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Predestined or Choice?
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Photo: Alistair Williamson
There’s a verse in the New Testament that says that we were “predestined” to be children of God. How does free choice fit into that idea?

Pastor Steve Answers:

I think the verse you’re referring to is either Romans 8:29 or Ephesians 1:5. In the New International Version Romans 8:29 reads, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Ephesians 1:5 reads, “He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

You can find the word “predestined” in Romans 8:30 and Ephesians 1:11, too, used in the same context as it is in Romans 8:29 and Ephesians 1:5.

Because the United States has the reputation that individual rights and opportunities are abundant, lots of people think that they can control or choose more than they actually can. Idealistic young people imagine that by choosing a career, they’ll have success in that career.

In many places in the world people don’t think about choice as much as North Americans do. For example, if you live in a caste system, the family or caste you’re born into determines your socioeconomic status for life.

Nobody asked you if you wanted to be born or where you’d like to be born, which gender you’d like to be, or who you’d like for parents. In some cultures you don’t even get to choose who you’ll marry.

On the other hand, you may have chosen to befriend somebody, but that doesn’t mean that they chose to become your friend. Or you may have chosen to go out for a sport—maybe you even practiced to make the team. But that doesn’t mean that the coach chose you to be on the team.

Let’s consider what freedom of choice we have when it comes to God and living on this planet. Earlier in the book of Romans are some keys to understanding Romans 8:29. We can find that the heathen are “without excuse” for not worshiping God (see Romans 1:18-20). We also find that the followers of God “have no excuse” for not truly following God (see Romans 2:1, 17-24). This gets summarized in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Paul goes on to explain that this is God’s way of dealing with our sin issue. In Romans 6:23 in the New Living Translation you’ll read, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord."

I think Paul is saying that you and I have earned death. It’s the wage that we deserve, because we were born naturally selfish, and we’ve made plenty of choices along the way that are either totally selfish or mixed with selfishness. But God provides a free gift. The fact that He provides the gift isn’t my choice, but I can choose whether or not I accept the gift.

Notice how Paul presents the facts that follow choices in Romans 6:16-18: “Don’t you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master? You can choose sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God and receive his approval. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you have obeyed with all your heart the new teaching God has given you. Now you are free from sin, your old master, and you have become slaves to your new master, righteousness."

This means that when God “predestined” you to become Christlike, it wasn’t a threat; it was a promise. He not only paid your wage of death so you could go to heaven with Him one day, but He’ll enter you now and transform you to become like Him! That’s God’s plan.

It’s your “choice” as to whether or not you want that package. If you choose not to accept it, that’s your choice. Just remember, choices always have consequences. Since you and I aren’t God, we don’t get to negotiate the deal. We simply get to choose what our deal will be.

I’d recommend that you read all of Romans 8. I especially like reading it in The Living Bible. Then try reading Romans 8:29, 30 in The Message Bible. Next, pray and thank God for the provision He’s made for you—including the choice you have to be His child.

I’ve found that by choosing to be a child of God, I have far more choices than I’d ever get if I didn’t choose to be His child. 

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By Steve Case. Reprinted with permission from Insight Magazine Online. Copyright © 2011 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW LIVING TRANSLATION ©.


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