“Where does free will and God’s sovereignty intersect?”
This is an issue all believers grapple with from time to time. Am I free or am I programmed? Is God fully in control or not in control? If everything is programmed, why work? Why pray? This issue becomes even more problematic when we see evil and suffering? How can a good God who is in control allow evil?
As we look at Scripture, we see truths that cannot be ignored. The Scripture makes frequent references to God’s sovereignty (it would be impossible to list all of those). But scripture also supports humans as volitional beings.
Dr. Robert Peterson at the latest Reformed Men’s Club listed four human freedoms in the Bible. There is ample Biblical support for these.
Freedom #1- Man in the Garden- Man was given responsibility and choice in the garden. This freedom is a beautiful gift that glorifies the Creator. This freedom also allowed the possibility (and I say probability) of evil entering it. Which it did.
Freedom #2- Man After the Fall- The Bible indicates that Adam’s sin was cursed and passed on to humanity. According to many places (Ephesians, for example) we are born dead in trespasses and sin. Our freedom now is a bondage. We are bound to sin. Isn’t it interesting that when we revel in our freedom and rebellion, we actually are chained? We cannot choose God because of our nature. We are inconsistent in good and evil choices.
Freedom #3- Man After Conversion- Once the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to our sin and the need of a Savior and respond to His call, we repent and put our faith in Christ. At that point, we have a new freedom, the ability to respond and serve the Creator. I John makes it clear that we are inconsistent in that new freedom. But we now have many helps to follow the path of sanctification.
Freedom #4- Man After Glorification- In heaven, it will all be clear and glorious. God allowed sin and evil to make salvation more glorious, the harder the struggle; the greater the victory. We will say with Joseph, “What was meant for evil, God meant for good.” We will no longer choose evil in light of the gloriousness of God. If sin never happened, we would not know God’s mercy. We would not see God’s sacrifice. We begin to see how truly great God is.
You may hate this answer, but the Bible indicates that God is sovereign and that man makes choices. Our choices do not undermine His plan. He even channels evil intentions to His holy purpose. The clearest example of this is the cross. The Roman soldiers freely chose to hammer the nails, God clearly decreed the exact moment and it was according to His plan put together before the foundation of the world.
This blows our mind. It makes God majestic and mysterious. It keeps us responsible for our choices and keeps us secure in His sovereignty. He is THE LORD!
(Reposted with permission and encouragement from the author… Jay is a Reformed teacher of the Bible as well as a sports coach at a local Christian school in the Nashville, Tennessee area.)