Does God know what decisions I will make before I make them?

God is all-knowing. He knows all the works of His hands (Acts 15:18). He named every star in heaven and knows everyone of their trillion trillion of names. (Isaiah 40:26). He knows the number of hairs on every human head at any given time. (Matthew 10:30) He knows all the creatures on earth and never forgets one, even the least of birds. (Luke 12:6) God’s knowledge is limitless. He knows all that is and all that has been. Does God know what will be? Specifically, does God know the decisions a man will make?

Not everyone believes in the limitless foreknowledge of God. Some say that if God knows everything that will happen then man does not have a will that is truly free. If God knows all that will happen, then man will always do what has already been known that he will do. Foreknowledge then becomes a form of Divine determinism in which every moment of life is preplanned and predetermined by God and all man can do is what has been decided he will do.

Foreknowledge does not necessarily mean predetermination. A fan of mystery novels may read a book and know exactly how the book is going to end. Such foreknowledge does not mean the reader determined the ending. A reader’s knowledge of the author and the literature allows him to understand the story and correctly foretell the ending. This knowledge does not imply the reader is also the author. Foreknowledge can exist without infringing upon the ability of individuals to freely choose.

The Bible says God knows everything that is, was, could be and will be. In Matthew 11:21 Jesus told the towns of Bethsaida and Chorazin that if Tyre and Sidon had seen His miracles they would have repented. He then declared to Capernaum that if Sodom had seen the mighty works He did then it would have turned from sin. Jesus’ words reveal a knowledge of what could have been. His words were not mere rhetoric. Jesus is God the Son. He spake the truth of what could have been because He knows all things, including what might be.

God knows everything about a person before that person knows anything about themselves. Psalm 139 describes the infinite, intimate knowledge of God. Psalm 139:2 says, “Thou understandest my thought afar off.” God knows every thought of man while it is still far from fully formed in the person’s mind. While man is still thinking, God knows all that he is going to think. Psalm 139:16 says that when the person is still in the womb, before he has even begun to form, God knows him. He knows all his days before his days have even begun. God knows what a person is going to do and what that person will be long before he makes any decisions. God knows all the possibilities and He knows the choices men will make. The God of the Bible is all-knowing. His knowledge is unlimited and entire, encompassing past, present, future, what will be, what could be and what might be.

If the Bible forbids drinking, why does it mention people drinking wine?

A reader recently asked the question, “Why is wine mentioned in the Bible when wine drinking is forbidden?” Below is a portion of the answer given.

The fact that the Bible talks about people drinking wine does not necessarily mean it approves of such behavior. Many actions are described in the Bible which are not necessarily approved by God. For example, the Bible never records a rebuke or condemnation of David for having multiple wives, but we know from other passages that his polygamy was a sin. (Deuteronomy 17:15-17) The fact that the Bible describes people drinking alcohol does not necessarily mean it approves of such behavior or encourages Christians to practice it.

The Old Testament Hebrew word and the New Testament Greek word that are usually translated “wine” are generic terms. Both Greek and Hebrew words refer to drink made from grapes. This drink could be fermented grape juice or it could be unfermented grape juice. The only way to know whether it is describing wine or Welch’s is from the context. At times the context is unclear and sometimes we only think it is clear because of our preexisting ideas. For example, in the account of Jesus turning water into wine, most people naturally assume Jesus made a big jug of Merlot because alcoholic wine is often served at weddings today. Who would serve their guests grape juice? Yet, other cultures drank fresh squeezed grape juice. One example from the Bible is found in Genesis 40 when Joseph was imprisoned in Egypt. He met Pharaoh’s cupbearer who told him of a dream in which he squeezed fresh grapes into Pharaoh’s cup and gave it to him to drink. Some of the details of the dream were a bit fantastical, but Joseph and the cupbearer seem to have thought grape juice a normal beverage for a king to drink.

When the Old Testament talks about alcoholic drinks it often uses one of two different terms: “wine” and “strong drink.” “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:31) The modern reader thinks wine is something like Chardonnay and strong drink is something like Vodka. This is impossible. Fermentation can only produce a drink with an alcohol content up to 15%. The only way to get higher concentrations of alcohol is through distillation. Distillation was not discovered until sometime after A.D. 600. The last book of the Bible was written over 500 years before anyone made distilled liquors. The Bible never speaks of any alcoholic drink stronger than the strongest naturally occurring alcohols. Therefore, strong drink is not 150 proof Whiskey. Strong drink is full strength wine with an alcohol content of, at most, 12-15%.

History and archeology also show that in ancient times alcoholic wines were commonly diluted before drinking. The usual ratio of dilution was one part wine to 3-5 parts water. This means that in Biblical times the average alcohol content of wine (not strong drink) was the same or less than that found in the average beer today. The wine drunk in Biblical times was not the same as the wine commonly drunk in America today.

