Judas, Satan, Foreknowledge, Choices

I had a person forward me some questions from a family member last week.  They aren’t what I call “Sunday School” questions… they’re a little deeper (To say the least).  I thought it might be worth posting the response just as I sent them to him.  Up front I admit that I don’t answer the questions completely because I’m not that smart (They have been discussed and argued by theologians for hundreds of years).  I’m also confident that those who read these Q & A might have a different view.  If that’s the case, I plead Romans 14:1-5

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

Was Judas’ Choice Determined?

What Judas did (Betray Christ) was prophesied about in the Old Testament… thus it WOULD take place (Luke 22:21-22; John 17:12).  Judas had a choice… but it was predetermined.  Let me use another Apostle as an example… Peter.  Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times before the rooster crowed.  Now… since Jesus is God, was there any chance of it NOT happening?  No.  Now… each time did Peter then have a choice?  YES.  Jesus did not look into the future to see what would happen.  If he had done that then he would have gained  knowledge… which contradicts his Omniscience (All knowing), and that would make Christ less than God.  Somehow… someway… in God’s secret counsel… BOTH are true.  Peter’s denial WOULD happen… but each time he had a choice.  I don’t completely understand HOW those work together, but God does.

Was Satan’s Choice (Rebellion) Determined?

If he is asking about Satan’s choice to rebel against God as the original sin… “The Five I Wills Of Satan” (Isaiah 14:12-17)… my answer would be that we’re not told in the Scripture.  My best informed guess would be in keeping with what the Scripture does record as found in: Isaiah 46:9-10; Daniel 4:35-36.  There is a sense in which nothing happens apart from God’s sovereignty, providence, & control.  Sometimes He CAUSES… sometimes He ALLOWS… but either way He works everything in accordance with His ultimate will to bring about His ultimate glory.

God’s Perfect Foreknowledge…

The idea of foreknowledge in reference to God… in the Scripture… is not that he looks into the future to see what is going to happen and therefore knows what will happen.  If that were the case God would no longer be God because he LEARNED something He didn’t previously know.  Whenever God’s foreknowledge is used in Scripture it is always in relation to people… not necessarily their actions (“Whom He foreknew…”).  There are some Biblical Scholars (Did you get that?) who say that the reason God foreknows any and everything is because He ordains them… not because he looks into the future to see what will happen.  As for their thought, it certainly makes sense… but it is hard to get my arms around at times.  So here’s my thought…

Whatever brings God the most glory when I try to understand Scripture, that I believe.  If/when man is elevated toward or equal with God, I reject such a notion.

How God’s foreknowledge works together with our human will is a mystery.  This much I know… God is God and I’m not.  Therefore I try to keep things as simple as possible… which for me means to encourage people in THEIR relationship to God through Jesus and worry about the “questions” later.  Consider Matthew 11:25-30.  In 11:25-27 the truth of how people come to understand God is straight forward… it is in GOD’S hands.  Then right after that in 11:28-30 Jesus gives a UNIVERSAL call… “Come to me ALL YE who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest!”  In these few verses both God’s sovereignty and the universal call for all to be saved are presented side by side.  Therefore I believe BOTH OF THEM.

Regarding The Choices We Have…

Check out these passages: Ezra 6:22; Proverbs 16:1; Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 21:1.  Somehow that I don’t completely understand… man is free to choose AND God is 100% sovereign… AT THE SAME TIME.  God never forces anyone to do anything against their will, but EVERY TIME man’s choices fulfill God’s plan.  Again… I can’t get my arms completely around that, but that is what presented in Scripture.  I know this… I make choices and God holds me responsible for them (That is true of everyone).  AT THE SAME TIME God is NEVER overruled by what man does or chooses.  If anyone (Satan, Judas, Peter, Us) could frustrate the plans of God and keep Him from accomplishing His will (Isaiah 46:9-10), He would no longer be God.  I’m not willing to go there…

Well… there you go.  I hope I didn’t muddy the water too much.  Your cousin is asking questions that theologians who are much smarter than either of us have wrestled with for centuries.  Thus there comes a point where we throw up our hands in worship of God like Paul did in Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid?” 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

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