God's Sovereignty does not contradict our freedom of will and responsibility!
God is not the ""master puppeteer""with us as the marionettes! Even though He is in absolute control over every subatomic particle of energy in the cosmos and how ever many universes there are, we still have a choice. Look at it this way; no matter what the options or circumstances are or how interlinked they are with the choices of others, or how our circumstances transpire, our choices are His pre-ordained will. Whom you will marry, where you will live, and what you will do this day are all in His scope and control. Yet, we still choose. This may "²blow our minds,"² as it is far beyond our rationale or ability to reason. Just because we may not fully understand this does not nullify this doctrine. In fact, it should help us. Who would want to worship a God we can fully fathom and control? Maybe some would, as then they would be in control, not need to be convicted, and could do as they pleased. But, this would not be God; it would be an idol. If we did understand God beyond how He has revealed Himself to us, where would our trust be? I believe the fact that we do not understand helps prove His Sovereignty! The question is not whether we understand how He formed the universe out of nothing or how He determines our actions; rather, it is if we will trust Him, depend on Him, be responsible to His precepts, and be willing to follow through to let our faith grow in Him!
As far as free will goes, of course we have free will! Calvin spoke of this in most of his writings. In addition, he spent more time on our responsibility than any other subject except prayer-including anything in the acronym of TULIP! Calvin taught that we have responsibility, duty to faith, and responsibility to pray-three areas that require free will. God gives us dignity and the ability to choose what to be aware of, to make moral decisions, and to live a life either for Him or against Him. If He did not give us some free will, we would just be pre-programmed robots unable to reason, relate to Him or to others, to love, or to worship Him. Thus, we can never say, since God is sovereign, it makes no difference what we do because anything we do will be His will. We are still responsible for the choices we make. We just do not have the ability to act independent of God! We are in God's control and we are responsible for our actions (Deut. 7:7-10; Rom. 9:19)! These ideas are not contradictory even though they do stretch our reasoning abilities beyond human logic. Because God is God, these two contradictory ideas can take place even though we may not have a grasp of it.
This is also called Liberation. God is in control and has a plan for us, but what are we going to do about it? Like driving a car in a strange, unfamiliar area, if Christ is a passenger, we will spend most of our time arguing, complaining, and debating the destination. Therefore, we end up going nowhere as well as hating the journey. In addition, we do not have a clue as to where our destination is. Others will just sit on the couch and do nothing in life, blaming God because what they want has not dropped from heaven directly upon them therefore, they end up doing zero in life! If we allow Christ to get into the driver's seat, He will be able to take us where we could never have gone on our own. The journey of our Christian life becomes the road trip of a lifetime, filled with wonder and excitement. Even when we hit those potholes, the ride is a joy. Moreover, if we will sign over the pink slip of our will to our Lord Jesus Christ, He will take us to places beyond our wildest imaginations. Our ultimate freedom is found in His Sovereignty applied to our service and His glorification. There is no better way of life (Deut. 7:9-10; Jos. 24)!
In Reformed theology, debate over free will and Sovereignty is sometimes called "The bondage of the will." Perhaps it was Jonathan Edwards who coined this phrase, but its grasp is clearly taught in Scripture. In a nutshell, it means we have free will to choose; it is also called free agency (The degree of our freedom is debated by theologians in the Reformed camp and outside in Dispensationalism and Arminianism. The reasons are too long and complicated to go into here; however, virtually all agree that we do have it, and the Bible clearly teaches it even though some Reformed theologians disagree.). This means we make our own decisions and reap our own consequences. We have the ability to see all the options of a decision or situation along with the virtue that can come from them and the destruction they can cause. The main point on free will is that because of the Fall, we no longer have the desire to seek God first; thus, we need the Holy Spirit to intercede on our behalf through what Christ did. We have a conscience that knows who God is as revealed in our hearts even without the Word (Rom. 1; Psalm 15; Isa. 40). This will is at war with the desires of our freedom, our sinful nature to rebel as Adam did first. The bondage is that our hearts are captured by sin; thus, our choices are bent toward sin and rebellion. The only way to gain true freedom is to accept what Christ has done. It is He that sets our will free. And once freed, we will choose to be surrendered to Him as His bondservant-the ultimate freedom! Then we will have a will inclined to seek our Lord's face and live a life pleasing to Him (John 8:34-36; Rom. 6:16-23; 2:20; Gal. 5:1-13).
