Introduction: One of the most interesting topics is the apparent
conflict between human free-will and the foreknowledge of God. This
is not one of those subjects that is fun to debate, but makes
absolutely no difference in life. Instead, this is an issue that
goes to the heart of the gospel story. Let me give you an example.
If God knew that Jesus would not sin and would defeat Satan at the
cross, then God did not risk His Kingdom to save us. If God knew
that Jesus would not sin, then how could Jesus have sinned? This
suggests that Jesus was not tempted like we are tempted. Let’s
plunge into our study of the Bible and see if we can find some
satisfactory answers!

  1. God’s Omniscience

    1. Read Isaiah 44:7, Isaiah 46:10 and Daniel 2:28. What does
      God say about His foreknowledge? (That He knows the
      future and others do not.)

    2. Read Psalms 139:1-3. What does this say that God knows
      about us? (He has a GPS on us! He keeps track of my

    3. Read Psalms 139:4. What does this say about God? (This is
      much different than just keeping track. God knows what I
      will say before I say it!)

  2. God’s Omniscience and Human Free Will

    1. Read Jeremiah 1:4-5. What does this teach us about God’s
      knowledge about our future?

      1. Notice that God says to Jeremiah that before he was
        born God not only set him apart, but God appointed
        him to be a prophet. What does this say about
        Jeremiah’s free-will? How can Jeremiah be a free
        moral agent if God chooses him before he is born,
        and pre-selects him for the job of speaking for God?

    2. Read Genesis 22:1-3. Did God know in advance whether
      Abraham would obey? (The texts we have previously studied
      would say, “yes.”)

      1. If God did know in advance, did that affect
        Abraham’s free will?

    3. Read Genesis 22:9-12. Did Abraham obey God?

      1. Look again at verse 12. How can God say, “Now I
        know” if God already knew? (I’ve read some “fancy”
        explanations for this, but this plainly suggests
        that God did not know until Abraham raised the knife
        above Isaac.)

    4. Read Job 1:6-12. How well does Satan know God? (No doubt
      better than any human.)

      1. If Satan understands that God knows the future, why
        would he enter into a contest like this? Would you
        bet against someone who knew the future? (The only
        reasonable conclusion is that Satan knows that God
        does not force our free-will. That means that Job
        could have cursed God and Abraham could have refused
        to sacrifice Isaac.)

    5. How important is free-will to you? (Frankly, I would be
      glad to give up some aspects of my free-will. In those
      areas of my life where I struggle with the same sin, it
      would be nice not to have to worry about falling into the
      old cycle of sinning and repenting.)

      1. My guess is that you agree with me. If so, for whom
        is free-will important? (Certainly Satan would argue
        it is important, otherwise he does not have a “fair”
        fight. Free-will is probably most important to God.
        He wants people to love Him voluntarily, rather than
        being like robots, without free-choice. If God
        wanted robots He could have created them in the
        first place.)

    6. If we all agree that we have free-choice, God does not
      control our decisions, and Satan could reasonably wager
      with God about a person’s future, how can God say that He
      perfectly knows the future? (I’ve got two illustrations
      that might help.

      1. First, think about a chess game. Although the
        players have free choice on what moves they will
        make, you could list all of the possible moves.
        Those moves have consequences, so you could list all
        of the possible consequences. Thus a really powerful
        computer could “know” what the future is for every
        move, without knowing what specific move the player
        would make next.

      2. Second, assume you are sitting in a big, round,
        above-ground swimming pool with no water in it. On
        the outside of the pool is the history of your life
        from beginning to end. You cannot see this while
        sitting in the pool, but you can get up and look to
        see any point in time in your life. Would it be fair
        to say that you “knew the future?” You could always
        look and know. But, you could also refrain from
        looking. Science suggests that time is curved. If
        God stands outside of time, He can move back and
        forth and “look” at any point to view the past or
        the future.)

    7. What is wrong with my illustrations? (Read Isaiah 55:9.
      You may have many ideas about what is wrong with my
      explanations, but the main problem is a mere human trying
      to explain and understand God. We are not up to it!)

  3. The Importance of Foreknowledge

    1. Read Daniel 2:25-28. Who does Daniel say is the source of
      knowledge about the future? (God. God spoke through
      Nebuchadnezzar and through Daniel.)

    2. Read Daniel 2:31-35. If you are not familiar with this
      story, read the rest of the chapter. What does this
      statue mean? (It is an illustration of the future. It
      predicts the coming rise and fall of world empires right
      up until the end of the world.)

    3. Read Daniel 2:46-47. What did Nebuchadnezzar think was
      significant about God’s knowledge of the future? (It
      demonstrates that we serve the God of gods.)

    4. Read Daniel 2:19-22. What did Daniel think was
      significant about God’s knowledge of the future?

    5. Why is God’s knowledge (and control) of the future
      important to you?

      1. Is there any downside to believing that God knows
        and controls the future? (If my children are killed
        in an car accident, I can blame God.)

        1. Do you agree? (God’s knowledge and control over
          the future has to be balanced against human
          free-will, our free-choice. There is a tension
          between the two.)

  4. History as Conflict

    1. Read Revelation 12:7-9. Did God have complete control
      over this historical event? (This is an excellent example
      of the conflict between free-will and God’s control over

    2. Read Revelation 12:10-12. Why are we in the middle of
      “woe?” (Because an angry and energetic Satan is in our

    3. Read Revelation 12:17. Why do bad things happen on earth?
      (Because Satan is loose, angry and has a limited time to
      get his way.)

    4. Let’s go back to the story of Job. Could Job have ever
      guessed what was the reason for all of the problems in
      his life? (I doubt it. The debate between Job and his
      friends was over whether Job deserved what was happening
      to him. He said he did not, and they said that he
      obviously did.)

      1. If Job had known the real reason for his problems,
        would it have made it easier for him?

      2. Should we always view life in the context of the
        conflict between good and evil?

    5. Let’s go back to the questions I raised in the
      introduction. Could Jesus have sinned? (Yes. If we have
      free-will, so did He.)

      1. Did God know whether Jesus would sin? (He could have
        known. He could have known in the “chess board”
        sense, or He could have known by looking. But,
        whatever the explanation for God’s knowledge, His
        knowledge does not conflict with free-will.)

      2. When Jesus was on earth, did He know that He would
        not sin? (I doubt that He did.)

    6. Friend, does this discussion help you? God gives all of
      us free-will. God has the future open to Him, and He can
      control the future. However, He did not control our
      free-will, and that results in some bad things happening
      that are not God’s will. The most important question for
      us is this: will we trust God while understanding that we
      live in a sinful, conflicted world?

  5. Next week: The Promise of Prayer.