“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Genesis 1:26
This week, we arrive at one of the most hotly-debated ways in which we image God: Our ability to choose.
Throughout the Bible, there are innumerable passages related to the will of God and His ability to do or not do whatever He wishes. Perhaps the one that most clearly states His sovereignty is Psalm 135:6:
“Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”
There are literally hundreds more within the pages of Scripture. Isaiah 14:27; Luke 10:21, 12:32; Ephesians 1:4-6, 11-12; Philippians 2:13; Hebrews 2:4… this is just a small sampling of the wealth of passages referring to God’s absolute sovereign will.
There is nothing that falls outside of God’s will, according to the Scriptures. No word, no deed, no thought. Absolutely nothing. God is aware of all and in control of all.
So far so good, right?
Here’s where it starts to get contentious.
Like God, we do have freedom, desires and a will. Where there is disagreement among Christian brothers and sisters is the extent of our freedom: Are we free to choose God? If God ordains everything, as the Bible says He does, how can He hold us responsible for our actions?
Good and important questions. First, though, we need to talk about sin and how we got to be where we are. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve (see Genesis 3), all of humanity became sinners by nature and by choice. We became spiritually dead.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in n the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in o the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:1-3).
So here’s what Paul says: We chose death. We rejected God, making everything else “gods” instead of Him. And because of that, we became, by nature “children of wrath.”
Every single one of us deserves Hell, according to this verse, and we cannot do anything about it—because it is what we have chosen, and we are totally responsible for our actions, because it is what we desired most. “[T]he light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil,” says John 3:19.
This is why we need Jesus to rescue us. It’s why Paul continues in Ephesians 2:4-10:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (emphasis mine).
So God makes another choice. He chooses to make dead men and women alive again in Christ. God chooses to forgive the sins of those that He foreknew—those He chose before creation to love with a particular affection—and has “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29).
In this, choice exists anew. Paul says in Gal. 5:13, “for you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
If we are free in Christ, we are now free to serve one another. We are free to love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength. We are free from sin, death, hell and the wrath of God. We are free to pursue our deepest desires, which are those that seek to glorify God. We have the ability to make choices in a way that before we simply could not—choices that are not inherently sinful, but that honor Jesus.
This is a wonderful gift!
So, do we have choice? Absolutely.
Fortunately, so does God. So let us rejoice in that today.