A former student wrote me to ask about the doctrine of election:
- How can we have freewill and be accountable before God if we were chosen from the foundation of the world (Eph. 1) and can only come to God if He draws us (John 6:44)?
There are many verses that claim that we cannot come to God unless He draws us. Here are several prominent ones:
- There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:11-12)
- The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. (Romans 8:7)
- The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
Yet there are other verses that indicate that we do have freewill but refuse to choose to come to God:
- Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:6-7)
Had Cain lacked freewill to do right, he could have justifiably answered, “Sorry God. I just don’t have the freedom of choice to do the right thing. After all, I’m a child of the Fall.” If Cain could have gotten away with such an answer, he might have tried. Instead, we cannot blame God for our sins:
- When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt [or “entice”] anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. (James 1:13-14)
Clearly, we have to take responsibility for our sins. We cannot blame God or the Fall.
The Old Testament always declares that Israel’s problem was not that they lacked free choice but that they chose wrongly:
- "I [God] myself said, "'How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.' I thought you would call me 'Father' and not turn away from following me. But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel," declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 3:19-20)
Likewise, Jesus looked over Jerusalem and lamented:
- "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)
The problem belonged to the Jews and not to God. Likewise, Paul declared that we have “no excuse” for passing judgment:
- You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Romans 2:1)
Evidently, pleading “no freewill” wouldn’t have been an acceptable excuse.
Jesus also indicated that those who saw His miracles had “no excuse”:
- If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. (John 15:22)
Even without the miracles, we have so much evidence of God’s existence and character that we are without excuse:
- The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)
How then do we reconcile these two different sets of verses. If we continue in Romans 1, we will find our answer:
- Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:22-28)
Despite the Fall, we still bear the image of God and freewill along with this image (James 3:9). However, as we harden ourselves against God, we lose our freedom to do right and come to God. God allows us to harden our heart, giving us over to pursue our desires.
Consequently, Jesus gave the verdict that we have become lovers of the darkness and hate the light:
- This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:19-21)
Well, can we help it if we have become lovers of the darkness? Yes! We could have repented of our sins, but we refused. We run and hide from God as did Adam and Eve once they sinned. Consequently, we are self-condemned.
Since we do not come to God on our own, God must come to us, as He had elected from the foundation of the world.