“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col 2:8), “But ye have not so learned Christ” (Eph 4:20). Many “theologians” are simply philosophers in disguise that cloak their philosophy as Christian doctrine, thereby deceiving many. Rather than gleaning the truth from the Scriptures and submitting to it, they use the Scriptures to proof-text their philosophy. Their doctrine is “not after Christ.” Therefore, it isn’t Christian doctrine.
By philosophical reasoning, theologians have created for themselves a “God” that is an impossible being. He sees the past, present, and future concurrently and simultaneously just the same. He has always known and always will know everything there is to know and even knows every possible outcome of every contingency of everything that never even happens. He “can’t not know anything” or ever come to the knowledge of anything He didn’t already know or else He wouldn’t be God. He never changes, never learns anything, and never even has a new thought. But this is only the philosophical definition of God from theologians, not the Scriptural definition. God revealed Himself to us through the Scriptures and it’s what He told us about Himself that should form our view of Him.
Philosophers embellish God to the ‘nth degree so that any other view—including the true view of Him—pales by comparison. Therefore, any “lesser” view of God must be a wrong view of God. And a “lesser” view also disappoints because we want God to be as impossible as He possibly can be! We aren’t too excited to hear that God can’t even see the future. We don’t want sound doctrine but what satisfies our lusts and desires, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2Ti 4:3).
The view of God that glorifies Him, however, is the truth about Him—the truth He revealed to us through the Scriptures and through His Son Jesus Christ. It matters not that this view measures up to the teaching of philosophers, and it matters not that this view caters to our selfish desires. If we’re truly following God, then we’ll eagerly follow the truth about God.
Because of the natural limitations we were created with, there are many things that are impossible for us but not for God. For example, we can’t know each other’s thoughts but God certainly can and does. We can’t instantly heal someone or raise someone from the dead but God can. The gifts of the Spirit in the early church were supernatural abilities from God to do what wasn’t naturally possible for us. The things that are impossible for human beings are possible with God: “Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Gen 18:14); “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee” (Job 42:2); “Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Jer 32:17); “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (Jer 32:27); “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luk 1:37); “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luk 18:27).
Besides natural impossibilities, there are also logical impossibilities that even God Himself can’t do. For example, it’s been asked by some, “Can God create a rock so big that He can’t lift it?” or “Can God make a square, circle?” These are logical impossibilities that even God can’t do. Another example is the Trinitarian doctrine of hypostatic union—Christ can’t be a 100% divine being and a 100% human being at the same time yet still be just one person. The logical possibility is that one person is one being while two beings are two persons.
When we read “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luk 1:37), this was not a blanket statement that absolutely nothing is ever impossible with God. This was about the virgin birth which certainly is impossible with human beings but not with God. These types of statements in Scripture are about things that are impossible for us, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luk 18:27). However, truly impossible things are impossible even with God.
The future doesn’t exist
When it comes to knowing or seeing the future, we’re dealing with another area of impossibility—not just for human beings but even for God Himself. Since the future hasn’t happened, there is nothing to know about it. There’s no such thing as the future. It doesn’t exist because it hasn’t happened, and once it’s happening then it isn’t the future but the present. There is, therefore, no knowledge of the future. It can’t be known because there is nothing to know. There is no such knowledge. Likewise, seeing the future assumes there is something to see but there is nothing to see because nothing is happening.
Also, the past doesn’t exist either because it’s not happening but has already happened. We have memories about the past, we have historical documents about it, we have audios, photos, and videos of what happened, but all of these things are only records of what happened. Actions and events only happen in the present.
All that happens—actions, activities, events, motions, processes, and situations—only happens in the present. Therefore, only the present exists. What was going to happen tomorrow while it was yesterday is what is happening today. Today was tomorrow yesterday. This very moment was the next just a moment ago.
The future is simply a concept of our minds that we think about and imagine. Jesus said “Take therefore no thought for the morrow” (Mat 6:34). It’s a very real action to think about the future but the thinking is still in the present. The main reason we should “Take therefore no thought for the morrow” is because what we do today greatly affects what’s going to happen tomorrow while thinking about tomorrow accomplishes virtually nothing. Therefore, rather than squandering our precious time today thinking about tomorrow, we should spend it productively making a better tomorrow. Also, taking thought for tomorrow expresses a lack of trust in God. Furthermore, we have no guarantee of even being here tomorrow anyway. All we have is today because the present is all that exists.
God can only know what can be known, and can’t know what can’t be known. Knowledge that doesn’t exist can’t be known even by God. Since the future doesn’t exist then there is no such knowledge, and since there is no knowledge of the future then even God doesn’t know the future. If there was something to know or see in the future, then certainly God could know and see it. But since there is nothing to know or see then even God can’t know or see it.
The passing of time
God can’t see the future because there is no future! Well, there is a future as long as the present continues.
