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Chapter 4. Nature of God- Free Will
While wrestling with the sticky issue of free will, I came to believe that God does not want anyone in Heaven who can’t leave if they choose.
It was from this train of thought that I came up with the following article (some of which is “out there”):
Premise: God wants those in Heaven to be there of their own free will, and who can choose to leave (rebel) of their own free will (as one-third of the angels, Satan, and Adam and Eve did). If they didn’t have that ability, they would not be suitable for what He wants. God doesn’t want pre-programmed or conditioned beings who have to obey Him.
Implications of premise:
We have free will to choose however we want in every decision of our life. Our will is the operating system, so to speak, that makes the final decision. It is the part of us that makes us worthy to be in fellowship with God. I would almost say that man is a four part being instead of three: spirit, soul, body and will. (In Revelation 2:23 several versions of the Bible translate it as "...I am he who searches the reins and hearts...". This is the only place the Greek word being translated as "reins" is found in the New Testament, but there are several verses in the Old Testament that refer to Jehovah "trying the reins" of the Israelites. These sound a lot like "testing the will" to me. While I don't think we should build our theology on a few verses, it is interesting that "reins" was used for these verses.)
When God gave man dominion over the Earth, it was more than just taking care of it. There was a legal component where God deliberately limited Himself from being able to control events on the Earth. The devil would never have tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of Earth if it had no legal validity. Again, it goes to the premise that God wants people to choose Him without His controlling the world they live in. However, although God has limited His ability to intervene in our life, He has promised to always be with us and to be involved with every part of our life. The difference between intervening and involving is that intervening affects free will and involving does not. God doesn’t over-write anyone’s will. The devil can't. But both God and the devil try to influence your will. The difference is that God uses truth and the devil uses lies disguised as truth.
This means that it is wrong to pray for God to change the will of someone we are praying for: for example, praying that God will make your boss have a good opinion of you after an upcoming job review. A better approach would be to pray for wisdom on how you can give the best opinion of yourself to your boss, but in the end, it is the boss’ will that will make that decision, and God is not going to control that. I’m not even sure we should pray for anything if it involved God’s having to change someone's will.
God doesn’t know what our decisions are until we make them, although He knows beforehand because He is not bound by time (which is an interesting concept to say the least). He has to allow each person enough time on Earth to give each person ample opportunities to choose Him of their own free will. That’s why The End has not come yet. God is waiting until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, i.e., enough people have lived long enough to be tested.
Our will must be tested, and, for a Christian, that means our salvation must be tested. So our salvation becomes a process during which our will is tested by the things we go through. Anyone can abort their salvation process at any time. These are those who are stony ground in the parable of the sower. However, for those who do not abort, there comes a point at which their will becomes “set” on doing God’s will. At that point the “once saved, always saved” applies. I base this on the verses that imply “once saved, always saved.” “Once saved, always saved” is true…once tested. (This is not salvation by works. It is salvation by testing of the will.)
How does one abort their salvation process (lose their salvation)? Hint: don’t look at their sin, look at their will. There are two scenarios here:
1. Those who abort by setting their will against God, often as a result of offenses. It is the condition of the will that we are talking about, not the condition of the heart. God is the only one who knows the condition of a person’s will, but it usually manifests itself in the undoing of Romans 10:9, when a person confesses with his mouth that Jesus is not Lord and doesn’t believe in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. Hebrews 10:29 may apply here.
2. The other way also involves the will. It involves those who have set their will in line with the God they want rather than the God who is. These are the ones that Jesus has to tell them at judgement time to depart for He never knew them. To set your will in a God of your own choosing is the same as setting your will against the true God.
(In both of the scenarios above I believe truth was available to both groups, but was deliberately rejected. Hebrews 10:26 says "For where we sin willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains any sacrifice for sins..." I believe this implies both groups will have no excuses on the Day of Judgment.)
