For a long time, so many people and Christian denominations have fought over the issue of “The sovereignty of God and The free will of man.” Yet, the Bible tells us both are biblical, both are true, and whenever anyone overemphasizes one over the other, they end up in heresy. As Christians, we must never be afraid of intellectual argument or debates, we must never be afraid to reason and to stand our ground. Afterall, we have the most intellectual book that has ever been written and authored by the greatest mind that ever existed – the Holy Spirit Himself. In fact, a Danish philosopher (Kierkegaard Soren) once said that “Christ does not destroy reason; he dethrones it.”
Our faith, the Christian faith, is a faith of paradox, and that is why some people have a hard time with it. As for me, I don’t worry about it, I just believe it and trust the Lord for it. Here are some examples:
- Jesus, fully God and fully Man.
- The Bible, written by human beings but every word is authored by the Holy Spirit.
- God eternally secures believers salvation, and yet we are commanded to obey Him.
- God is sovereign in the dealing with the affairs of all his children, working his purposes out in all their lives, and yet He responds in answer to our prayers.
While the act of salvation from beginning to end is all Gods’, the work of daily transformation into the likeness of Christ is a joint effort between us and the Holy Spirit working together. To daily become like Christ simply means to live in obedience to God. Even our obedience to God requires God’s power. You cannot serve God’s purpose in your life without God’s power working in your life. Without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we cannot do it. The Bible makes it very clear that both God’s sovereignty and man’s response must be in operation together in the process of sanctification & Christ-likeness. This is one of the many paradoxes we have in the Bible.
Lucifer seized to recognize that everything he had was from God, and he wanted to be worshipped instead of worshipping God, and that was why God threw him out of Heaven. Did God know from the beginning that pride would be the fall of Lucifer? Yes, of course, He knew. God is omniscient – meaning He knows everything ahead of time. Could God have stopped Satan from falling? Of course, He could have. God is omnipotent – meaning He can do anything.
So, if God knew that Satan was going to rebel and He could have stopped him from rebelling, the question now is – Why didn’t He? I’ve pondered this question so many times. On the face of it, preventing Satan from rebelling would have saved a lot of heartaches, not just to us, but to God Himself. That rebellion cost God the Son to leave the glories of Heaven and become the poorest of the poor, die on a cross, but to rise again, in order to redeem that which Satan has stolen.
So, what’s the answer? The closest we can get to answering this question is simply this:
Whether the created angelic beings or human beings, God has placed an element of free will within all of His created beings. Otherwise, we’ll be robots or puppets on a string, but God wanted all of His created beings to freely love him and choose to love Him. This is the paradox between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. I am convinced that the Bible teaches about choices and the consequences of the choices we make.
- In the garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve a choice – To obey Him or to disobey Him.
- The people of Israel were given a choice – To stay in Egypt as slaves or to leave for the promised land and be free.
- At first, Jonah exercised his own free will and chose not to follow his calling from God. It took an encounter with a fish to convince Jonah otherwise. Even so, he followed God’s call only grudgingly.
- Elijah the great prophet of God stood up at a time of compromise when the people of God were living in sin, challenging them to decide ( in 1 Kings 18:21) – “Choose ye this day whom you shall worship God or Baal?”
- And for the past 2000 years, the history of the whole world has been built upon a choice – Either you choose the Cross of Calvary, were Jesus paid it all by making the only way for us to the Father’s heart or you choose to reject it and have it your way.
Salvation is entirely the work of the sovereign God. There is no ambiguity in the scriptures about the fact that we could never save ourselves, we cannot work for our salvation, or buy our salvation. Salvation is a free gift from God. God did all the work of salvation by sending his son to the cross for us. What credit do we have for accepting that gift of Salvation? None because freely we receive.
It was Christ who pre-existed with the Father before all the galaxies were created, He laid aside His glory and became an embryo in a virgin’s womb. The One who owned the universe lived among us and did not have anywhere to lay His head. He died on a cross, a sinner’s death, the most unjust death that ever occurred in all of humanity, in all of time and history. He satisfied the wrath and justice of God. He did it all, He paid it all, then He handed it to me. What did I do? Nothing!
