What are your Thoughts on Free will

The following "Question" was asked by a member of the congregation at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and "Answered" by their pastor, John MacArthur Jr. It was transcribed by Anjela Paje of Spokane, WA, from the tape, GC 1301-Q, titled "Bible Questions and Answers Part 19." A copy of the tape can be obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412 or by dialing toll free 1-800-55-GRACE. ©1980. All Rights Reserved.


I wanted your opinion on a specific doctrine that you hear both teachings. You hear the free-will doctrine verses the election doctrine as far as salvation is concerned. And, I wanted your thoughts on that.


Everybody in this room believes in predestination if they believe the Bible. Right? How many of you believe the Bible? You believe the Bible? That is good! God help the rest of you. You are either slow or heretics, I do not know which.

All right, everybody believes the Bible, right? Then you believe in predestination. You say, “No, I was raised a Methodist.” I don't care what you were raised, you believe in predestination, if you believe the Bible, because in Ephesians 1, it says, He predestined us before the foundation of the world. It says in Revelation, He has written our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life from before the foundation of the world. It uses the word predestination. Everyone believes in that, who believes the Bible. God predetermined who would be saved. Before they were ever born. That's in the Bible. You believe it. So, just accept that you believe it. Now, was not that easy? Absolutely painless. You believe that.

The Bible also says, “Whosoever will may come. Him who cometh to me I will in no wise cast out? You believe that? Okay. So, you believe that, too. So, you believe in man’s volition. Free will is not a biblical term, because man’s will isn't really free. It is bound by sin.

When you became a Christian, did you say to yourself, “Oh! I am elect! I think, I'll get saved.” No. No, you made a decision, didn’t you? You made a choice.

So, the Bible teaches God’s predestining plan, God’s electing plan. It says that over and over, "elect" according to the foreknowledge of God, "elect" in Him. You know, I have many people in that city, he said, you know, in the book of Acts who weren't even saved, yet, but they were already considered His people because they were elect. So, you believe all of that. Then, you believe in man’s choice as well. So, you believe both of those things.

The problem is not whether you believe those. The problem is how you harmonize them, right? You know how you harmonize them? No, you don't. You don't know how to harmonize them. Because there is no way to harmonize them. And, the way that I like to illustrate it is this, Is Jesus God or man? Both. Is He all man? 100 % man? 100 % God? How can He be 200 %? It is a paradox. Who wrote Romans? Paul wrote Romans? God wrote Romans. They alternated verses? Who wrote Romans? Was it Paul’s words from his vocabulary and his heart? Was every word inspired by the Spirit of God? How could every single word come out of the mind of God, and yet, Paul feel that every single word came out of his own heart? You know what is going to happen if you try to synthesize those things? Okay. You know what happened in the early church councils? They got so confused and said, “Okay, he is half God and half man.” And, you know what you have got when you have half God and half man? Nothing. What is half a man? There is no such thing. What is half a God? A nothing. So they come up with heresy. So, on the one hand they said he is all deity and the idea that he was a physical being is just a phantom. And, they came up with a phantom view. And the others said, “No. He was all man, and he is not deity at all. Because they tried to resolve it, they came up with heresy every time. They either said he is all God and not man, or all man and not God, or half and half, and that is a nothing. You have to leave the paradox.

Now, when you come to the writing of the Bible, some say that it can't be all Paul and all the Holy Spirit, so Paul just wrote what the Holy Spirit told him, and it all really the Holy Spirit. Is that true? You have just eliminated the Pauline authorship. But, on the other hand, if you say, “It is all Paul, like the liberals do and none of the Holy Spirit.” Then, you have eliminated God.

Let me ask you another question. Who lives your Christian life? Who? Do you? Do you? I hope you do. Is it just you out there living it up? "Not I, but," what? "Christ liveth in me. Nevertheless," what? "I live. Yet, not I, but Christ." Well, if it is all Christ, then I become a quietist: "Let go and let God." And, you have that movement. On the other hand, if you say, “It's me,” I become a pietist and a legalist. You just have to handle both and leave them in a paradox.

When it comes down to the whole area of sovereignty and will, you got to leave them where they are. And, as soon as you try to resolve them, you get all of the Calvinists who run over to this end of the seesaw and start screaming, “sovereignty, sovereignty! (bang) And, down goes the scale, right? And, they got God doing everything. One guy came to me one day and said, “God even makes you sin.” That is the ultimate...and, then on the other hand, you have got the Armenians who say, “No, no, no, it is all us, it is all us, it is all us.” And, if it is all us, folks, we are really in trouble. Why don’t you leave it alone?

Then you have the Baptists. Oh, the Baptists. And, the Baptists come together in the middle and they say, “Well, it is a little bit of predestination and a little bit of free will. You see, God looks down the road and He says, “Oh, that is what they are going to do. I see, so that is what I will choose..." No! Just leave it alone.

So, the best way to solve that problem is to believe both and let God resolve it. Now, if you could resolve all those problems, you would be God. And, then there would be other problems we have to deal with.

Now, let me tell you something. One of the greatest marks of the inspiration of the scripture is the fact that it has those incomprehensible paradoxes. Because, if a man or men had written that book, they never would have, number one, conceived them; number two, they never would have left them there. They would have resolved them. The fact that they are there and they stand all over the place in the Bible is one of the truest proofs that God of an infinite mind far beyond our own wrote those things. And, the very fact that there are those irreconcilable apparent paradoxes in scripture speaks of divine authorship. God understands how they harmonize. We don’t. And, that means God has a greater mind than we do. Aren’t you glad about that?