The Bible simply does not teach that God predetermines our lives, especially in the sense of ultimate salvation. Some hold to this idea, which is called predestination. But from the beginning God has always given intelligent beings the faculty of choice. This includes the angels, Adam and Eve, the children of Israel and all people down through history.
Notice that Psalm 139 concludes with a prayer for deliverance from sin and asks God’s guidance in learning His everlasting ways. Why would David ask that if he knew his salvation were assured no matter what? This request shows that he clearly didn’t see himself as being guaranteed salvation. He knew that he, like all of us, needed God’s direction to find the right path.
Earlier God had said of King Saul, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments” (1 Samuel 15:11 1 Samuel 15:11It repents me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and has not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried to the LORD all night.
American King James Version×). If God had predetermined the outcome of Saul’s life, He wouldn’t have chosen Him to be Israel’s first king. A person who once had been humble (verse 17) had turned away from God and chosen the wrong path of life.
Jesus Christ taught the same thing: Individuals are free to choose. Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount with several examples that call for defining action on our part (see Matthew 7:13-28 Matthew 7:13-28 13 Enter you in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it.
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Why by their fruits you shall know them.
21 Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
24 Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, which built his house on a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell not: for it was founded on a rock.
26 And every one that hears these sayings of mine, and does them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, which built his house on the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
American King James Version×). He presents us with two mutually exclusive paths—one broad and easy, the other narrow and difficult.
We must find the right path that leads to salvation—discerning between two kinds of teachers, true ones and false ones. His true servants must hear His words and then do them to obtain salvation. This is also the message of the book of James. Read James 2:8-12 James 2:8-12 8 If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well:
9 But if you have respect to persons, you commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if you commit no adultery, yet if you kill, you are become a transgressor of the law.
12 So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
American King James Version×.
Of course, it is implicit that we all must be saved by grace through the sacrifice of Christ, but God’s forgiveness should always lead to a life of obedience. (For further understanding please request our free booklets The Road to Eternal Life and You Can Have Living Faith.)
No doubt God knows far more about us than we can imagine (1 Corinthians 13:12 1 Corinthians 13:12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
American King James Version×). But the teaching of the Bible is that individuals have freedom of choice and that we will be judged “according to our works” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 Deuteronomy 30:19-20 19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live: 20 That you may love the LORD your God, and that you may obey his voice, and that you may hold to him: for he is your life, and the length of your days: that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
American King James Version×; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
American King James Version×; Acts 17:30-31 Acts 17:30-31 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent: 31 Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.
American King James Version×; Revelation 20:13 Revelation 20:13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
American King James Version×).
What does Psalms 139:13-16 Psalms 139:13-16 13 For you have possessed my reins: you have covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works; and that my soul knows right well.
15 My substance was not hid from you, when I was made in secret, and curiously worked in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in your book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
American King James Version×, then, mean? The most recent translation of the Old Testament by the Jewish Publication Society is the Tanakh. It translates this particular passage: “My frame is not concealed from You when I was shaped in a hidden place, knit together in the recesses of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed limbs; they were all recorded in Your book; in due time they were formed, to the very last one of them.”
The intent of this passage is to convey God’s sovereignty over our lives beginning at conception, not to teach predestination. Our Creator is concerned that we fulfill our great purpose in life—to obtain everlasting life in the Kingdom of God—but we must willingly accept His salvation and practice His way of life. He wants us to choose rightly, but the choice is still ours. To understand more, please request our free booklet What Is Your Destiny?