But the next thing to happen in the continuation of the present isn’t the future but just more of the present. We never reach the future because there is no such thing. It’s simply a concept of our minds. The passage of time is just the present continuous, and the present is continuing with God the same as with us. The difference is our perspective of time because with God the present has always continued and always will.
The philosophy of theologians is that God somehow lives outside the passing of time so that eternity past and eternity future is exactly like the present. They boast the crazy idea that somehow the past, present, and future are all the same to Him. But this isn’t what Scripture teaches, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (Psa 90:4). Time lapses the same for Him as with us because “in thy sight” time passed is in the past “when it is past.” He lives in the present just like we do. The present is all there is and the present is the same for all, including God.
However, God’s perspective of time is unique compared to ours, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday” (Psa 90:4) “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2Pe 3:8). Because God has always existed and always will exist, with Him the passing of a thousand years doesn’t seem very long at all. But since our life expectancy is only seventy or eighty years, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years” (Psa 90:10), a thousand years is an extremely long time period to us. Similarly, every moment is valued and treasured by someone who knows that today is their last day to live, whereas the rest of us tend to take each moment of today for granted because we assume there will be many more days ahead. It’s a similar phenomenon with the saying “Time flies when you’re having fun!” Time elapses at the same rate regardless, it just seems like it passes by more quickly at times.
The actual passage of time is consistent and unchanging but the perspective of time is relative to its subjects. Take for example the perspective of time with death. When we die, we’re not still alive in heaven but truly dead until we’re resurrected back to life. But our perspective of the passage of the time, while we were dead, will be the same regardless of its length—death will have seemed like just a moment whether we were dead for only one day or a thousand years. This is why sleep is used many times in Scripture as an analogy for death because it seems like just a moment or a blink of the eye whether we slept for eight hours or just one, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1Co 15:51-52).
And God saw the light
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good” (Gen 1:3-4). According to what God revealed to us about Himself, He saw the light after He created the light. We could make an argument from silence that it doesn’t say that God hadn’t already seen the light from eternity past. But we should understand God by what He did reveal about Himself and not speculate about what He didn’t reveal. Maybe before the creation He very well could see the future and already saw everything He was going to create. But He told us, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Once everything could be seen, that’s when He told us He saw it. It seems He couldn’t see it until He saw it!
Why speculate that God has always seen everything before it could be seen? In fact, the conservative approach and default view is to consider that He can’t see the future until proven otherwise. If there’s nothing in Scripture that necessitates Him needing to see the future, and He hasn’t revealed to us that He can see the future, and seeing the future hasn’t been proven possible even for God, then why believe this? If He doesn’t need to, and He hasn’t revealed it, then why suppose it?
Of course the reason we just assume God knows and sees the future is because of all the fulfilled prophecies in Scripture. When taking into account specific prophecies including types, figures, and shadows, there are hundreds and more likely thousands of prophecies in Scripture. And the Old Testament records multitudes of already fulfilled Messianic prophecies, particularly in the writings of Moses, David, and Isaiah. If there is nothing to know or see in the future, then just how has God known and seen the future to accurately foretell it in advance?
The issue is that we suppose the only way the future can be accurately foretold is for it to exist and therefore be seen in the present. But there’s another way it can be accurately foretold—make it happen the way it was foretold! Putting this in human terms, I could say “I’m going to pick up the pencil on my desk five seconds from now,” then in five seconds I pick up the pencil on my desk. It has nothing to do with me being able to see five seconds into the future. It’s only that I did what I said I was going to do and nobody stopped me from doing it. Putting this in God’s terms, He can bring to pass everything He says He is going to do because He is powerful enough to do it and nobody is powerful enough to stop Him.
After Adam sinned, God didn’t look 4,000 years into the future and see that His Son was going to become human and die on the cross and therefore told us what He saw was going to happen, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). Rather, in the beginning God set His plan of salvation into motion through which He later sent His Son to become human and die on the cross. This wasn’t about seeing the future but rather causing the future to be seen. And if this is true about the greatest events ever foretold—Christ’s incarnation, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and seating at God’s right hand—then we should at least consider that this is the case for all other events He prophesied or foretold.
There is no such thing as knowing or seeing the future. It’s not that God just didn’t foretell the future by seeing it, but that He couldn’t foretell the future by seeing it. He has always foretold future events by causing those events to happen the way He foretold them. He simply causes the present to happen the way He said it would in the past. Therefore, He declares what will happen then makes it happen.
God brings to pass
Here are a few key Scriptures indicating that God does, works, and brings to pass what He declared, spoke, and purposed: “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Num 23:19); “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it” (Isa 46:10-11); “For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Act 4:28); “That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Act 15:17-18); “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph 1:11).
God performs what He said and does what He spoke, “Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (1Ki 12:15), “Know now that there shall fall unto the earth nothing of the word of the LORD, which the LORD spake concerning the house of Ahab: for the LORD hath done that which he spake by his servant Elijah” (2Ki 10:10).
