A gracEmail subscriber writes: “I have been trying to work out in my mind how God can give us free will to choose salvation and also know beforehand who will be saved. Can you explain this?”
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I cannot explain the paradox of sovereign grace and human duty any more than I can explain the Trinity, the Incarnation or the Resurrection. God’s thoughts and ways are simply higher than ours, and only a foolish person claims to understand more than God sees fit to reveal (Deut. 29:29; Psalm 131:1; Rom. 11:33-36). But let us notice some things we can understand.
Knowing about an event does not cause the event, whether that knowledge comes before or after the event. If you see a movie twice, or read a book the second time, you know already what will occur in the book or movie, but your knowing does not make it happen. However, God’s foreknowledge involved more than a divine preview of us or our lives. It meant his “knowing” us in loving relationship, when neither we nor the world yet existed (Rom. 8:29; Amos 3:2).
As for that celebrated “free will,” it just might be more illusory than we commonly suppose. The will which is enslaved to sin is really not free at all (John 8:31-34). That does not prevent genuine choice, however, or true decision-making, or ultimate accountability. The Bible talks often about human responsibility, which always grows out of an encounter with the Creator. It does not ever discuss “free will,” which is a term of the philosophers.