Thursday, April 29, 2010

I recently received this question from a friend from church:

I don't understand the relationship between freewill and God's plan. How do the two fit together? Any scripture and comments you have on the subject would be helpful. Thanks.

My Answer:
That is a great question and one that many people struggle with because there are so many issues involved.

First of all, with an issue like this, we must remember first that God is perfectly good and has all (infinite) wisdom and understanding.

Isaiah 55:9 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Romans 11:33-34 33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?

So, we must first understand that whatever God says HE fully and totally understands. We may not fully understand it because we DON'T know everything (but God does!). That's why He's God and we're not!

Second, the Bible declares time and time again that God is sovereign (=that is, God is the King and is in CONTROL of everything—absolutely everything).

Psalm 103:19 19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.

Psalm 115:3 3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.

Isaiah 46:10 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';

See also Psalm 93:1; 97:1; 99:1; 1 Timothy 1:17; Ephesians 1:11 (and many more!)

So, we must believe that God has ORDAINED everything that ever comes about (God is perfectly in control; he never is OUT of control; he never has to go to "plan B". God never makes a mistake. Everything that happens (everything!) is in God's determined will/decree. That's a hard concept to grasp but this is the simple truth. I wouldn't want to worship any other God...would you? I'm glad I worship a God who is control of everything (even earthquakes, natural disasters, tsunamis, death, murder, government...etc.).

Third, we also know from the Bible that God has commanded man to "make choices."

Joshua 24:15 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,

Deuteronomy 30:19 19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live

Acts 16:31 31 They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-- you and your household."

And many many more...

So, The Bible also declares that even though God is in total and absolute control of everything, man also is called to "believe" or "choose" or "decide"... etc. This seems like an irreconcilable contradiction. But rather this evidence that we must believe in both truths. In the mind of God (the perfect all-knowing God) the two fit together beautifully. But in our human, feeble, finite minds, we're not sure how it all fits together.

So, here's my conclusion: God has ordained everything that ever happens (he's in control). Yet, I still have a responsibility (on the human side) to believe in the LORD, pursue Christlikeness and holiness, believe in the LORD, share my faith with my friends, etc.

Check out this verse that clearly reveals both truths:

Acts 16:14 14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart (God's control and sovereignty) to respond (human responsibility) to the things spoken by Paul.

And again...

Acts 13:48 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life (God's election and sovereignty) believed (human responsibility).

In heaven, we can ask the LORD how it all fits together and he'll explain it all to us! But for now, we have to submit to God's Word (the Bible) and believe what it clearly teaches, namely, God is in perfect control as the all-knowing and all-powerful King and yet we as humans are called to live life with all our might for God's glory and for His pleasure! I love the fact that they are NOT contradictions but they fit together beautifully in the mind of God. So we must submit to God's Word and accept both concepts as true and reliable.

I preached on this very issue at Church a while ago. You can listen to the sermon here.


Jason Alligood said...

Great summary Geoff!

Unknown said...

"Acts 16:14 14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart (God's control and sovereignty) to respond (human responsibility) to the things spoken by Paul."

And what of the hearts he doesn't open?s

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