John wrote that when Jesus said, “I thirst” it was to fulfill the Scripture, “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psa 69:21), “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.” (Jhn 19:28-29). It’s not that God had seen this event would happen in the future then spoke this prophecy through David but that He spoke this prophecy through David and Jesus caused it to be fulfilled by saying “I thirst.”
Prophecy is not foreseeing but foretelling. Fulfilled prophecies are the result of God’s word being accomplished, standing, and taking effect: “For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Psa 33:9); “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isa 40:8); “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” (Isa 45:23); “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa 55:11); “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Mat 24:35); “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Rom 9:6); “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” (1Pe 1:25).
God accurately foretells the future because He is powerful enough to do it and nobody is powerful enough to stop Him: “Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?” (Job 9:12); “But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.” (Job 23:13), “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD” (Pro 21:30); “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him” (Ecc 3:14); “For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” (Isa 14:27); “Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?” (Isa 43:13); “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Dan 4:35); “But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God” (Act 5:39); “And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Act 9:5); “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” (Act 11:17); “Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?” (1Co 10:22).
Knowing previously or beforehand
Statements in Scripture using the Greek verb proginosko or its noun form prognosis such as, “For whom he did foreknow [proginosko 4267]” (Rom 8:29), “Elect according to the foreknowledge [prognosis 4268] of God the Father” (1Pe 1:2), are cited by theologians to teach that God foreknows the future because He can see the future. However, both Paul and Peter used this word simply for people knowing someone previously, or knowing something beforehand, “My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; Which knew [proginosko 4267] me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee” (Act 26:4-5), “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before [proginosko 4267], beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” (2Pe 3:17). People certainly can’t see into the future and this isn’t how the apostles used it with people knowing someone or something beforehand.
There are also five places where Paul and Peter used proginosko or prognosis with God knowing something beforehand: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge [prognosis 4268] of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Act 2:23); “For whom he did foreknow [proginosko 4267], he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom 8:29); “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew [proginosko 4267]” (Rom 11:2); “Elect according to the foreknowledge [prognosis 4268] of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied” (1Pe 1:2); “Who verily was foreordained [proginosko 4267] before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1Pe 1:20).
These statements have nothing to do with God seeing into the future. Take the first of these five statements for example: “Him, being delivered by the determinate [horizo 3724] counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Act 2:23). His “determinate [horizo 3724] counsel” is about God determining Christ’s crucifixion, not about seeing into the future that it was going to happen then acclimating His plan of salvation to it. And the determining of something to happen is how the Greek horizo is used in all other places it’s used in Scripture (Luke 22:22; Act 10:42, 11:29, 17:26, 31; Rom 1:4; Heb 4:7). Thus, the “foreknowledge of God” of which Peter spoke is God knowing something because He determined something. He knew beforehand that His people would deliver their Messiah over to death because He determined it to happen. It’s not about seeing or knowing the future.
When Paul used this word in Romans, it concerned God knowing beforehand that He would have a people of His own because He predetermined to choose a people of His own conformed to the image of His Son, “For whom he did foreknow [proginosko 4267], he also did predestinate [proorizo 4309] to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29), “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?” (Rom 8:33); “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew [proginosko 4267]” (Rom 11:2). It wasn’t that He was able to look into the future and see that He was going to have a people of His own. He didn’t see what would happen but caused what would happen. Therefore, He knew beforehand because He determined beforehand. He knew from the beginning that He would have a people of His own following His Son, conformed to His image because He predetermined it.
God hardens hearts and turns hearts
God hardens people’s hearts: “And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said” (Exo 7:13); “And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand” (Exo 14:8); “But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day” (Deu 2:30); “For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses” (Jos 11:20); “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Rom 9:18).
The main example of God hardening hearts is, of course, the controversial hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. The reason this is such an issue is because we have a problem with God hardening people’s hearts against their will—except, of course when it’s in our own best interest for Him to do so. It’s not that we necessarily mind Him hardening other people’s hearts, just not ours! But do we think that any of the Israelites that escaped slavery in Egypt had a problem with God’s hardening Pharaoh’s heart? What about our salvation from the slavery of sin? Do we have a problem with God hardening the hearts of His people to bring about the crucifixion of His Son? If He hadn’t hardened their hearts, Christ wouldn’t have died for our sins and we all would perish. Do we still have a problem with God hardening hearts? We need to get beyond our myopic vision of seeing things from the selfish perspective of our little world rather than from God’s perspective of the entire world.
Why keep hardening Pharaoh’s heart and sending round after round of plagues when God could have easily destroyed Egypt in one fell swoop? But had He destroyed Egypt entirely, the events of the Exodus that followed wouldn’t have happened. The previous plagues were necessary for the Passover and the final plague. Therefore, as with the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart to bring about the Passover, He sent His Son and hardened His people’s hearts to bring about the true Passover.