The doctrine of faith alone is a demonstration of our will to choose, and we do choose to accept His amazing gift of grace, as He first comes to us. (To what extent is a matter of debate in Reformed circles.) He seeks us; we do not have the will or the ability to seek Him because of our sinful nature (Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:21-23; John 3:19; Rom. 3:10-12; 6:14-20; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1). However, we cannot choose it if we do not know about it, and that is the point of this doctrine. Sin, by the way of our false presumptions, pride, or what we think is fun and inviting is in the way of our choosing. Yet, if we allow His work to continue in us, the Holy Spirit will lift our sin and our will out of the way. Therefore, we can be saved by God's predestined decree (Grace Alone), and by what Christ has done (Christ Alone). We accept Salvation (Faith Alone), which is revealed by the Word (The Scriptures Alone), for God's glory (Glory to God Alone). (Slogans from the Reformation, adhered to by Calvinists and Lutherans.)
God is in control; this should help us realize that our contentment is in Him and not in things or circumstances! Ultimately, control by us is an illusion; even though we make decisions and we are to peruse and pursue life and His call, we do not have control over life or death. We make decisions that somehow are intertwined in His foreknowledge and total Sovereignty, and we are primarily called first to seek Him (Matt. 6:33). He is our ultimate safety net and security, both in life and eternity. This helps us see Him and trust Him and not to worry or stress out. Sovereignty also means we have a God in whom we can trust, whom we can obey, and in whom we can take comfort! Worry should not even come to our minds, for He is in charge (Matt. 6:25-34). We are under God's provision, and nobody else has ultimate control. All power and authority are His by both direct and indirect means.
So, we need to see our lives as being in His hands of love and comfort, that He does have a wonderful plan for our lives, and that everything happens for a reason and a purpose. We need to look beyond logic, reason, and scientific explanations that can change completely every few years. His truth remains the same. We have to see all that happens in our life-sufferings, tragedies, good times, and all-as opportunities to learn, grow, develop character, and mature. If not, we will miss out on what is important in life, causing it to be meaningless!
As Spurgeon said, free will and God's sovereignty are friends. His preordained decrees are also our free choices working out. Hard to understand? Well, remember, God is beyond the confines of time and space, and is infinitely beyond our understanding. He is beyond how He revealed Himself to us, so accept His precepts and trust Him for the joy ride of life! Just because He knows all things, what we will choose before we do, or when and what we do, we still choose. Thus, our free will and choices are incorporated and in relation to God's Sovereignty and foreknowledge and He does not negate our freedom. We are limited but He is not (Acts 4:27-28; 1 John 3:20).
Sovereignty Does Not Release Us From Responsibility!
Remember, the doctrine of Sovereignty does not rule out our responsibility to accept, trust, have faith in, and believe in the redeeming work of Christ (John 3:16-18). The objection by the Armenians is based on a misunderstanding of the term. They believe the Reformed position rejects people's responsibility, which is not so. They also ignore the sovereignty of God! Who is better qualified and more trustworthy to determine salvation (the greatest gift)¾our fallen reasoning, or the holiness and purity of God?
