You know, sometimes it is really difficult to figure where our God’s sovereignty ends and our free-will, starts. I mean, how do we know when something happens whether we are to sit back and let our God, be God, or to stand against it? We know that He is sovereign, but how does He use His sovereignty for the greater good, when our free will is in place? Let me ask that a different way. Will our Father use His sovereignty in our lives, and overwrite our free will? If He does, is it to exemplify His perfect will? And if so, do we truly have free will?
Well, something that has always guided in this regard is something Tozer wrote:
“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil.
When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it.
If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, “What doest thou?” Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.”
That quote comes from Tozer’s book, “The Knowledge of the Holy,” in a chapter entitled, “The Sovereignty of God” Theologians call this “prevenient grace.” Meaning, grace that has come before our faith and, thus, influencing us toward Christ.
Tozer explained it little clearer in his treatise, “The Pursuit of God“:
“Christian theology teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which briefly stated means this, that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man.
“Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him; imperfect it may be, but a true work nonetheless, and the secret cause of all desiring and seeking and praying which may follow.
“We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. “No man can come to me,” said our Lord, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him,” and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him.”
“When the great God brought salvation to men, He put it in the form of a message, and according to Paul in the Corinthian epistle, He decreed that men should be saved through preaching. That is, they should be saved through hearing that message. We call that message, the Gospel.
“What was before that? Some theologians refer to this as ‘prevenient grace.’ That is the grace God brings to their hearts before they hear, and before they believe. I don’t know too much about ‘prevenient grace,’ and I don’t think anybody else does. So when you hear anybody expostulating on that learnedly and at length, write him off, because he knows more than the Bible reveals. But there must be some preparation of God in the heart or there would be no believing at all. On the other hand, there isn’t enough preparation to save the man, so he has to hear something.” (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)
Now, my faith and my understanding of these great theological debates are way beyond my abilities. I have, as J.B. Phillips calls it, “a very simple faith” and believe that it is impossible for us to fully understand the dynamics of a Holy God molding and shaping our wills and desires. What I am saying is that Scripture clearly states that Yahweh knows the future (Matthew 6:8; Psalm 139:1-4) and also, has total sovereign control over everything (Colossians 1:16-17; Daniel 4:35). The Bible also makes it clear that we must choose to follow and, in fact, surrender to Yahweh or be eternally separated from Him! Personally, that is not something I ever want to experience. On top of that, we are also held responsible for our choices (Romans 3:19; 6:23; 9:19-21). Now, with all that, it all is impossible to know how these facts work together (Romans 11:33-36).
I have read many papers and heard many arguments, but I see two extremes in regard to these questions. Some emphasize the sovereignty of God to the point that human beings are little more than robots simply doing what they have been sovereignly programmed to do. When others emphasize free will to the point that God does not have complete control and/or knowledge of everything. But, as I see it, neither one of these positions is biblical Argue with me if you will, but the truth is that God does not violate our wills by choosing us and redeeming us. But instead, He actively changes our hearts so that our wills choose Him! John understood this. He wrote, “We love Him because He first loved us,” and “You did not choose me, but I chose you!”
Now, this is all well and good, but what are we supposed to do with it? First, we are to trust in the Lord, with all our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our minds, knowing that He is in control:
Trust Yahweh with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths smooth (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Our Father sovereignty is supposed to be a comfort to us, not an issue that causes us to argue about or debate over. We are to make wise decisions in accordance with God’s Word. This is to be our way of life! Once you stand before our God, there will be no excuses as to why we chose to disobey Him. There will be no one to blame but ourselves for our sin. Finally, we are to worship the Lord, praising Him that He is so wonderful, infinite, powerful, full of grace and mercy — and yes, sovereign!
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