And the LORD delivered it also, and the king thereof, into the hand of Israel; and he smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain in it; but did unto the king thereof as he did unto the king of Jericho … And they took it on that day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein he utterly destroyed that day, according to all that he had done to Lachish … And they took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof, and all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining, according to all that he had done to Eglon; but destroyed it utterly, and all the souls that were therein … And he took it, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof; and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining: as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir, and to the king thereof; as he had done also to Libnah, and to her king … And the LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them, and chased them unto great Zidon, and unto Misrephothmaim, and unto the valley of Mizpeh eastward; and they smote them, until they left them none remaining … And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire … And all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe. (Joshua 10:30, 35, 37, 39, 11:8, 11, 14)
How could a loving God command the genocide of every man, woman, and child in the Promised Land? Not only that, we’re even told that He hardened the hearts of those people so that they wouldn’t seek peace but be utterly destroyed, “There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle. For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.” (Jos 11:19-20). But we need only consider that had God not done this, nobody would be saved. The establishment of the Davidic Kingdom in the land was necessary for the Son of God to come into the world and be anointed as the Messiah and die on the cross for our sins. It’s because God so loved the world that He had to do this to save the world, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jhn 3:16).
Not only does God harden hearts but He also turns hearts and puts desires into hearts: “He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtilly with his servants” (Psa 105:25); “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Pro 21:1); “And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel” (Ezr 6:22); “Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem” (Ezr 7:27); “And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon” (Neh 2:12); “And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first, and found written therein” (Neh 7:5); “But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you” (2Co 8:16); “For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled” (Rev 17:17).
God spoke through Jeremiah about His people returning from the 70-year Babylonian captivity, “For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place” (Jer 29:10). He didn’t say that He looked into the future and saw what would happen but rather that He would perform what would happen, “I will visit you, and perform my good word.” And true to what He said, we read in Ezra that He performed His word, “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying” (Ezr 1:1). God “stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” in order “that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled.” This was not seeing what would happen but causing what would happen.
Most Christians recognize that Joseph’s life is allegorical and prophetic of the life of Jesus Christ—that his life was a microcosm of God’s plan of salvation to come. God demonstrated through Joseph that He could bring to pass what He planned and stated beforehand. It’s not that He saw into the future what would come to pass but showed that He could bring it to pass.
He caused the sons of Jacob to envy and hate their younger brother Joseph by giving him dreams that he would one day rule over them, “And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words” (Gen 37:8). They tried to thwart God’s will by conspiring to kill Joseph but ended up selling him into slavery instead, “Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams … Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt” (Gen 37:20, 28).
In slavery, Joseph prospered because God was with him, “And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian” (Gen 39:2). As an image of the sinless and suffering Savior to come, Joseph was falsely accused of a crime and thrown into the dungeon. But God later gave dreams to Pharaoh and the interpretation of those dreams to Joseph so that he would be delivered from the dungeon and set in authority over the people, “Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou” (Gen 41:40).
God then brought seven years of plenty and seven years of famine just as He had foretold through Pharaoh’s dreams, “And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended. And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread” (Gen 41:53-54). Again, it wasn’t that God saw this would happen and adjusted His plan accordingly, but that He caused this to happen in conformity to His plan, “Moreover he called for a famine upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread” (Psa 105:16). The prosperity in Egypt and worldwide famine then became the catalyst for bringing Joseph’s brothers to him and fulfilling the dreams they had tried to prevent. Right after their father Jacob died, they all bowed and served him, “And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants” (Gen 50:18). But Joseph recognized that all of this had been accomplished by God, “And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?” (Gen 50:19).
God showed that He could use the evil intents of Joseph’s brothers against themselves to unwittingly carry out and bring to pass exactly what He intended, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen 50:20). If God could work through people and this creation to bring to pass these events in the life of Joseph then He certainly could do similarly in the life of His Son Jesus Christ. This had nothing to do with seeing the future but rather causing the future. And if this was true in the events of Joseph’s life and Christ’s life then why would it be different in any other events He prophesied or foretold? God brings to pass what He foretells.
Paul also taught the Ephesians that God predetermined and purposed from the beginning to choose a people to Himself, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world … being predestinated [proorizo 4309] according to the purpose [prothesis 4286] of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph 1:4, 11). These chosen people would be how He would bring His Son Jesus Christ into the world to save the world, “According to the eternal purpose [prothesis 4286] which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:11). All of this was “after the counsel of his own will” (Eph 1:11).
God’s counsel is His purpose and will. His pleasure is what will happen in the future and what will ultimately stand: “Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters” (Job 33:13); “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2); “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (Psa 33:11); “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Psa 115:3); “Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places” (Psa 135:6); “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand” (Pro 19:21); “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD” (Pro 21:30); “The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isa 14:24); “This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working” (Isa 28:29); “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” (Isa 40:13-14); “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it” (Isaiah 46:10-11); “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Act 2:23); “For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Act 4:28); “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Act 15:18); “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath” (Heb 6:17).
