personification of a biblical virtue and pursuit. It really doesn’t reflect the Holy Spirit or any other member of the Godhead being a woman. It’s simply personifying wisdom as a woman, in the idea of “Lady wisdom,” wisdom that teaches us. For many people, real wisdom was first imparted to them by their mother.

It’s a beautiful and touching figure, to personify wisdom as a woman. But nowhere in the Bible is saying that God is equal to wisdom, or that God is the “lady wisdom,” personified in the book of Proverbs.

Does Zechariah 12:10-14 refer to Jesus as King, Prophet, Priest?

When Zechariah 12:10-14 refers to the families of David, Nathan, and Levi in mourning, is this representative of Jesus being our King, Prophet and Priest?

Yes, absolutely. This is prophetic of Jesus when Zechariah 12:10 says, “Then they will look upon Me whom they have pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for him as one grieves for a firstborn.” Absolutely. That is prophetically referring to the nation of Israel coming to Him in repentance.

Like many prophecies, it could have a near fulfillment and an ultimate fulfillment, or a lesser fulfillment and a greater fulfillment. The ultimate and greater fulfillment of this is what the Apostle Paul wrote about in Romans 9-11, of Israel eventually coming to faith in their Messiah. When Jesus looked over Jerusalem on the same day as the Triumphal Entry, He said that He would “not return to you until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

There will come a time when Israel recognizes their Messiah for who He is: Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. Yes, this is speaking prophetically of Jesus. I would recommend to you my commentary on Zechariah 12 at, or on Blue Letter Bible at, to read a more detailed explanation of what we’re talking about.

Could death be considered a form of healing?

For the believer, I would say yes, it is. When the believer passes from this life to the next, they will go to Heaven where there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering, no more weakness of the body. We are resurrected in Jesus Christ. That’s healing.

I’ll never forget what I read in one of these old Puritan commentators; I think maybe it was John Trapp. He talked about a man who was on his deathbed. He was in some pain, and his family was gathered around him. They asked him, “Well, how do you feel?” And this man said, “Almost better,” and he died soon after that. That’s grace. That’s the kind of grace I hope to have, if I’m ever on a deathbed in those circumstances, just be able to say, “Listen, I’m hurting right now. But I’m almost better. The solution to my problem is almost at hand. And that’s resurrection.”

I believe that God’s salvation for us is given to us in body, soul, and spirit. It will ultimately be completed at the resurrection, where we will have a body that will never ever again experience weakness or sickness or disease of any kind. That is ultimate healing. We are grateful that in the here-and-now God does wonderful works of healing. We’re grateful for that, and we long for God to do more of those and not less of them. But we know that, ultimately speaking, the problem of weakness and sickness and pain in this body is ultimately solved by resurrection.

Is it Biblical to “decree and declare”?

Is it Biblical to “decree and declare”, and to redeem the earth or the place we intend to be?

I’m not big on this. I would have to speak to each individual case. Could it be that God had made a specific promise to a believer, which they were able to discern by the Holy Spirit, and they stand on that promise even to the point of saying, “I declare and decree?” It could; I don’t want to exclude the possibility. But I’ll be very honest with you. To me, it seems like a lot of this is just arrogance or ignorance from Christians. It’s just big talk. They really don’t have a promise or an assurance from God. We can rest with great confidence on the promises of God. Those promises come to us primarily in and through His Word. I do believe that God can, by the Holy Spirit, communicate a promise to His people today. But that is subjective. I think Christians should be careful. We do not have dominion over the entire earth as individuals, in the sense that some people seem to think that we do. I’ll just leave it at that.

Could you recommend a book to read this new year?

Could you recommend a book to read this new year, please? Maybe something you’ve read recently that you really enjoyed.

I’m going to recommend an old book to you. Look for this book, “The Jesus Style” by Gayle Erwin. Gayle is a good friend and a godly man. Let me tell you, this is an outstanding book. It’s easy to read; Gayle has a wonderful conversational style. I strongly recommend that you read this book. It’s a great book for the new year.

Can we receive a refreshing of the Holy Spirit?

Absolutely I do. Ephesians 5 says that we should be filled with the Holy Spirit. To be honest, I’m not an expert, or have much familiarity with the New Testament Greek, but I know how to read the people who do have great expertise in it. That phrase, “Be filled with Holy Spirit,” is given in the sense that it should be a continual experience. I think that we should pray every day, “God, fill me with the Holy Spirit.” Now, it’s not in the sense that we weren’t filled before. We don’t say, “Lord, fill me with the Holy Spirit,” with a sense of denying that we’ve been filled before. We ask it in the sense of wanting to receive Him anew every day. We want to receive that filling of the Holy Spirit. As some people have put it, we are “leaky vessels” who need a continual filling of the Holy Spirit.

I would recommend that every day you make it a concerted part of your prayer to say, “Lord, I want to be filled with the Spirit today. I want to walk in the Spirit today.” That’s a great prayer to pray coming into the year 2022.

Are there apostles today?

Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 14 mention apostles being a gift to the church from Jesus. Are there apostles today?

It depends how you define “apostle.” If someone wants to define apostles as the foundational leaders of the Church, who have the authority to command the Church Universal, and whom God used to relay Scripture to the Church, no, there are not apostles like that on the earth today. And there have not been since the first century.

Someone might want to say that God has used certain people to be leaders, not only of congregations but of movements, or to be special ambassadors (the word “apostle” means an ambassador) which God has given certain to the Church throughout the generations and perhaps today in the present age. Okay, there’s some allowance for that. But here’s my problem with it. Whether people have taken the title of “apostle” upon themselves, or have received it from other people, I have never seen it happen without some weirdness involved. I’ve had people try to convince me that I’m an apostle. No, thank you. I think anybody who truly was an apostle, would have the sense to not use that title. Things get weird when the “apostle” comes in. And I don’t mean weird in the sense of crazy. But it’s like a power move or an authority move, where that person requires to be called “apostle.” That makes things weird, either for the person who’s receiving the title, or for the person who’s giving the title.

Ephesians 2:20 says that God built the church on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and we have the apostolic record right here. It’s funny. I don’t think I’m an apostle, not by any means, but I believe that I have apostolic authority when I’m preaching From the Word of God, because this is the record of the apostles and prophets. So, if somebody wants to make the argument that there are apostles today, in a lesser sense, not in the foundational New Testament sense, I think it could be true. But at the same time, I avoid the naming of it, because it just seems to make things off kilter. It causes strangeness, either in the people calling someone “apostle” or the one who receives the title of “apostle.”