This is the first of several articles that will be included in the coming days. Be careful about presuming on the content before you listen to understand and dialogue with someone on this important doctrine.
Does God Elect or does man have Freewill in Salvation?
The question of Election versus Freewill has stirred up theological thinking for hundreds of years. It’s not been totally settled, but many people have come with more clear answers than others. Does God elect people separate and apart from the free will of man? Or, does the free will of man determine his destiny for eternity? The Bible seems to address both aspects.
This will be the first of several articles to address this important question. There is so much Scripture on the topic that it will not be addressed in a few short articles. The purpose of this is to answer the question posed to me and to provide discussion points, so that we might arrive at a clearer understanding of God’s plan without causing division, schism, or even separation. Jesus said oneness was a major purpose for His people in His prayer to the Father (John 17:20-23). My intention is to preserve peace and rightly divide Scripture by renewing truth in the mind.
Scripture indicates God sovereignly makes choices apart from man. For example,
13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!
15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion1.”
16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth1.”
18Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. (Rom. 9:13-18)
Is this black and white clear? Remember this is only one text, which must be harmonized with 66 books of the Bible. One text cannot be taken out of context, or it becomes a pretext.
On the other hand, Scripture indicates that man has freewill. For example,
“And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:15)
If man didn’t have a choice, why would Joshua tell them to choose? Additionally, John wrote,
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
If man didn’t have a part in salvation, then why does it say, “that whoever believes”? Both God’s sovereignty and man’s freewill are indicated in Scripture, so how do we harmonize this to prevent any contradictions or pretexts in Scripture?
This is best understood by the word “antinomy.” The word literally means “against the law” or the mutual incompatibility, real or apparent, of two laws. The concept of antinomy holds that two subjects are both true, yet they contradict each other. For example, the Trinity is an antinomy in that God is one and God is three. On the one extreme, God is one, which is modalism and states that God appears as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. On the other extreme, God is three and the extreme holds to three gods or tritheism. If you go too far on either truth, you enter heresy. The same is true with sovereignty and free will. Both are true and you end in heresy if you camp on one or the other. Accept the antinomy by faith and you will be much closer to the truth.
Does God elect? Yes. Does man have freewill? Yes. Did God elect before the creation of the human race? Yes. Does man have to choose at the point of salvation to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior? Yes.
Those who hold to extremes counter the other side’s argument. For example, those who camp on the sovereignty of God often say God regenerates man and then gives man faith to believe. God does not give faith to those who do not believe. Scripture does say, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy…” (Rom. 9:15). Those who hold to the free will of man extreme often say that God knew who would believe and thus elected them.
The key is to accept by faith that both are true and seek to understand Scripture so that no contradiction exists. There can be no contradiction in Scripture, because it is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16) and the Holy Spirit carried along the writers of Scripture (2 Pet. 1:21), so that it is true (John 17:17).
I will include a few more articles on the subject in the following days to stir up your thinking and to grasp the awesome infinity of God’s wisdom.