And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose [prothesis 4286] of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. (Romans 9:10-13)
Before Abraham had any sons, God told him beforehand about the Exodus of his descendants from slavery, “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance” (Gen 15:13-14). While Jacob was in the womb, God told his mother, “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen 25:23).
The people that descended from Jacob indeed were stronger and mightier than the Egyptian people, “And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we” (Exo 1:9). This became the catalyst for them being forced into slavery as had been told to Abraham, “shall serve them; and they shall afflict them” (Gen 15:13), “Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens … And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour” (Exo 1:11, 13).
This exodus of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, however, had been set up by God bringing to pass “the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen 25:23; Rom 9:12). He brought Jacob and his sons into Egypt by the elder brothers serving their younger brother Joseph, “And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Gen 50:18-20).
God’s last words to His people about 400 years before bringing His Son into the world, “I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.” (Mal 1:2-3). Paul’s point was that “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom 9:13), indicated that what God foretold Rebecca about Jacob and Esau was coming to pass just as He said. God’s purpose in choosing His people would stand, “that the purpose of God according to election might stand” (Rom 9:11). That purpose was for His Son to come into the world and that the world through Him would be saved. Therefore, salvation is “not of works, but of him that calleth” (Rom 9:11). God’s people are not saved by keeping the works of the Law of Moses, but by Him that called them out of slavery to sin and into the service of His Son.
God is not a victim of circumstances
Although God can’t see the future since there is nothing to see, He is far more powerful than just being able to see the future because He can declare the future thousands of years beforehand then cause it to happen just as He declared. If prophecy is simply seeing into the future and declaring it beforehand then God is a victim of circumstance. He just goes with the flow and plans His purpose and counsel around what He sees is going to happen.
Philosophers, however, wrangle about all kinds of crazy concepts such as God foreseeing what will happen then changing what He saw will happen by making something else happen. But what’s the purpose of that? If He is always going to make happen what He wants to happen then what good is it to be able to foresee what would have happened? What would have happened doesn’t even matter because it didn’t. If what would have happened didn’t happen then it isn’t what would have happened. There is no such thing as what would have happened. The only thing that matters is what does happen which is what is happening right now—the present.
It’s wrong to suppose that the greater power is seeing the future—the greater power is causing the present. God is more powerful than being able to see what is going to happen because He causes what is going to happen. He created this universe and has full control over every aspect of it. This doesn’t mean necessarily that He controls exactly what will happen with every molecule that exists. But He governs an unfathomably complex creation in which He orchestrates events to ultimately come to pass as He purposed—all the while allowing us a certain amount of free will to be used by Him as vessels.
In human relationships, we recognize that true power is not absolute strict control over every decision and action. A good husband trusts his wife and gives her freedom and flexibility to make decisions within certain contexts. They both sometimes make wrong decisions but they’re confident they’ll work together through whatever problems and consequences arise. The same is true at a place of employment. A good boss isn’t a controlling micromanager. Rather, they trust their employees within reason and allow them a degree of freedom to make decisions. Good leaders know how to use the gifts, talents, skills, and abilities of those they lead to bring about the desired outcome for the organization as a whole.
This is similarly how it is with God. True power is not utter dominance and absolute strict control: it’s love and mercy; it’s trust and faithfulness; it’s discipline and judgment; it’s laboring together toward the same purpose and goal. Our 6,000 years of human history has been fluid in which God has constantly adjusted circumstances to happen the way He purposed from the beginning and worked through people to do it. That’s true power! God’s wisdom and power is to thwart the plans of the evil and use them to accomplish His plans. He allows them to think they’re doing what’s in their own best interest all the while doing what’s in His.
God thwarts the plans of the wicked
God sees every thought in our minds and intent in our hearts: “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee” (Job 42:2); “Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart” (Psa 44:21); “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off” (Psa 139:2); “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer 17:10); “And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works” (Rev 2:23).
Because He knows everything we’re thinking and everything we plan or intend to do, God can easily prevent us from doing something we intend to do if He so chooses. He can “change the future” so to speak, not because He sees the future then changes it from happening the way it would have, but because He causes the present to happen the way He wants. Much of the time what we do in the present depends upon what we were thinking, planning, and intending to do in the not so distant past. God can easily thwart our plans and prevent us from doing what we intend.
The people in Babel were endeavoring to build a tower to make a name for themselves, “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Gen 11:4). And they likely would have accomplished this had God not stopped them by confusing their language and scattering them abroad, “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.” (Gen 11:7-8). God didn’t change the future but changed the people’s plans and intents for the future.
And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob. And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran. (Genesis 27:41).
