God’s Sovereignty and Human Free Will

I haven’t been a Christian very long — and I’ve read conflicting teachings that make it hard for me to reconcile God’s sovereignty with the idea of human responsibility and free will.
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You’ve landed on a deep question – more complex than what we can cover here (as a family-oriented interdenominational ministry).

But we’ll say this: When it comes to the nature of God, human understanding will only take us so far. Beyond that, we have to walk by faith. We can only move forward by trusting in God’s goodness and faithfulness. And we can because He’s already persuaded us of His reality and reliability.

The need for faith is particularly true when it comes to the problem you’ve raised: How do we reconcile what the Bible says about the absolute sovereignty of God with the equally valid scriptural teaching that man has been given free will? If God controls everything, how can we be genuinely responsible for our own choices and actions?

Two sides of the same coin

If we study everything the Bible has to say about divine sovereignty and human free will, we’ll find that (in a way we can’t fully explain) both are completely valid ideas.

  • Is God completely in charge of everything? Yes. “For I am God, and there is no other;  I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” (Isaiah 46:9-10, ESV).
  • Do people have to answer for their choices and actions? Absolutely. “For whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7, ESV).

So to be faithful to the testimony of Scripture, we have to acknowledge both sides of the coin. On the one hand, God is absolutely sovereign. On the other hand, human beings have free will and are fully responsible for their own actions.

Consider it this way: We owe everything to God’s grace. It’s literally by His favor and mercy that we are what we are (1 Corinthians 15:10). But that doesn’t mean we’re off the hook and can do whatever we want.  The choices we make, the words we speak, the things we do … Our actions have eternal implications.

How can God’s sovereignty and human free will be true at the same time? We don’t know. But God does. And we can trust that He’ll explain it to us when we see Him face to face.

Want to talk more? Call us for a free over-the-phone consultation. We have a staff of licensed or pastoral counselors who’d be glad to speak with you. In the meantime, you might like to dig into the resources listed here.

 

Resources
If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

What Every Christian Ought to Know Day by Day: Essential Truths for Growing Your Faith

Willing to Believe: The Controversy Over Free Will

The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters

Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know

Mere Christianity

Basic Christianity

What The Bible Teaches: The Truths of the Bible Made Plain, Simple, and Understandable

Referrals
Christian Research Institute

Insight for Living

Truth for Life

Lee Strobel

Articles
Becoming a Christian

God’s Absolute Sovereignty

A Beginner’s Guide to “Free Will”

Six Practical Reasons “Free Will” Matters

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