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Time does not permit me to speak to debate between Karl Barth and Emil Brunner on human freedom. The issue is primarily this: can man through his reasoning ability offer up anything to garner God’s salvation. In other words, does God supply everything—grace, faith, and salvation or does man meet God somewhere in middle?
Chosen but free
In his book entitled, Chosen But Free (Bethany House Publishers, second edition, 2001), Norman Geisler writes, “Perhaps most difficult thing to understand is that God is in sovereign control of everything we choose, even our salvation. For ‘in him we were also chosen, having been predestinated according to plan of him who works out everything in conformity with purpose of his will…’ (Eph. 1:11). ‘For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to likeness of his Son, that he might be firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified’ (Rom. 8:29-30). According to Paul, ‘he chose us in him before creation of world’ (Eph. 1:4).”
Geisler continues, “Whatever else may be said, God’s sovereignty over human will includes His initiating, pursuing, persuading, and saving grace without which no one would ever will to be saved. For ‘there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God’ (Rom. 3:11). ‘We love him’ only because ‘He first loved us’ (1 John 4:19 NKJV). Indeed, no one comes to Father unless he is drawn by God (John 6:44).”
Geisler continues rest of his book, showing harmony between God’s sovereignty and man’s “free will.” It’s a delicate balance. No wonder Church fathers have wrestled with this concept since days of Augustine in fifth century AD, even to present times. We are made free. Because we are made free, evil is possible. The origin of evil is in misuse of freedom. I cannot blame God when I sin. I cannot even blame devil. The devil may entice me, but he cannot make me sin. Sin originates in my “old nature” born into sin of Adam. If I live out of “old nature,” my freedom to so do begets evil, sin. It is inevitable that we will sin, but it is not inevitable that we must sin. Even though we are depraved and by nature bent toward sin, nonetheless, each sin is freely chosen.
Says Geisler, “With respect to initiating or attaining their own salvation, both Luther and Calvin were right in asserting that fallen humans are not free with regard to ‘things above,’ that is, achieving their own salvation. However, contrary to strong Calvinism, in regard to freedom of accepting God’s gift of salvation Bible is clear: Fallen beings are free. Thus, free choice of fallen human beings is both ‘horizontal’ (social) with respect to things in this world and ‘vertical’ (spiritual). Plainly, then, belief is our responsibility and is rooted in our ability to respond. This view has overwhelming support by virtually all great church fathers up to sixteenth century.”
Bringing it to a closing
Now let me conclude this lesson by noting how to overcome sin. Christian faith teaches that sin cannot be overcome through human ingenuity or effort. The solution to problem lies in what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. The penalty for sin is death, judgment, and hell, but gospel is that God has chosen to pay this penalty himself in sacrificial life and death of his Son, Jesus Christ (cf. John 3:16-17; Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:21-26; 5:6-10; II Cor. 5:18,19; Col. 2:13-15).
For believer to overcome temptation and sin, he must seek God’s filling daily. The bible declares that we are to be filled with Holy Spirit. That’s not an option. It’s mandated. Why? Because we leak. If we choose to live daily out of strength of our human nature, we will become enslaved by natural realm and become subjugated by sin. On other hand, if we ask God to fill us daily with His Holy Spirit, receiving this promise by faith, then we will live in victory over power of sin.
I want to leave you with a summation.
A believer will live out of one of two natures—either flesh or spirit. If he chooses to live out of flesh, his desires may lead to lust, which leads to overt acts of sin. If he continues to live in sin, his sin can lead him to physical death (ICor.5:1; 1John 5:16-18). The believer is responsible for his sin. God does not entice a believer to sin. Satan may entice a believer, but he cannot make a believer sin. If a believer lives out of “new nature,” he will have victory over sin. A believer receives free gift of salvation by help of God. Once he is born again, God is responsible to provide his sanctification, but believer must let God sanctify him. Sanctification goes hand-in-hand with justification in sense that once we are born again we must continue to grow in grace. We continue in grace of God by help of Holy Spirit who sanctifies us and continually cleanses our hearts by “washing of water by word.”
Are you born again? Are you being filled with Holy Spirit daily? If not, repent and ask God to fill you. You see, we are vessels through which God pours Himself. He can fill us much faster than we can leak out. So, keep getting filled. Being filled is not something I earn or work up by my emotions. It is an act of faith, as all things of God are by faith. I ask for Holy Spirit. He honors my request by filling me. I rest. It’s a done deal, and evidence is way I conduct my life by works of love toward my neighbor and my God.
Blessings… Pastor T.
Pastors a small church in Broken Arrow, OK.