Because God saw the pre-meditated murder Esau had in his heart that He set into motion Jacob’s rescue. He warned their mother Rebecca so that Jacob could flee. This had nothing to do with God seeing Jacob being murdered in the future then changing the future from happening that way. It was simply that He thwarted what Esau planned to do in the future.
The wicked plot and conspire against the righteous but God overthrows their plans: “And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him” (Gen 37:18); “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (Psa 2:2-3); “For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life” (Psa 31:13); “The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.” (Psa 37:12-13); “Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity” (Psa 64:2); “For mine enemies speak against me; and they that lay wait for my soul take counsel together” (Psa 71:10); “They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones” (Psa 83:3); “Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings” (Psa 140:4); “Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord” (Pro 6:14); “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mar 3:6); “Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death” (Jhn 11:53); “When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them” (Act 5:33); “And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him” (Act 9:23).
God is infinitely wiser than the wise people in this world. His wisdom is to allow people to think they’re accomplishing their will when in fact they’re vessels being used by Him to accomplish His: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen 50:20); “He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.” (Job 5:12-13); “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD” (Pro 21:30); “And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek to the idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards” (Isa 19:3); “Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” (Isa 19:3); “The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them?” (Jer 8:9); “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (1Co 1:19); “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” (1Co 3:19).
God has regrets and changes His mind
By the time of the flood, God regretted that He even created mankind, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented [regretted] the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” (Gen 6:5-6). This is a genuine statement from God Himself about His inner feelings and indicates that had He been able to see the future before creating mankind, He wouldn’t have created mankind. By this time, seeing all of the horrible wicked and evil things people were doing, He sincerely grieved and regretted the whole thing! Many people accuse God of not caring about the suffering of people but this isn’t true at all. Even He hadn’t realized just how wicked people would become yet was faithful to finish what He started. After all, He had already foretold that His Son would come, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). And godly people such as Abel, Enoch, and Noah still needed to be saved by His Son’s death on the cross. He couldn’t just destroy the entire creation as if it never happened.
Philosophers teach that God never has a new thought or changes His mind—that He could never intend to do one thing but then end up doing something different. However, at various times through Israel’s history, God relented, held back, or changed His mind about what He was going to do: “And the LORD repented [relented] of the evil which he thought to do unto his people” (Exo 32:14); “And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented [relented] him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand” (2 Sa 24:16); “And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented [relented] according to the multitude of his mercies” (Psa 106:45); “If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent [relented] of the evil that I thought to do unto them” (Jer 18:8); “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented [relented] of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not” (Jon 3:10).
In response to these examples of God relenting, philosophers have to fabricate a convoluted explanation of how God can see the future and therefore already knew what He would do yet say that He was going to do something different then make it appear that He changed His mind to do what He was going to do all along. But that isn’t genuine and sincere. If God is truly like that then He can’t be trusted. He just plays mind games with us while always doing what He was going to do anyway.
God does relent and change His mind at times about what He intended to do. He is merciful and pitiful toward us, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” (Psa 103:13-14). Since mankind was created after the image of God, the relationship we have with our children helps us understand how God relates to us as our Father. There are times when we’re upset with our children for something they did but then calm down once we remind ourselves that they’re just kids. They don’t have the maturity to do things the way we would have done them. Similarly, this is how it is with God toward us. He remembers that we’re dust—finite and limited, weak and frail, tempted and deceived. His anger toward us is pacified by our fear of Him and remembrance of our weaknesses and all the evil and suffering we’re struggling within this world. In other words, at times He changes His mind for our benefit because He truly loves us.
God is compassionate and merciful when we repent which consists of Him not doing to us what He would have done. This is about the changing of outcomes—causing things to turn out differently than they would have turned out. It has nothing to do with changing the future because since the future doesn’t exist, there’s nothing to change! Only the present can be “changed” so to speak. Although the present can’t be changed because what happens is what happened but the present can be changed in the sense that what would have happened can be altered so that something different happens. It’s simply the changing of outcomes. But the whole philosophy of seeing the future then changing the future is simply rubbish.
God spoke through Jeremiah that the evil things His people committed didn’t come into His mind or heart that they would ever do: “And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart” (Jer 7:31); “They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind” (Jer 19:5); “And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin” (Jer 32:35).
That something never even came into God’s mind certainly doesn’t jive with the philosophy of theologians claiming that He has always known everything, can never not know anything, and has never had a new thought. But since He told us Himself that this never came into His mind, He couldn’t have been able to see the future otherwise this would have come into His mind. But God didn’t think about His people doing such evil which is what love does, it “thinketh no evil” (1Co 13:5).
We are vessels used by God
When God created Adam, He formed his body from the clay as a potter forms a vessel for His purposes, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen 2:7), “But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isa 64:8). Human beings are living vessels created to be used by God for His purposes. He didn’t create us to do what we want and to live how we want. He is perfectly just in using us however He wants because He is our Creator—and He created us to be used by Him for His purposes. He can override our will at any time, or He can allow us to do our own will.
