God’s Sovereignty or Man’s Free Will
Job 42:2 (KJB) “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.”
We frequently hear the statement “God is in Control. He is still on the throne.” Typically this is about something that is happening that seemingly is out of our control. The idea that “God is in control” seems like it honors God because most Christians believe that God is in absolute control over everything at every moment. We like the comfort of shifting responsibility for what people do and don’t do to God as well as the consequences for their choices.
When Satan rebelled was God in control? What about when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, was God in control?
If “God is in Control” does it necessarily mean that all the murders, wars, famines, suffering, evil and rape are precisely what God planned and desires?
Psalm 115:3 (KJB) “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.”
God is sovereign, but this does not mean that everything man “chooses” to do or “chooses” not to do by our own choice is foreordained by God. There is no reasonable or biblical reason why a sovereign God by His Sovereign design could not allow us the freedom of moral choice. Indeed it is essential if we are to be more than a marionette controlled by God.
There is no conflict between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. The fact that God can be sovereign and man can have a free will to “choose” is not an inconceivable mystery. Calvinism denies free will by its definition of sovereignty making God the cause of all, including sin while holding us accountable for what God causes us to do. This idea of God’s sovereignty is illogical.
Our free-will is one of God’s most marvelous works. The gift of free-will makes every other gift from God possible because, without the power to choose, we could not consciously receive any moral or spiritual gift from God. We are regularly called upon to make moral choices, to love and obey God, to believe the gospel, and to accept Jesus Christ.
Joshua 24:15 (KJB) “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Isaiah 1:19 (KJB) “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:”
Daniel 1:8 (KJB) “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
A Grave Inconsistency
We by our own choice can and do rebel and disobey God. Even though God is sovereign, and, without violating or diminishing His sovereignty, God’s will is continually resisted and rejected as a result of the rebellion of Satan and man. Consider the country that you are in at this very moment. Naturalized citizens and foreigners violate the laws of the state, but this does not make the country any less sovereign. However, lawbreakers are punished if apprehended.
Those of us who are saved, Christians, do not always perfectly fulfill God’s will. If we did live a sinless life, there would be no sin to confess or any need for much of the New Testament including Jesus’s letters to the seven churches of Asia. If there were no sin would there need to be a judgment seat of Christ? God would not need to correct us, but our rewards in heaven would be meaningless without free will.
Here is the testimony of God’s word regarding how we fulfill God’s will.
Isaiah 1:2 (KJB) “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.”
Luke 7:30 (KJB) “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.”
Everything that happens in our daily lives is not according to God’s will.
In the Old Testament God pleads with Israel to repent of her rebellion and to return and obey Him.
Romans 10:21 (KJB) “But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”
The history of Israel is proof that despite God’s absolute sovereignty man can and does rebel, and that the sin he commits is not God’s will, and not by His pronouncement.
Jeremiah 44:4-6 (KJB) “Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate. 5 But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense unto other gods. 6 Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured forth, and was kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as at this day.”
Indeed, the idolatry that God calls “this abominable thing I hate,” could not be according to His will. God’s will is rejected by our rebellion millions of times each day around the world, but this does not in the least refute or deteriorate God’s sovereignty.
Ephesians 1:11 (KJB) “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.”
Calvinist use this verse as a source for their corrupt view of God’s sovereignty. One of the favorite tactics of Calvinists is to change the definition of words. In this verse, the word “worketh” Calvinist claim denotes a controlled manipulation. It comes from a Greek word that means energy or stimulation. See these similar verses where the same word is used.
Colossians 1:29 (KJB) “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.”
2 Thessalonians 2:7 (KJB) “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”
2 Thessalonians 2:9 (KJB) “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.”
Philippians 2:12-13 (KJB) “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
Calvinist will object and say “How dare you suggest that the omnipotent God cannot effect His will! Of course, God can, and He does. But that fact does not by itself mean God wills everything that happens. Without free will, we would not be morally responsible and could not be guilty of sin.
These verses show very clearly that not everyone fulfills the will of God.
Matthew 12:50 (KJB) “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Matthew 7:21 (KJB) “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
Isaiah 65:12 (KJB) “Therefore will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter: because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not.”
Hebrews 10:36 (KJB) ‘For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”
1 Peter 2:15-16 (KJB) “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.”
1 John 2:17 (KJB) “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
Obviously, there is a difference between what God desires and wills, and what He allows.
A Glaring Distinction
Many scriptures show that God’s will can be, and is, disobeyed by man. Despite the clarity of God’s word, many Calvinist believe everything that happens is God’s will. The logical conclusion to this errored thinking is that unrepentance and dying a lost person is also God’s will. But God says it is not His will. Calvinist tell us that man’s rebellion is ordered sovereignly by God and that God’s will is the active cause of it. Biblicist believes that sin is the result of our own selfish and evil desires in rebelliousness to God. Hence, man is held morally accountable because it is in the power of our will to obey or deny God. Calvinist deny that man because he is “totally depraved,” has such a choice. However, they hold men accountable despite the alleged inability to act in any way except as God has ordered.
The glaring distinction comes because there is a difference between deciding or willing to do something and doing it. The intent is the fact that every lazy and procrastinator demonstrates. Willing to work is not working at all.
Romans 7:18 (KJB) “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”
Indeed, Paul’s will is not the problem but rather his inability even as a regenerated person to do the good he wills and to refrain from the evil that his will rejects.
Romans 1:16 (KJB) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
The power that saves man is all of God, but man receives salvation by faith, and only by faith. For a sinner to accept by faith salvation that Christ purchased on the Cross is no work on man’s part at all. For the Calvinist to call accepting Christ by faith “human effort” is to again, invent their own meaning of words.
It is the Calvinist extreme view of God’s sovereignty that causes them to reject the biblical teaching that salvation is offered freely to all. Instead Calvinist limit salvation to the elect. The Calvinist objects and claim we deny God’s omnipotence and sovereignty by saying that God wants to save all men but lacks the power to do so. This is a glaring distinction unless we simply understand that God has given man the free choice of whether to receive Jesus Christ or not. In reality, power has no relationship to grace and love, which provide salvation. There are many things that God cannot do, and the lack of “power” is not the reason for any of them, and God’s sovereignty is not lessened at all because of what He cannot do.
Three things God Cannot Do
First, God cannot forgive sin without the penalty being paid. Matthew 26:39 (KJB) “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
If it were possible to offer salvation without Christ paying the penalty demanded, God would have allowed Jesus to bypass the cross. By this, we know it was not possible for God to save man any other way. Even God’s sovereign, omnipotent power cannot simply declare that sinners be forgiven. This fact destroys the very basis of Calvinism’s salvation for the elect alone by sovereign decree.
Secondly, God can not force a gift upon anyone. This fact shows that salvation for the elect cannot be by predestination. Salvation cannot be earned it can only be received as a gift from God. Man must be willing; the giver cannot impose the gift against the recipient’s will.
Lastly, even God cannot force anyone to love Him or to accept His love. Force never produces love. True love comes voluntarily from the heart.
Romans 10:9 (KJB) “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
Jesus Christ repeatedly gives us an invitation.
Matthew 11:28 (KJB) “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
John 7:37 (KJB) “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”
Revelation 22:17 (KJB) “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
There is no question that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace.
John 3:16 (KJB) “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.”
John 4:10 (KJB) “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.”
Romans 5:15 (KJB) “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.”
Romans 6:23 (KJB) “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Ephesians 2:8 (KJB) “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:”
1 John 5:11 (KJB) “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”