“…the objects of His wrath—prepared for destruction… the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory…” (Romans 9:19-29, NIV)
Predestination or free will of man, which is it? In today’s passage, Paul seems to side with the idea of predestination. He writes, “What if God, choosing to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience the objects of His wrath—prepared for destruction? What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory—even us, whom He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” Paul seems to argue that God had “prepared beforehand” some people as “the objects of His mercy” and others as “the objects of His wrath.” Basically, the idea of predestination implies that God prepared all things in advance so that He, not only knew but predetermined who will be saved and who will not be saved before the foundation of the world. On the other hand, the idea of the free will of man implies that although God created the world, He does not interfere with man’s decisions so that whether one will be saved or not is determined by each one’s choice. If God predestined all things, then we have no free will. However, if we have free will, then God could not have predestined all things. Hence the Christian dilemma. These ideas dictate how one sees all of life’s happenings such as marriage partners, careers, triumphs, and tragedies. Some even take predestination of God to the extreme to say that God even predestines us to wear a certain color shirt, eat certain food for breakfast, or which greeting we will use to greet our friends. So which is it? Did God preordain all things? Before we jump to any conclusion, look at the second part of today’s reading and you will see that Paul fancies the idea of free will man also. He explains that not all Israel will be saved but a “remnant” who were faithful to God and the Gentiles who would believe in Him. So, if God will save Jews and Gentiles based on their faith, doesn’t that say the choice is up to us? Paul further writes in the next chapter, “For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom.10:13-15) If God predestined all things, how can the Scriptures say, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved?” And why does God need to send a “preacher” to “preach” if those who are going to be saved and not saved are prepared beforehand? Apparently, Paul believes in both ideas very strongly and teaches them both with equal importance. They are not even 50-50 percent true. Both are 100 percent true. It’s not a matter of which is it. It is both and. Imagine yourself getting on a bus and the sign on the outside says, “Whoever will enter,” but once you are in the bus you turn around to see another sign that says, “You have been predestined beforehand.” It will not make sense to us, but it makes perfect sense to God. So how should Christians treat predestination and free will of man? I would like to propose that, while you live on this side of heaven, you believe wholeheartedly that God prepared all things in advance, but also behave wholeheartedly as if every choice is up to you.