Isaiah and Jeremiah reminded God’s people that they had been created to be used by Him in whatever way He pleases: “Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?” (Isa 29:16); “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” (Isa 45:9); “O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.” (Jer 18:6). However, His people were not submitting to His will but arguing and striving against Him.
Paul taught that we are one of two types of vessels God uses, “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Rom 9:21), “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (2Ti 2:20-21). It’s not a question of whether or not we will be used as a vessel, but rather of which type of vessel that we will be used. God uses everyone as a vessel for His purposes but allows us to decide which type of vessel we will be—either a vessel of honor or a vessel of dishonor.
In a great house of that day, like the mansion of a wealthy and powerful man, there were all types of vessels made for his personal use such as golden cups and silver utensils, fine dishes and bowls, vases for flowers and plants, vessels for valuable documents, pottery for storage of grain and water, and containers for trash and conduits for sewer. Some of his vessels were valuable and used for honorable purposes such as hosting a dinner for important guests. Other vessels, on the other hand, weren’t so valuable and were used for dishonorable purposes like holding the garbage until it could be thrown out, or even a vessel used as a bedpan!
The good news is that we don’t have to be used as a trashcan, we can be used by God for noble purposes, “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2Ti 2:21). He will use us for honorable purposes if we’ll purge sin and all of the unprofitable and vain pursuits from our lives, “strive not about words to no profit … shun profane and vain babblings … depart from iniquity … Flee also youthful lusts … But foolish and unlearned questions avoid … And the servant of the Lord must not strive” (2Ti 2:14, 16, 19, 22, 23, 24). We must stop wasting our time with words to no profit, vain babblings, and unlearned questions. If we’ll purge from ourselves all of the vain philosophy of theologians about God, man, and salvation, and instead, acknowledge, embrace, and live by the truth then God will use us for honorable purposes.
Earthen vessels used for dishonorable purposes weren’t valuable but were eventually broken and shattered to pieces: “But the earthen vessel wherein it is sodden shall be broken: and if it be sodden in a brasen pot, it shall be both scoured, and rinsed in water” (Lev 6:28); “And every earthen vessel, whereinto any of them falleth, whatsoever is in it shall be unclean; and ye shall break it” (Lev 11:33); “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psa 2:9); “And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters’ vessel that is broken in pieces” (Isa 30:14); “And shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be made whole again” (Jer 19:11); “And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father” (Rev 2:27).
Valuable vessels made of gold and silver, on the other hand, are purged by fire to remove the dross and imperfections: “Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer” (Pro 25:4); “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts” (Pro 17:3); “And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin” (Isa 1:25); “And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness” (Mal 3:3); “That the trial of your faith [faithfulness], being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1Pe 1:7). Thus, God subjects his valuable vessels to trials to test their faithfulness and to purge the sin and vain pursuits from their lives.
God uses vessels of dishonor to accomplish His purposes by speaking through them. Moses killed an Egyptian after ensuring nobody was around to see it, “And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand” (Exo 2:12). However, the very next day one of his Hebrew brethren confronted him about it, “And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.” (Exo 2:14). The fact was that nobody but Moses and God knew what he had done. But God spoke through that Hebrew man to make Moses think it was known so that he would flee from Egypt. God used that man as a vessel of dishonor for His purpose while that man likely had no idea that he was being used or that even said what he did.
When we begin recognizing that this is how God operates—that at times He works through everyone as vessels to accomplish His purposes—our confidence and trust in Him becomes strengthened. It’s easier to trust Him once we realize that He can easily use people around us as vessels of honor or dishonor to work situations in our favor. He can turn people’s hearts, or make them say and do things that are to our advantage. For example, if He wants one of us to get a job we applied for He can easily turn the heart of the hiring personnel toward us rather than to someone else that was even more qualified. On the flip side, He can do just the opposite and turn people’s hearts against us to test our faithfulness to Him. He can put difficult people across our path so that He can observe how we’ll treat them. He can make people say and do things they don’t even realize they’re saying and doing.
We also need to recognize that God’s overall plan for this creation is much bigger than our little world. None of us lives in a vacuum—what we do or don’t do affects other people around us. Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers because it would adversely affect other situations He is working and bringing to pass. Paul had just taught about the sufferings we’re enduring under the cursed creation in Romans 8:18-25 then said, “for we know not what we should pray for as we ought … 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” (Rom 8:26, 28). God has been working since the beginning to bring about the ultimate good from the curse He placed upon this creation. Along with this consummating good comes much suffering through which we just don’t always know how or what to pray. This is why we must trust God. He is going to bring His purpose to pass and will use us as vessels of honor in the process if we’ll submit ourselves to Him.
