I can hear it now, the screams of all those people who grew up actually believing that they chose God of their own free will. “What do you mean I didn’t choose God?! You mean to tell me God has complete sovereignty over his creation?! This can’t be!!!!” Before you come undone let’s discuss this topic.
In light of today marking the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation I though I would discuss the topic that always comes to mind when I think of reformed theology. Predestination! There is so much controversy surrounding this topic: Free will, divine sovereignty, eternal decrees, etc.
Yes We Have Free Will, But It’s Not What You Think
We (especially as Americans in the Western Culture) love this idea of free will that doesn’t actually exist. We think that we can freely choose anything. Now obviously we can’t choose to fly, or disappear, or shape shift, but we actually believe that we can make any decision we want and that there are no boundaries on these decisions. This is the idea of autonomy; the idea that we govern or selves.
The cold harsh truth is that we are not autonomous. We are not self-governing. We are governed by our desires, and even those we cannot choose. It is within our desires that we have freedom to choose, and at that we will only ever choose the greatest desire at any given moment. Let me give you an example: A man walks up to you, points a gun at your head and says give me your wallet. wishing to keep your life you give him the wallet. “Ha! so we can choose against our desires, because who would desire to give up their possessions?!” Not so fast. We choose the greatest desires at any given moment. So while you didn’t want to give the mean man your wallet, you had a greater desire to live and thus chose that.
So, when we finally come to realize that we can only chose what we actually and really desire, predestination makes sense.
All By Yourself, You Do Not Desire God
It’s true. No man naturally desires God. Paul says in Romans 3:11, “no one understands; no one seeks for God.” The phrase “No one seeks” in the greek can be translated to “the one who seeks [God] diligently does not exist.” And this seeking diligently means “to try to get, reach, or find something.” So what Paul is saying is, “People who naturally try to reach or find God, people who try to get him? Yeah they literally don’t exist.”
The Bible is clear about our hearts before regeneration, that we hated God, we were hostile to him, in rebellion (John 3:20, Romans 8:7-8; Colossians 1:21). It’s quite simple. Until God reached down and regenerated us, we wanted nothing to do with him, we hated him, we rebelled against him, we did not desire him. If you will recall we have already established that we cannot choose something we do not desire, so accordingly unless God chose us we were never, never able to choose him. Period.
The Grace and Mercy of God Shines Brightly in Light of this Truth
Think about it! God chose us even though we hated, and rebelled against him! Does that not show how rich in grace and mercy that God is towards us!? It does. Paul puts it so beautifully in my opinion: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 6:6-8). BUT GOD showed his love. God is the first cause of your salvation. If not for him, you would never even think of raising your hand during an altar call, you would never even think of living a life for him.
While You Were Yet Dead…
As I close, I know I have touched very briefly on the subject but I wanna leave you with a few verses.
And you, although you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all formerly lived in the desires of our flesh, doing the will of the flesh and of the mind, and we were children of wrath by nature, as also the rest of them were.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5 and we being dead in trespasses, he made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved), 6 and raised us together and seated us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that he might show in the coming ages the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we may walk in them.
14 What then shall we say? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For to Moses he says, “I will have mercy on whomever I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I have compassion.” 16 Consequently therefore, it does not depend on the one who wills or on the one who runs, but on God who shows mercy. 17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very reason I have raised you up, so that I may demonstrate my power in you, and so that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Consequently therefore, he has mercy on whomever he wishes, and he hardens whomever he wishes.
19 Therefore you will say to me, “Why then does he still find fault? For who has resisted his will? 20 On the contrary, O man, who are you who answers back to God? Will what is molded say to the one who molded it, “Why did you make me like this”? 21 Or does the potter not have authority over the clay, to make from the same lump a vessel that is for honorable use and one that is for ordinary use? 22 And what if God, wanting to demonstrate his wrath and to make known his power, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And he did so in order that he could make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy that he prepared beforehand for glory, 24 us whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
In the weeks to come I hope to expend on this theology through more blogs and podcasts. Until then…
Soli Deo Gloria