Man’s role and God’s role.
Lesson 12 from The HOPE Study Guide
Adam was given the freedom to choose, a freedom central to God’s purpose. For man was created to love God and to be loved by God. And love is not truly love without the freedom to choose love. So Adam had a choice, to taste the fruit, or not; a choice with a consequence, life or death.
– The HOPE, Chapter 2
Observe & Consider
From the moment God told Adam not to taste of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam was confronted with a choice. Much has been written on the seemingly great tension between the ideas of God’s sovereignty (or control) over this world and man’s responsibility (or freedom) to make choices.1
Some say that God determines the destiny of every person; others say that man is a free moral agent who by his own choices determines his destiny. The fact is that both ideas seem to be taught in the Bible. For example, in Joshua 24:15 Joshua exhorts the Hebrew people: “…choose for yourselves today whom you will serve …as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
And, in John 15:16, Jesus says to His closest friends and followers, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain…”
This study guide is not meant to exhaustively examine and resolve the tension between God’s control and man’s choice. That theological argument lies beyond our scope. However, it may be helpful for you to reflect upon the following thought from those who have prepared this material.
Ask & Reflect
If you asked a hundred people to explain how they came to know God, you would probably not find many who would say they were so intelligent that they found their way to God, but rather that God found them. What’s more, some of these same people would probably tell dramatic stories about how they first rejected God before finally coming to know Him!
Asking a large number of people about their spiritual journey might not bring you any closer to resolving the age old theological tension between God’s control and man’s choice. However, it might bring you to a conclusion similar to this: We are all free to reject God, but no one really finds God apart from His divine initiative and intervention in the course of their life.
Decide & Do
Perhaps you’ve sensed a desire or leading to begin a personal relationship with God, but so far, you have been reluctant to do so. Or perhaps you already know God, but you struggle with an issue, a situation in which you can either choose for Him, or not. Remember, refusing to choose is not really an option. If your choice is not for God, it is against Him (Matt.12:30, Luke 11:23).
No matter what your situation, even if you feel that you are unable to choose for God, you could at least ask Him to help you to choose.
Are you willing to be made willing? If not, ask Him to make you so.
1John Piper, A Response to J. I. Packer on the So–Called Antinomy Between the Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility. (This article is dated March 1, 1976. © Desiring God, 2006). (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/1976/1581_A_Response_to_JI_Packer_on_the_SoCalled_Antinomy_Between_the_Sovereignty_of_God_and_Human_Responsibility/). Retrieved November 10. 2006. Piper addresses this issue as follows: “Therefore, in order to see how God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility perfectly cohere, one need only realize that the way God works in the world is not by imposing natural necessity on men and then holding them accountable for what they can’t do even though they will to do it. But rather God so disposes all things (Ephesians 1:11) so that in accordance with moral necessity all men make only those choices ordained by God from all eternity.
One last guideline for thinking about God’s action in view of all this: Always keep in mind that everything God does toward men – his commanding, his calling, his warning, his promising, his weeping over Jerusalem, – everything is his means of creating situations which function as motives to elicit the acts of will which he has ordained to come to pass. In this way He ultimately determines all acts of volition (though not all in the same way) and yet holds man accountable only for those acts which they want most to do.”