No one has to worry about their salvation if they want God’s will, as Jesus said in the garden: “…not my will but yours be done.” And as long as your will is set on doing God's will, all the promises in the Bible for you are in play. After your will has been tested, you’ll reach a point when you know you would never turn back, no matter what else you had to go through.
What I have written here answers a lot of questions about certain verses and issues that have bothered me for years. It does not answer all questions, such as how the sealing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit fit into this picture, unless it is possible that one can even choose to be “unsealed.” It is not contrary to the premise. Hebrews 10:29 may apply here, too.
But is it possible that we will have total free will in Heaven?
Corollary: God doesn’t send people to Hell who never had a chance to hear about Jesus.
This is the hardest conclusion to deal with because it raises perhaps the two most difficult questions to answer: Is Jesus the only way to God (Heaven), and what about those who never had a chance to hear about Jesus? Non-Christians ask these questions, often with honest inquiry. The Bible states very plainly that Jesus is the only way. Since the Bible doesn’t state plainly about those who never had the chance to hear about Jesus, Christians have wrestled for centuries over this one. I have my own opinion, but first let’s see what the Bible does say that could help us: The Bible says that God is good and that He wants all men to be saved.
From these my opinion is: I don’t see any way it is good to provide a way out of Hell (Jesus) and then not tell someone about it. That does not fit God’s nature as I see it in the Bible. He is just, not cruel. From my conclusions on free will, I believe God allows those who never heard the gospel to live long enough for Him to see their decisions. This allows Him to know their will and thus whether they would have accepted Jesus had they had the chance. God will then give them that chance some way. God will save all those who would have accepted Jesus had they had a chance to hear about Jesus. There is an intriguing section in Romans 2:13-15 that may support this corollary. The problem with my opinion is that it sounds like God will save you as long as you are sincere in whatever you believe, which I’m not saying. What I am saying is:
1. Jesus is the only way to Heaven. He always has been and always will be.
2. The Bible says God is good and that His will is that all men be saved.
3. From the two above statements we can conclude that God can, and has, resolved any contradictions, such as how can God be good and send those to Hell who never heard about Jesus, in a way that is good and gives anyone who has ever been born or ever will be born an equal chance of hearing about Jesus.
4. I believe the three statements above are absolutely true and are what we should say when challenged. Then leave it up to God to provide the conviction of the Holy Spirit. That’s His job. Our job is just to proclaim Jesus, which I also think implies proclaiming truths about God and His nature.
Corollary: God may not supernaturally heal someone if it infringes upon their free will.
Intervening by miracles perhaps can affect the will, which I don’t think God will do. God often intervened in the Old Testament to show who He was, and it didn’t work very well for the long run. Israel always fell away after God supernaturally delivered them. I believe God is very careful when and how He intervenes supernaturally. (See Note 1 at the end of this chapter.) Our free will is one of the most precious gifts God gave us. While I think there are other reasons, maybe God doesn’t heal someone because it would infringe upon their ability to choose Him freely. Are we following God for Him or for the miracles? Jesus chided some of His followers for this very reason. By the way, this corollary is my answer to the lottery question posed in Chapter 1: winning supernaturally might affect someone’s free will.
Corollary: The mark of the Bride in heaven is she knows she can leave but chooses to stay.
This is true of earthly marriages. We wouldn’t want a spouse who had to stay married to us.
See Chapter 10 for more on the Bride.
Corollary: Since God has chosen to not know what choices in life we will make, it explains some confusing verses about Him.
1. God told the Israelites that it never occurred to Him that pagan nations would offer their newborn babies to be sacrificed by fire to pagan gods. This only makes sense if He didn’t know until they did it that they would do it.
2. God was going to destroy the Israelites for making the golden calf until Moses seemingly talked Him out of it. Why would God get that angry if He already knew what they were going to do.
3. When God saw how evil mankind had become, He regretted creating man. Why let them live this long if He knew beforehand how it would turn out?
