I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” John 13:18-20
Jesus had twelve main disciples but only eleven would eventually spread the Gospel. The twelfth would betray Jesus to the religious authorities. None of this was a surprise to Jesus. In fact, before Judas betrayed Jesus none of the others had a clue that one of them would turn Jesus over to the authorities. But nothing surprises God; He knows everything that will ever happen before we experience it.
This foreknowledge of God causes many to be troubled. Too many think that either God chooses those who will follow Him and be saved or we have free will and make the choice on our own. What they cannot get their minds around is the both are true. God has chosen each of us to salvation before we even existed. In fact He chose us before the universe was created. Yet each of us is free to choose to follow God or not. So do we have free will or not?
The super strict Calvinist will say we have no choice, God has made His decision and we are bound by it. This reasoning leads to some unsettling conclusions. Some will choose to follow Jesus and yet if they have not been pre-chosen by God no amount of wanting will save them. Others will choose an entirely worldly like and will be saved in spite of their lives.
The strict Armenian on the other hand says it is all up to us. We make the choice and God honors it. The problem is that this take control away from God and puts it in man’s hands. Both views have problems. One forces people against their will to follow God and the others puts man in charge. Both views seem mutually exclusive. It looks like we have to choose. Of course we have one other problem; the Bible teaches that both are correct.
From our viewpoint it would seem that the Bible contradicts itself. The reason we see a contradiction is that we are trying to look at the problem from our perspective not God’s. We are trapped inside of time and we see all things in a linear stream. God, who created time, is outside time. For Him everything is now. He see all of human history in one grand view. There is no past, present or future. God sees it all and is aware of all. It is no contradiction when God chooses the ones that He knows will eventually choose Him, for God that choice has already happened even though for us it may be years in the future.
So before Judas every had a single thought of betraying Jesus, in fact before Judas even knew Jesus, Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him. That Jesus knew does not get Judas off the hook, Judas still made the choice to betray Jesus. God did not force that choice; He just knew what choice Judas would make.
If you are interested in reading further on the subject of predestination and freer will I recommend Norman Geisler’s book Chosen but Free which does a much better job than I can.
Have a blessed day,