This is something that’s been causing me to stumble in my Bible readings lately. It seems to me that with some characters in the Bible, namely Judas Iscariot, God doesn’t seem to have a great plan or purpose for his life. Even though in the big picture, Judas’s life ultimately worked for the good purpose of being part of what led to the Resurrection, in respect to Judas personally, his life didn’t have a good plan at all. The Bible says that Jesus knew about Judas all along and Jesus even says it would have been better for Judas had he not been born. Yet, God is perfectly sovereign with the full power to give life and take life, but still allowed Judas to be born even knowing he was a devil and would have been better off not born. There are other examples like The Levite’s Concubine in Judges 19, where the concubine was abused and later cut up into twelve pieces for each tribe of Israel. While again God worked this out for a good purpose, it seems to me in respect to the concubine personally, her life didn’t have a good plan. My question is, can we say that looking at the big-picture level,God’s purposes in his big plan are always ultimately going to work out for good, but on an individual level, God may not have a good plan for each person who is part of that plan?
What a great question!
In my opinion this all boils down to your view of the relationship between God’s sovereign will and mankind’s freewill.
In my view man has free will, we are able to choose what we will and won’t do. God’s purposes will not be frustrated, His ends will come to pass. To some these seem like contradictory statements, but I do not believe they are.
I believe Judas had the ability to choose whether or not to betray Christ. He felt remorse after his actions which seems unlikely if he had no choice but to do what he did.
God, whose plan for salvation would not be stopped, worked through the free actions of man, in this specific case Judas, to accomplish His ends of bringing salvation through Christ.
I would also point out that if you look at Christ’s death on the Cross, if we were to pause the story there, it would appear that God did not have a good plan for him. We must keep in mind that death is not the end. We do not know whether Judas is in heaven or hell. But, if he is in heaven did God not have a good plan for him? God, in the end, I believe, will set all things right.
I know much of what I said here is controversial and I would be happy to engage with any further thoughts or questions you may have!
The only reason to give people free will is so that love can exist. If man does not have a free choice, you cant love. God does not want robots but wants a genuine father-child love relationship.
Hey @kz22 Kershin, once again, great question! I’m not sure if this will directly answer your question, but here are some of my thoughts that I hope will be a blessing! I will try to articulate it understandably enough for you.
First, I think it is important that we make a distinction between God’s plan for our lives and His purpose for us.
I believe God’s ultimate plan for our lives is for us to have communion with Him and glorify Him. Because of the fall of man in the garden, Jesus Christ came to earth, died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the grave on the 3rd day, as He said He would —to restore that relationship between God and man. Because of our sins, we can have no fellowship/ communion with God, but because and only because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, we can!
Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
True love requires sacrifice and if we are to truly love Christ, we must “sacrifice” our fleshly desires and our sins, nailing them to the cross therefore dying to sin that we might have life anew in Christ. When we have accepted His gift for us and in return walk in that love, we then have purpose. It is only because of the hope that we have through Christ that we have purpose and a higher calling, and that purpose is to know God, love Him, and make Him known.
We can only love Him because He first loved us. (see 1 John 4:19) But by that love we are called unto the purpose of knowing, loving, and making God known. And because of this, we know that all things will work together for our good and ultimately for His glory.
I hope that makes sense!
Great question and responses so far! To these excellent comments, I would add that it is important to keep the ultimate purpose of man in life - we are made to bring Him glory.
Certainly, God loves man and was even willing to send His Son to die for us, but ultimately it is about God’s purpose and His honor and glory, not mankind. We are made for Him (much of Ephesians, Revelation 4:11, I Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:6 are some particularly relevant passages). I am by no means suggesting the original poster nor those who are replied are guilty of such, but, I think in proclaiming God’s great love, it is often easy to focus more on the Creation rather than the Creator and overemphasize man’s temporal happiness rather than consider the “big picture” (obviously not fully fathomable to the human mind) of God’s plan and glory.
Kershin, it is a hard question, indeed! It reminds me of my college Introduction to the Bible freshman class. Our professor split our class into predestination and free will camps, and told each team to defend its assigned position from the Bible. After a few minutes I became impatient with this and said–respectfully, of course–“Why not both-and?” The professor replied with a twinkle in his eye, “You have to take a side.”
Romans 9 is particularly relevant to your question. Paul says that we really have no right to accuse God of injustice because he has the right to do whatever he wants for his purposes:
But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” (Romans 9:20, ESV)
This is not easy for our finite minds to reconcile with our sense of justice. Questioning it is not wrong, however, as Job attests. I take a Zen approach to this matter: we are both one hundred percent predestined and one hundred percent free to choose our paths. This is a matter of faith for me, like the Trinity. Just do not ask me to comprehend it!