All of us who came to believe in the Lord Jesus did not come because we were seeking after Him. He first opened our spiritually blind eyes, and in doing so, we realised that we are sinners, then we came to Him. The Bible says that we were dead in our trespasses. Dead people do not seek after anything good. Until He came and breathed life in us we did not even know how to come to God.
Sure, we make a decision to receive Christ into our lives, absolutely, we do. But before we ever made that decision, God already made that decision way before He founded the world for us. It has always been God’s plan for us to believe and trust Him, and be eternally saved. Before time began, God knew me by name… I don’t know what that does for you, but for me, it makes me want to go down on my knees and bless the Lord, and say, “Thank You that You willed it for me to be saved.”
The very source and the very essence of election and predestination is divine love. Some people, when they read about predestination & election come to the silly conclusion that God must predestine some people to hell. That is just ludicrous! Why? Because there is not a single sentence in the whole of the word of God to back that up.
“God accomplishes all things according to the council of His will.” – Ephesians 1:11
What does that mean? It means that God’s will shall be fulfilled regardless of our willingness to follow it. It means that God will accomplish His will, with you or without you. It means that God’s sovereign will cannot be frustrated, thwarted or enfeebled.
“Some might say that God exercises His divine power and sovereignty to determine people’s lives? After all, didn’t He harden Pharaoh’s heart? Yes and no. Interestingly enough, if we read the Exodus narrative we shall find twenty references to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. In ten cases, it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. In the other ten, it says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” – Al Hsu. Some have argued that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. When Pharaoh hardened his own heart against God, God only gave him more hardness. There is nowhere in the scripture that you will find that God hardened anybody’s heart before they have hardened their own heart.
“I remember an agony column in which a reader described a drunk-driving accident that had claimed a loved one’s life. She asked, ‘Is this God’s fault or Satan’s?’ The response was: Leave both God and Satan out of it. The blame belongs to the drunk driver. In the same way, we should not be too hasty to blame God when we do not know if He is at fault. The responsibility may be our own, or it may be someone else’s. or perhaps no-one is at fault and our situation is simply the result of living in an imperfect world.” – Al Hsu
When Satan presents us with temptations, we are often faced to respond with three choices. We can choose to fight it in our own strength, or fight it depending on the power of God, or we can choose to give in without putting up any fight. I personally don’t believe Satan can force us to sin. Most often, it is the case that we chose to give into sin willfully.
William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army once said that the greatest of anyone’s power is in the measure of his surrender. The world will never under that the only power we have is in surrender to the Lord. God has given us power over sin, by defeating Satan on the cross, and we ought to claim that victory authoritatively in surrender to God and let Him fight our every battle.
“God’s will does not mean that we have no choice in the matter. Rather, God’s will is simply what He desires for our lives, whether we choose it or not. In order truly to love and follow God, we must have the ability to choose to do so. Otherwise, we are no more than puppets on a string, and our love and service to God are coerced and not authentic.” – Al Hsu
There is a saying that, “to know yourself well is to trust yourself less,” and I very much agree with that saying. A friend once said to me that “sometimes the heart can lead you somewhere the head does not fit.” I think there is much truth in that saying too. Recently, I came across an incredible quote, you would never guess who wrote these words:
“Through many years of active public life, and through observing many kinds of people, I have found the strongest, the wisest, the most competent, and the reliable man to be the one who is first to admit his inadequacy. Contradicting though it may sound, he is strong because he is humble, he always remembers that man is a creation of God. No rule of life is more basic. When one leans on his own understanding, lives by his own strength, boast of his own accomplishment, and claims that he is own master, the result is untold suffering. Even though his position is maintained and his wealth is increased, success turns quickly into failure when God is forgotten. There is no peace of mind, there is no personal satisfaction, nor experience of true inner joy. To trust in the Lord with all your heart is the mark of strength. It is the only part to true fulfillment.”
Not a great theologian, not a well-known preacher, not an evangelist, those were the words of J Edgar Hoover, the former head of the FBI. I certainly can trust God with all my heart because he knows me way better than I would ever know myself.