I believe the Biblical warnings about alcohol are strong enough that no one should drink distilled liquors or modern day wine. When the Bible discusses the merits of drinking alcohol it almost always presents drinking as a course of action filled with many dangers. Without a definitive Biblical prohibition I cannot say the Bible forbids all consumption of alcohol, but I would warn those who drink low alcohol beverages, such as beer or wine coolers, to do so with great caution. In my opinion, the wisest position for the Christian today is to avoid drinking alcohol.

As Solomon said in Proverbs 23, “Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.”

Did Paul rebuke Peter for being racist?

In Galatians 2 we learn of something surprising for its uniqueness. In that passage the story is told of a time when one apostle rebuked another in front of the church. When the gospel first began to Gentile communities the Apostle Peter visited the church in Antioch. He spent time with the Gentile believers and treated them as if they were equals. However, when other Jewish believers from Jerusalem arrived in Antioch Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles. Peter feared the condemnation of the Jews. In response, the Apostle Paul publicly rebuked the Apostle Peter for his actions.

One popular interpretation of this passage says Paul rebuked Peter because of his cultural prejudices. According to this perspective Paul chastised Peter for what is today called racism. Did Paul rebuke Peter because of his racial prejudices? The answer is a little more complicated than a simple yes or no.

The Apostle Peter was the first to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. When he did, he told the first Gentile convert, Cornelius, “Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation.” (Acts 10:28) Generations of Jews had been taught that it was against the law of Moses to share a house or a meal with Gentiles. When Peter ate with a Gentile he became ceremonially unclean. Would have to be cleansed before he could offer sacrifices or join the temple worship. After the conversion of Cornelius it became evident to Christians that Gentiles could be saved without keeping the law of Moses. The division between Jew and Gentile was taken away by Christ.

Paul rebuked Peter because Peter’s actions compromised the gospel. Paul told Peter exactly what the problem was,“Thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” By separating from the Gentiles Peter was acting as if the Gentiles were still unclean before God. He was saying by his actions that despite their faith in Jesus the Gentiles were still not right with God. Peter was acting as if faith in Jesus was not enough. He was acting as if the Gentiles had to keep the law of Moses to be truly Christian.

Peter’s actions were the result of long standing prejudices against all Gentiles. However, Paul does not address Peter’s racial prejudice. Paul addressed Peter’s distortion of the gospel. To say this passage is about racism is to miss the main point. Racism is wrong, but far worse is a gospel which teaches works are necessary for salvation

Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?

The gospels of Matthew and Mark (Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:12-14, 20-24) recount a surprising event in the life of Jesus. The day after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem Jesus returned to the city. As He walked along the road on His way back into town Jesus became hungry. He saw a fig tree alongside the road, but it had no figs. Finding the tree empty, Jesus cursed it, saying, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.” By the next morning the fig tree was withered. The gospel of Mark adds a troubling detail, “for the time of figs was not yet.”

Apparently, Jesus was angered by a fig tree that had no figs on it despite figs not being in season. He got so mad he cursed the tree. What is going on? Why did Jesus act like this? Some consider this account to be proof Jesus was not perfect. He was hungry, maybe his blood sugar was a little low, and he lashed out in unreasonable anger against an innocent tree.  Those committed to the Biblical doctrine that Jesus was without sin cannot accept this explanation.

Jesus’ actions toward the fig tree are not directly explained in the Bible. To understand what Jesus is doing, the reader must consider the circumstances surrounding this event. Jesus cursed the fig tree the day after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was on His way to cleanse the temple of religious extortioners. Jesus walked past the fig tree, into Jerusalem and into the temple. In the temple He began to throw out the money changers. The chief priests and scribes began to dispute with Jesus. This led to some of Jesus’ strongest rebukes of scribes and Pharisees. He warned them, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Jesus then told numerous parables of the dangers of refusing the Son of God. He says in Matthew 21:43, “Therefore I say unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” 

The cursing of the fig tree is believed by many, including myself, to be a warning to the Jews. Though these events took place before figs can normally expect to be ripe, the nature of fig trees is such that they begin to bear fruit before leaves are formed. A mature fig tree covered in leaves can rightly be expected to bear fruit. Jesus was not acting unreasonably in expecting figs on a tree covered in leaves. The absence of fruit was indication the tree was not healthy. Likewise, Israel had all the appearance of being spiritually healthy. The Jews of Jesus’ day read Scriptures, kept the outward forms of the law, observed Sabbath days and celebrated the feasts. Despite appearances the nation of Israel was not spiritually healthy. Israel was spiritually barren. The nation was on the verge of rejecting their Messiah and crucifying their Savior. Jesus’ actions towards the fig tree can be understood as a picture of what would happen to Israel for their refusal to believe Jesus. The cursing of the fig tree was one of many warnings to Israel of Divine judgment for their rejection of Jesus.

The next day the disciples marvelled at the death of the fig tree. Jesus used the situation as an opportunity to teach His disciples a lesson on faith. He promised them if they would have faith and believe Him without doubting, they would have the power to do much more than cause a fig tree to wither and die. They would have power to do mighty things for God. They would have whatever they prayed for. The lesson Jesus teaches His followers from the fig tree is the mighty power of God that works through and for His believing people.