This is a great question. I think of Joseph in relation to what you said about God using bad things for good. Joseph did not have an easy life. From being sold by his brothers, to accused of sexual assault and thrown in jail, to being forgotten and left in jail for many years. But what does he say at the end of it all? In Genesis 50:20 he said, “As for you, you meant evil against me but God used it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today.”
People see bad things happening and they say that it makes them wonder what God is doing. How can He allow such things to happen? What we forget often is that God is sovereign above all things. He has ordained all things for the purpose of the greatest good, His will. Yes, even the bad things are ordained by Him to happen, and out of them He brings the greatest good. Do we, or can we, always understand how? No we cannot. But one thing we can truly understand is that God is perfect. Perfectly just, perfectly good, perfectly holy, perfectly loving, and perfectly sovereign over all.
I don’t think that any of us would be comfortable with a God who is not sovereign above all things. If God is not sovereign over the bad things that happen too, then what we have is a God who is simply reacting as best as He can to the bad things we do, but who really is not in control. That is not the God we serve.
One of the things we really need to remember in all of this is that God is not the author of sin, that would not fit with His character either. He does not cause sin to be committed, however, He does let it happen sometimes though. Look at the prime example of this given in Romans 9:17-18, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power within you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the Earth.’ So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills.”
We often think of God reaching into Pharaoh’s heart and making him harden again the requests of Moses. But how would that fit? That would be God reaching into Pharaoh and making Him sin…how could He then hold Pharaoh accountable to that? That would not make sense. But the factor that we often forget is our fallenness.
God, in His divine upholding of this world, often holds back our sinful nature from fully taking control of us, from fully allowing us to live out our evil desires. We are restrained in a sense from full corruption. This is why we do not always just live pure lives of evil and darkness, because God holds us back from that fullness of destructive sin fullness. If He did not, this world would be destroyed by our evil, but it is not yet time for that to happen. In the case of Pharaoh, however, all God had to do was remove His holding power from him, and let his own sinful heart have its desires. This is what the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was. It was simply God allowing him to do what his heart desired…rebel and harden against God’s will and His people.
So, in this case, God did not author Pharaoh’s sin…Pharaoh did that himself.
When we look further into Romans 9:19-23 it states, “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory?”
If God is truly sovereign, then we need to understand that He has the power over His creation to use it for whatever His will sees fit.
Even Job thought he could make a fit argument before God. Job 23:1-7, “Then Job answered and said: “Today also my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on account of my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; he would pay attention to me. There an upright man could argue with him, and I would be acquitted forever by my judge.”
But what do we find in the end of Job, when he finally receives an answer from God? Repentance.
Job 42:1-6, “Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
God has a purpose for all people. He saves some, and not others. In either case, whether one receives justice, or receives mercy, there is not one who receives injustice.
Now, many people will scream that it isn’t fair! God should have mercy on all then! But that would imply that God is obligated in some way to save all sinners, and if He is obligated to do that, then we are no longer talking about mercy. Grace is not an obligation. If we desire true fairness, then we should all perish into everlasting torment for our sinfulness. That would be fair. But God tells us that He will have mercy on those whom He wills, and that He will harden those whom He wills. Either way, we either receive mercy, or we receive the justice we fully earn in our sinful rebellion against Him.
All this is within the council of His perfect will. In all people, whether they are repentant, or whether they are not, He has a purpose for them. He is sovereign above all, and uses all for what is truly good and right, the fulfillment of His Holy will.
How does He decide these things? How does He work all this out? I do not have the slightest idea. Nor do I really believe that I desire to have that kind of knowledge. It is enough for me to know that by His grace I am saved through faith in Christ, and that I can trust Him fully in all things. I will follow Him no matter what, and I will spread His word to all whom I can so that His Holy Spirit will continue its good work.
I hope this helps a bit to give some clarity to the issue. If not please feel free to ask any other questions you may have Kershin. I would also recommend that you look up the lectures that RC Sproul gave on the subject of free will and predestination, which are available on YouTube under the title Chosen by God. They are on the channel Ligonier Ministries. He articulates this all in a lot more depth and provides a much deeper understanding of this subject both historically and theologically.
May God grant you wisdom and understanding as you seek to grow in your knowledge of Him and His word. I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you as you seek to learn the truth that only He can give. God bless you and thank you.