Being sovereign for God is not an anachronism to the concept of free will. Both free will and sovereignty can interplay, be consistent and aligned with one another. God can impose his sovereignty based on his good judgment and wisdom that one option is better than the other.
An example of this “forceful imposition” of his will is the story of Jonah. He did not like to go to Nineveh and went instead opposite from the direction towards that city. He was then swallowed by a big fish, died and found himself in the shores of Nineveh to prophesy against that city. He may still refuse (based on “free will“) to follow God’s will, but he did not because “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom“.
Contrariwise, in the narrative of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, his personal will was not to go through with his prophesied death by crucifixion. But, he was “not forced” by the Father. Nevertheless, voluntarily, Jesus said, “not my will but yours will be done“, i.e., his Father’s will (Luke 22:42).
In both circumstances, they had freewill to disobey but did not. And, their impetus was different. While Jonah’s motive to follow maybe because of fear to disobey and be swallowed again by a “big fish” and die, Jesus’ was based on “faith in the Father” (before his death) that his promises to him will be fulfilled. This is suggestive that the exercise of “free will” to follow ultimately has to be “faith-based“,
God of All gods
Also, God’s sovereignty is a given, as in:
“For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’ ” (Isaiah. 46:9–10).
“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ ” (Daniel 4:35).
“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
The preceding verses clearly show God has control overall. But does God’s sovereignty actually extend to what we do and the choices we make? As God is in charge of our lives, even down to the smallest detail, this truth maybe misconstrued and stretched to extend to the same broad-stroke assumption that “God ordered your steps” and “nothing happens at random”, regarding what the succeeding verses actually mean:
“But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah . 64:8).
“The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11).
“Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:4).
“Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” (Lamentations 3:37–38)
The preceding verses are indeed true. But, altogether, the precise message is confined to his control and he has the power to do anything. He is omnipotent and omniscient.
God’s sovereignty also extends to the decisions we make. The scriptures do not have ambiguity here, too:
“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:1).
“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33).
“Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand. ” (Proverbs 19:21).
“The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1).
“I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
All that the preceding verses emphasize is that God is the ultimate being who ultimately chooses and decides what is best for man. Nowhere should these verses be interpreted as “God violates our free will” to be saved within the context of “time appointed” for his calling. Some Christians take a position that “unless God violated our ‘free’ will, no one would ever be saved.”
And that teaching is a stretch, and was based on: “everyone is born dead in sin” (Ephesians 2:1), “alienated from God” (Ephesians 2:3), “lives in a natural state of rebellion against God such that no one seeks Him on their own” (Romans 3:11), “all humanity is enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:20), hostile towards God (Colossians 1:21), and “unable to come to Christ unless the Father draws them” (John 6:44, 6:65). Instead, the preceding verses simply state man’s total depravity and cannot attain salvation on his own as Jesus is the only “way, truth and life”(John 14:6). Nothing in these verses should be extended to suggest lack in man’s “free will”. And, since man is “weak on our own”,(Matthew 26:36-46) we need the gift of the Helper/Advocate (John 16:7).
While Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith” and our “carpenter and builder of the God-kingdom”, we ourselves have a role in our salvation. As Paul said, “continue/persevere to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”(Philippians 2:12),with “God’s Holy Spirit of power working in us”(Philippians 2:13). Jesus is continuing to build his creation from physical to spiritual, for us to “be one”, eventually into a “God-kingdom”. , all “spirit-composed“.
God imposes his will, when and who to blame?
True, there are verses that proved God can impose his will as in regard to Egypt’s Pharaoh whose heart was “hardened” by God himself, as in Exodus 4:21 also “I have raised you up for this very purpose” (Exodus 9:16) and “One of you will say to me: “One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” (Romans 9:19).
But do these verses mean that God really “order all your steps” all the time and in every circumstances? Sometimes, yes, depending on God’s wisdom, but not necessarily always. Indeed, we can not blame him as we ourselves have to choose and decide. Things happen even without God’s will, although allowed. Even, random things occur, like earthquake, hurricane, other personal disasters, and not necessarily because of him, although, again “allowed as he can intervene” dependent on his wisdom and ultimate plan.
His sovereignty also allows him to chose whether to limit his powers. In fact, as omniscient as he is, he can still chose to remember “our sins no more”, as in;
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. (Isaiah 43:25)
Indeed, God has sovereignty which is an expression of his omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. He can do anything he pleases, anytime, anywhere and whatever the circumstances are, although his action may not necessarily be for everyone at all times. Sovereignty does not make him powerless to decide on every circumstances. He may chose sometimes to limit his awesome powers.
Evil thoughts of humans are actionable by them and do not necessarily need God to put them in their mind, although he may do or allow those to occur. Remember:“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.“(Galatians 5:16-17).
Love and wisdom are predicates of timing his final action. The Father is the final arbiter (John 6:44) as to who will be in Christ’ body and who, with “free-will”, voluntarily follows His will after having been given the gift of the Holy Spirit of power and be an “overcomer“(Revelations 3:21). All told, he decided from the very beginning as to who will be “called“, at his appointed time, to receive the Holy Spirit of power, whether in the ” spring harvest or fall harvest” of “spiritual fruits“.
God bless 🙏😇
Original Post: April 28, 2019 Hyperlink version
Dedicated to those celebrating birthday today.