Free Will

By Femi Aribisala

The wisdom of man says man has free will. But God has made foolish the wisdom of this world. (1 Corinthians 1:20). Foolish man bases truth on his own thoughts and reasoning. But God says to men: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9).

God says to the foolish king of Assyria who thinks his conquests results from his efforts:

“What sorrow awaits Assyria, the rod of my anger. I use it as a club to express my anger. I am sending Assyria against a godless nation, against a people with whom I am angry. Assyria will plunder them, trampling them like dirt beneath its feet. But the king of Assyria will not understand that he is my tool; his mind does not work that way.” But can the ax boast greater power than the person who uses it? Is the saw greater than the person who saws?” (Isaiah 10:5-7/15).

Foolish man thinks his actions and inactions come from his free will. But the only wise God declares that only His will is done: “The Lord Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.’” (Isaiah 14:24). God says: “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:10).

“Speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” (Job 12:8-10).

Disciples of Jesus

Jesus told His disciples: “Without Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). Nevertheless, they foolishly contradicted Him. He said to them on the night of Calvary: “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’” (Matthew 26:31).

That was the will of God.

God says: “’Have you not heard? Long ago I ordained it. In days of old I planned it; now I (will bring) it to pass.” (2 Kings 19:25).

But Peter foolishly insisted the will of God would not be done. He asserted instead his own will, saying to Jesus: “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” (Matthew 26:33).

Therefore, Jesus said to Peter: “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” (Matthew 26:34).

It is a no-brainer to ask whose will was done, that of God or that of Peter. Peter denied Jesus not once, but three times. The other disciples who also willed not to desert Jesus all deserted him. Is this not eloquent proof that the will of man is never done but the will of God is always done?

Example of Pharaoh

God told Pharaoh: “Let My people go.” But although He said this, He did not want Pharaoh to let them go because he planned to destroy Pharaoh and His army in the Red Sea. Therefore, although He sent Moses to bring terrible plagues on Egypt that would have broken the will of any man, He hardened the heart of Pharaoh so that he would not heed the words of Moses.

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God continued to harden the heart of Pharaoh with the result that he met his Waterloo in the Red Sea. “For the Scripture says to the 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 earth.’ Therefore, He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.” (Romans 9:17-18).

There was no free will on the part of Pharaoh that could have prevented his downfall because the will of God had decreed his downfall. The same destiny prevailed regarding Samuel’s evil sons: “They did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them.” (1 Samuel 2:25).

Jesus provides the answer as to why Pharaoh and Samuel’s sons were evil and others good. He says: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33).

Who makes the tree good or bad? God, the Almighty, that is who. The result is that, in every situation, it is the will of God that prevails.

Wisdom of man

But the wisdom of man is contrarian. He asks: “How then can man then be held responsible for his actions?”

Paul quickly shuts up the foolish who ask such impertinent questions, thinking they are wise: “Indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (Romans 9:20-21).

This is where the power of God provides the answer. Although God’s will is always done, nevertheless man is responsible for his actions. Assyria will still be held responsible for allowing itself to be a negative instrument of God: “When the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, ‘I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks.’” (Isaiah 10:12).

God will punish those who are disposed to be used for evil purposes, and He will reward those who are inclined to be used for noble purposes.

“In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20-21).

Note that, in every situation, God determines the vessels and He determines their use. But His determination never violates the disposition of the vessel.

Salvation by grace

Because man has no free will, salvation is by grace and not by works. Man cannot be saved by his own effort: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Indeed, God’s salvation provides no room whatsoever for man’s free will. God says: “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’” (Isaiah 65:1).

Jesus, our Saviour, reiterates this. He says: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you.” (John 15:16). He says furthermore: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” (John 6:44).

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