“…I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose life in order that you may live, …”
NASBu  Deuteronomy 30:19

“Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.”
NASBu  Jeremiah 10:23

SAB Contradiction 188

The Problem

All theologians accept that man has free will in many matters, but in several matters there is no free will.  I am free to choose my style in clothing, or whether I travel by train or by car.  The question is: Am I free to not sin?  “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” (Romans 7:19)  Every human being is submitted to a universal moral law and often we don’t obey to that.

Ability to exercise free will

The Bible teaches that this is all the result of the Fall of Man.  Without Christ we are compelled to transgress, while we don’t like it. So according to the Bible: Yes, there is a free will given in Paradise; and No, living in the Fall of Man practically there is often no free will in not transgressing the law.  For not transgressing we are in need of grace.  The question is not only “Do Humans have a free will?”  The answer is “Yes”.  But equally important is the question: “Are Humans able to use their free will properly?”  The answer is “No, they are not!”  Let’s look at the texts from these perspectives.


Partly right.  “…I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, …”. (Deuteronomy 30:19, also Joshua 24:15) 
Apparently there is a free will. But by hearing the words of God the listener is brought in a position of grace and by that he is able to choose for life.  God’s word gives the listener the power to use his free will properly  Or as Jesus said: “If you continue in my word … you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32)


Partly right.  All the quoted texts refer to special aspects of the above painted picture of the free will that is limited by the moral law.
– Jeremiah 10:23: “Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.”  Jeremiah refers to practical limitations and to moral laws, which are often not possible to fulfil by BEHAVIOR but by GRACE, according to Biblical doctrine.

What about predestination?

– Acts 13:48  “…and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”  What about predestination as also in Romans 8:29-30, 9:11-22, Ephesians 1:4-5, 2 Timothy 1:9?
These texts are often explained by personal predestination, a strong doctrine of Calvin (a respected reformer, who is not followed by many in this respect, also not by the present writer).  It would mean that (1) some would be saved – due to their predestination and that (2) others would not be saved as God once decided for them to be lost.  It is a matter of debate whether Calvin intended these implications, nevertheless many Calvinists arrive at these consequences.  The question remains: What is the meaning of these texts?  
– Acts 13:48  “…and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”  It is clear that  belief makes the difference here and not predestination. It is my view that God has appointed everybody to eternal life, but not everybody will accept that, due to free will (with the implication to choose wrongly).  This instance means, in my view, that all the hearers present at that special occasion came to believe.  Many read this passage as personal predestination and the “result” is belief.  However considering verse 47 we may read this contextually as general predestination: “I have placed you as a light for the gentiles.” (not for some gentiles)
– Romans 8:30  “… and these whom He predestined [prohoridzõ, selected], He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” This is not to be taken as predestination from the foundation of the world as in Calvinism, but as active selection.  “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Example of Paul himself

Let’s look at the life of Paul himself.  Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus when he was in prayer as it was at noontime (Acts 22:6), prayer time for Pharisees.  In this occasion he was appointed (selected) to an apostle by Christ himself (“to appoint you to a minister and witness” Acts 26:16) and called (“the Gentiles to whom I am sending you” Acts 26:17-18) and justified (“he got up and was baptized” Acts 9:18) and glorified (“and was strengthened” Acts 9:19).  Paul’s example shows that there is a personal divine calling for everyone who accepts Christ as Lord and Savior.  And this personal plan can be found in calling, in justification and glorification, that is in the calling of God’s Word, in the forgiveness of sins and in the joy of New Life in Christ.

Paul’s prayer brought him to Christ; having heard the testimonies of his former prisoners and their quotes of the law and the prophets he had been brought in a position of grace and the ability to use his free will.  Instead of hardening his heart he used his free will to surrender to God in prayer.

Esau and Jacob

– Romans 9:11-13  “11 …for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”

Mistranslation: “I hated”, must be “I disparaged, underestimated”.
The prophesy “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER,” was given to Rebecca when she was already pregnant with the twins.  So this prophecy was not a sort of predestination or election, but an “observation” of the Lord who saw the hearts of the boys already when they were in the womb of their mother.  They had both their free will, but also their personal character.  
[In retrospect we may say that it was God’s plan – in the conception – for Esau as well as for Jacob to become images of the coming Messiah. The first (Esau) was elected to serve like Jesus who said “I came to serve, not to be served.” The second (Jacob) was to be elevated, but he didn’t know that this would be through pain, like the Messiah on the cross. He tried to elevate himself, but he didn’t succeed. Together, Esau and Jacob were appointed to give a complete picture of the coming Messiah.]
– Romans 9:14-18  Concerning Pharaoh; “… He hardens whom He desires.” Pharaoh himself hardened his heart en God indirectly did as He continued his plan to set His people free.. See the article: Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart?

General predestination

– Ephesians 1:4-5  “… just as He chose [exelexatõ] us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined [prohoridzõ, selected] us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself …”  In the beginning ‘man was created in the image of God’, to this is referred in verse 4, that is a general predestination of mankind.  Now Christians may partake in this general predestination and then it becomes personal.  The general predestination is followed by a personal selection, verse 5: “In love he has selected (prohoridzõ) us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ himself.”  Hearing the Gospel is becoming in a state of grace to freely surrender to God. 
– 2 Timothy 1:9  “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose …”  Again each Christian being saved receives a holy calling, which is not against the free will but part of the freely chosen faith.

Bible Contradictions?

Is there a free will?  Yes.  Is there is also the Fall of Man?  Yes.
In Biblical respect it is not appropriate to speak about the Free Will without the Fall of Man.  The Fall was a result of the Free Will.  Today there is always an area of tension between the two.  But that doesn’t mean that we have to do with conflicting biblical contradictions.  Not at all.


No Bible Contradiction