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Mat 6:7-8). Sometimes we misunderstand this statement to mean that the Father knows what we’re going to pray before we pray it—that He sees the future. However, upon closer examination Jesus was simply saying that God knows the needs in our lives before we pray for those needs. His point was that praying isn’t informing God of anything He doesn’t already know. Since He already knows our needs, we don’t have to digress into myriads of details, rehashing, and repeating—we just simply need to ask!
Trusting God means doing today what He wants us to do today and not concerning ourselves with tomorrow: “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Pro 27:1); “Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant” (Isa 56:12); “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself” (Mat 6:34); “And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.” (Luk 12:17-18); “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (Jas 4:13-14).
God proves our faithfulness
Although God certainly knows our hearts, but because He can’t see the future He doesn’t know what we’ll do until we do it. Therefore, He submits us to various tests and trials so that our fear of Him and faithfulness to Him will be proved: “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt [test] Abraham … And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gen 22:1, 12). If He had already known what Abraham was going to do then why did He declare “for now I know that thou fearest God”? The Messenger of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Son of God. He knew Abraham’s heart because earlier He told him to name his son Isaac after having laughed at Him in his heart, “Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? … And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac [laughter]” (Gen 17:17, 19). Although He knew every thought in his mind and intent in his heart, yet He still didn’t know what Abraham would do until put to the test.
God proves and tests His children: “And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not” (Exo 20:20); “And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” (Deu 8:2); “Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deu 13:3); “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith [faithfulness] worketh patience” (Jas 1:3); “That the trial of your faith [faithfulness], being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1Pe 1:7).
Paul said that servants must be found faithful, “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” (1Co 4:1-2). And Paul himself had been trusted by God with the preaching of the gospel because he had been counted faithful, “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” (1Ti 1:11-12). Paul didn’t immediately become an apostle after his Damascus road conversion. He spent many years preaching the gospel before being sent by Jesus Christ on his missionary journeys. As we prove ourselves faithful in smaller tasks, God will trust us to be faithful in larger, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much” (Luk 16:10).
“For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Gen 18:19). After walking with God for many years in a faithful relationship, not only had Abraham come to know God but God had also come to know Abraham. Because of all the philosophical rubbish from modern “theologians” that God has always known everything and never can come to know anything, we think God can’t come to know us any better than He already does. But this isn’t true. Relationships take time to get to know each other better and to build trust.
God uses people to carry out His plans and purposes for this creation. He did this throughout history to bring His Son into the world to save the world and is doing this right now to bring the end times to consummation as He foretold in the book of Revelation. However, He doesn’t trust all of His children equally—He trusts some more than others because some have proven themselves trustworthy more than others. God gains trust in us by testing us. He knows what we intend to do but not what we will do. Therefore, He tests and proves us first before trusting us in critical situations. Because God can’t allow failure in critical situations, He tests us first in non-critical situations. He proves His children in scenarios that don’t matter to know which ones He can use when it does matter.
Philosophy about God adversely affects our walk with Him and our assurance of salvation. Calvinism is a prime example of “philosophy and vain deceit … not after Christ” (Col 2:8). It’s not after the teaching of Jesus Christ but is a confusing ideology that leaves many Christians confused about their salvation. Of course there are variations of beliefs within Calvinism but essentially it posits that God already knew in eternity past every person and their final eternal destiny—even choosing which ones would be saved. Therefore, what is going to happen with every person is what is going to happen anyway. Those that will be saved will, and those that won’t be saved won’t. Many Christians then live in fear that although they consider themselves to be one of the chosen, it could turn out that they’re not and will fall away someday with no hope of salvation. On the other hand, if they truly are one of the chosen then they’ll be saved no matter what they do or don’t do—their lifestyle ultimately doesn’t matter. Of course most won’t admit that their lifestyle doesn’t matter but counting that their salvation is forever settled certainly skews it.
Learning the truth about God helps to advance our walk with Him. Since there is no future to know, then God doesn’t know beforehand who will be saved and who won’t. Our salvation is in the present. We must walk with Him now by trusting Him and obeying His Son Jesus Christ as our Lord.
When it comes to our daily walk with Him, if we suppose that He already knows what we’re going to do then whatever we do is what we were going to do anyway. If I play rather than pray, God already knew it and expected it. Why try to do differently? It’s a convoluted thinking that what I do is what I was going to do. But the truth is that since He doesn’t know the future, He doesn’t know what we’re going to do but believes the best in us, “believeth all things” (1Co 13:7). This motivates us to live up to His expectations and walk worthy of Him, “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10), “That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory” (1Th 2:12). God forgives our sins against Him through the precious shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ. He counts us right with Him and at peace with Him unless we prove otherwise. He expects the best in us—to walk worthy of our relationship with Him. And we have everything we need to be successful: “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:34); “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Eph 6:10); “All scriptureis given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2Ti 3:16-17); “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2Pe 1:4).