4. God told Abraham just before Abraham was about to kill Isaac to stop for God now knew that Abraham truly trusted Him. Certainly looks like God wasn’t for sure until the moment of.
Corollary: God controls the direction of mankind, but not the direction of men.
We have already seen in this chapter how free will leads to the conclusion that God does not intervene in our lives nearly as much as we might think, and yet He already has mapped out the end-time events. So it follows that God will intervene at the national or global level to bring about the correct alignment for the end times to play out as He has pre-ordained. I’ll call those “intervention events.” But for any events, small or large, that do not require God’s intervention, He lets play out on their own. Remember, God is not interested in how non-intervention events turn out as much as He is what choices His people, the church, are making in the non-intervention events. So each Christian needs to get “rhema words” (more on rhema words in Chapter 5) for how they are to respond to events large and small. We cannot affect the outcome of an intervention event, so don’t try. God already has determined it. Instead focus on things God is focusing on. Do His people have compassion? Do they seek rhema words for what and how to pray, or act?
Corollary: God doesn’t show Himself in a way that can be detected by our physical senses because He doesn’t want to violate our free will.
If God stepped out of the spiritual realm and into the physical, it would instantly affect everyone’s free will. In other words, they wouldn’t be human anymore. I believe totally unbiased free will in relation to God is a big part of what makes us human. That’s why I also don’t think we will ever find conclusive scientific evidence of the flood, the ark, the Tower of Babel or any other miraculous things God did. It would affect free will.
Corollary: Adam and Eve had just as much chance to choose to obey God as they did to disobey Him.
I'm not sure God knew how Adam and Eve would choose when they were tempted by the serpent. If He knew then He set them up to fail by manipulating the situation and thus their free will. That does not fit His nature as I see it. God had Jesus "prepared beforehand" for if, not when, they chose wrong.
Corollary: While the Bible says that God has appointed every person a time to die, because we have free will we can die before that time by disobeying God's physical and spiritual laws.
Obviously God can and has intervened in some cases by supernaturally healing or protecting, but we all know cases where He didn't. I don't know all the things that figure into God's supernatural healing, or protection in things like car wrecks, but I believe three things that might play a part: how well we know God's nature, would it violate our free will, and how well we hear God's rhema words (see Chapter 5). Personally, whenever I feel attacked by sickness or some serious malady, I meditate on God's nature until I know I have done all I can to believe God set my time to die. I give the attack no room to decide when I die. Then if I die, it was God's decision, not mine. As for suicide, I don't know how God sees it, but I don't think for a second that that was their appointed time and way to die. That's not God's nature. I think it's another example of how God will not violate our free will.
Note 1: Although I believe God does not intervene supernaturally in our life very often, I feel He does it some. How much depends on: 1) what He calls you to do, and 2) how much you obey those calls. I have had a few supernatural events in my life. Looking back, I think God was using them to try and get me to a place He wanted me. I hope He succeeded.
Note 2: Everything seems to be traceable to free will. We wonder why we are the way we are, why the world is the way it is, why so much toil and trouble, and why so much heartache. It's because God didn't want us to be robots. So when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, they died spiritually and ever since we have tried to be our own god.
Note 3: The Bible says that when we are saved by accepting Jesus, we are "born again" and that we become a "new creation." Our spirit is what is born again. Our minds weren't born again. No memories were erased. Our bodies weren't born again. They still had a propensity to sin. So we became a "new creation" in the sense that God's supernatural power did something that would never have happened otherwise. If God had altered our minds or bodies, perhaps it would have affected our free will. We don't really know why our minds and bodies were unaffected, but being a "new creation" does give us the ability to renew our mind and crucify our flesh.
Note 4: The son of a respected theologian renounced his Christianity after years of professing to be a Christian. One wonders why this happens. To me, it is an example of how we can abort the salvation process. He probably got offended. Once your salvation has been tested and proved true, nothing can offend you.
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