We cannot fathom the true implication of meaning or reasoning. We have to trust that God is God and we are not. Thus, we have no idea of His plans or purposes. All Christian groups who use the Bible must believe in God and let God be God. He must be sovereign; and, if He is sovereign, there must also be Election. The division is in the meaning and purpose, which God has not revealed to us. We can only speculate. We know only what He has revealed: that He does elect, and that Election is to His glory and purpose. There is a balancing act between God's sovereignty and our responsibility. Neither Calvin nor anyone else has been able to resolve this tension. This is why there is so much debate.
What does this come down to? Our call is to trust and obey (there is no other way!). (1 Cor. 1:8-9; Phil.1:6; 1 Thess. 1:3-6; 5:23-24; 2 Tim. 1:12; 4:18; 2 Pet. 1:10). It is not our purpose to argue over this, but to accept His wondrous and amazing Sovereignty and the Grace He gives us even though we do not choose or deserve it. God, in His reasoning, which is perfect and holy, does not select some, and allow others to stay in sin. It does not mean that He chooses that those should go to hell. This is also under Hyper Calvinism or Double Predestination and is not biblical doctrine (Psalm 81:12; 1 Pet 2:8)!
In1 Peter 4: 1-11, use whatever gift means to practice our spiritual gifts and realize that the diversity we have is beneficial. It also means being charitable or generous to others with what Christ has given us, and serving Him without being held back by fear, time, or lack of talent. As Christians, we are to typify faith and reason together so we can exhibit the maturity needed to make wise decisions and follow our purpose in life. This also means directly caring for those in need, such as the sick, infirmed, and poor. However, some Christians will have a specific call and empowerment to do this. People in the world may be more concerned for their own needs and agendas than they are for God's clear doctrine and purpose, but as Christians, we are called to go beyond ourselves to serve others well (Titus 2). Kindness is the proof of authenticity (Rom. 2:1-4; 12:4-21; 16:1; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:12-14; 1 John 3:16-23)!
God does not want us to be controlled by the past or to be fearful or cowardly. Now does he want us to make up false theological systems to rationalize why we do not have to evangelize, do missions, or help one another out! Rather, we are to learn from our experiences and grow from them, yet not be tied to them so they become our identity. We have been born again in Christ; our old life is old; it is no longer who we are. Thus, we are to grow closer to Him and be an example to others who are still in the old life without being influenced and enticed by them. Our focus needs to be on what is going on now, what God is doing, and how we can contribute to it, not just what we can get, but what can we learn and gain to be better for His glory?
Take comfort; God is in control. He does indeed have a plan for you even when you cannot see it. His will for your growth in Him is clear! He wants you to be faithful and good so others can see in you a demonstration model for the new life that they can have too. He gives you the ability, the power, and the strength to endure and to enjoy (Gal. 6:7)! The most important aspect is to keep our eyes focused on Christ, with racehorse blinders on to block off the rest.
The bottom line is that everything in the universe belongs to God. Since He is God, Creator, and Sustainer, He has that right and authority. Remember, the number of hairs on your head are under His sovereignty too; thus, we are to look to Him in truth in our dealings with one another, and not pay attention to material gain or dishonest gain, which gives us nothing-since nothing is ours! In Matthew 6: 5-15, Jesus declares, Your will be done. This illustrates for us that we are to seek His character and sovereignty in all things, and not bully what we want over what He has called us to do! His needs must precede our needs, because He wants what is best for us! This is about God's Will for us, to have a right relationship with Him.
We are to recognize His sovereignty over the universe and in our lives. In this way, righteousness, character, and virtue become the main objects in our quest. These are the jewels that we take with us into eternity! Righteousness, character, and virtue must be our essence that spills onto others. If not, we are definitely not in His Will nor are we understanding or practicing His Sovereignty. When we worry, we cannot grow in righteousness, character, or virtue, because it takes over our lives, leaving no room for growth or maturity. Worry will cut us off from our faith and growth because it blocks our focus and concentration upon our Lord (Heb. 11:10).
Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure. Isaiah 46:10
© 1999, 2001, totally revised 2005 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Discipleship Tools www.discipleshiptools.org/