A Question I Was Asked:


When God Tells Us to Choose, Do We Really Have a Choice?

A very nice Christian lady who is often in touch with me through e mail asked me a really interesting question about the veracity of our spiritual choices before God. The question went something like this:

'.....You say that we all have choices before God and that those choices are important, but I say, Why should Man have any choice? Surely our only choice is to REPENT when convicted by the Holy Spirit. God sends the Holy Spirit to us or we would be eternally dammed...?'

Would it make any sense for the Bible to continually stress the need for us to choose if all our choices are already decided? The teaching of God's overriding sovereignty and election is quite different to Fatalism. Rather, God commands us to choose and we then find that our choice is underwritten in Heaven!


Hmmm! I really take your point, but I think I need to broaden this out a little to ensure that we correctly and fully understand this subject of our choices before God.

You say, 'Why should man have any choice?' But, of course, God does give us a choice which is an essential part of how He works with us; He did not, for instance, make it impossible for Adam and Eve to reach the forbidden tree (which He could have done), but advised them to keep well clear of it.

We also have this proclamation in Deuteronomy,

'This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.' (Deuteronomy 30:19)

We may also consider the words of Joshua:

'But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.' (Joshua 25:15)

Other Scriptures to consider are Isaiah 1:18 and Ezekiel 18:23,32 and Ezekiel 33:11.
The fact that God has given people a choice is shown by the presence of sin and evil in the world - obviously this wouldn't have been God's choice for His creation!

Throughout the Bible we find that God holds up choices to people - life or death, righteousness or sin, justice or deceit - but He continually encourages us to make the right choices. There are continual choices for all of us throughout life - indeed, every day of our lives, but then there is this major choice as to whether we will obey God. Again, I reiterate: the fact that God has given mankind a genuine choice but mankind has made the wrong one is clearly proven by the presence of evil in the world. Obviously sin and evil would not have been God's choice for men and women, so its presence means that people really were given a genuine choice by God but that they made the wrong one! If we deny that, then that means that God approved of and wanted sin and evil in this world and that turns God into a monster! No, the Bible is clear that the decisions by our first parents have led to the position which we now find ourselves in. Of course, within His grand overall plan, God may allow a situation to occur with an eventual intention to bring good out of it, but the Holy Bible is clear that human choice – which is revealed to be meaningful – brought the present situation about.

At the end of time we will discover that our choices in this life were not irrelevant but meaningful, significant and supported by God.

Again, God pleads with people to repent Why? Because such repentance is meaningful - in other words, there again, a genuine choice or decision must be made! (Consider Ezekiel 18:30-32; Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15; 6:12; Luke 13:3,5; Acts 2:38; 17:30). But - you may ask - surely God has to open such a person's eyes in order for them to reach that point in the first place? Absolutely true!! Yes!! And yet the Bible is absolutely clear that that human choice remains utterly meaningful and is required. Calvinism - at its absolute worst - went well beyond what Calvin himself had said (Calvin accepted the biblical teaching that people must choose but should choose life which they manifest in repentance). The later Calvin-ism effectively said that all of our decisions are already made for us in heaven - nothing more we can do; this is a major reason why the really strict Calvinist churches (we call them 'reformed' churches here in the UK) are mostly disinterested in evangelism - they just don't see the point, since God will call His Elect anyway, why bother?

But this takes divine election almost to the absurdly unbiblical point of paganistic fatalism! The New Testament, in contrast, advises us to preach the gospel to every creature! (specifically Mark 16:15, but over 70 New Testament Scriptures – check any good concordance – proclaim the importance of preaching the gospel).

'Then I saw another angel flying in mid-air, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth – to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”' (Revelation 14:6).

Many of the great biblical doctrines need to be held in the correct tension and balance, where that balance is lost, sincere people can go into error. The Election of the Saints and Grace are biblical doctrines, but they must be held in the correct tension with all the other great biblical doctrines. The Holy Bible makes it clear that God has given people the choice whether or not to obey Him. Yes, its true that those choices are already recorded in the Book of Life (Revelation 13:8), because we deal with a sovereign omnipotent God who knows the end from the beginning, but if we say that our decisions therefore do not matter, we have lost the correct balance and have gone into serious error! Neither is it correct to say that God has indeed chosen us but only because He knew we would make the right choice, the New Testament is clear that God alone is Elector and Decider (Ephesians 1:3-12). We must be careful not to slip into an either/or approach here: God is certainly the sole Elector of His people, but the Holy Bible also continually and clearly upholds the importance of our decision; as long as we hold these two aspects in the correct tension we will not slip into error!

Robin A. Brace, 2005.

See also:
(Highly recommended)

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