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Freewill Choices & The Salvation Moment

 

Pre-salvation grace is dispensed. God works all things to bring a person to the salvation opportunity and moment. Then what? God lets them choose to accept or reject the offer. How a person reacts to, explains, or acts on pre-salvation grace is unpredictable and individualized.


Some Follow the Light & Say Yes
 

Before the born-again moment, Cornelius was faithful to the level of light he did have. Luke writes in Acts 10:2, Cornelius was "a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God" (ESV). Keep in mind, Cornelius was not saved when Luke wrote these comments. He was simply acting on the level of light he had.
    God then sent Peter to present the full gospel to Cornelius and his household. All said Yes and were born-again (Ac 10:34-48). Reflecting on this experience later, Peter said (15:8, NKJV, underline mine): So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us.
    God knew their hearts were responsive and willing. He acknowledged their openness by sending Peter, the gospel, and the born-again experience to them.
    We see the same dynamic with Lydia. Before the born-again moment, she was faithful to the level of light she did have. Luke writes in Acts 16:13,14 (NIV): On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.
    Lydia was not born-again when Paul first arrived. She was simply acting on the level of light she had. She recognized the Old Covenant Sabbath by spending it in prayer with a group of women. She, Luke wrote, was a worshiper of God (again in the Old Covenant sense). The Lord sent Paul to present the full gospel to her and her household. All said Yes and were born-again (v15).
    We see the same dynamic with Nicodemus. When Nicodemus first approached Jesus he was not born-again, nor did he even know what "born from above" meant. Yet, he approached Jesus to learn more about Him because he was acting on the light he did have (Jn 3:2 NKJV): ...Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him. Leaning on his knowledge of the Old Testament (v10), enabled by God's pre-salvation illumination, Nicodemus knew deep down Jesus was a genuine messenger from God. He acted on that light and sought to learn more about Jesus. It seems Nicodemus became a true believer, based on the personal risk involved in how he lovingly cared for Jesus' dead body (19:39,40).
    We see the same dynamic with the God-fearing Jews and Gentile proselytes to Judaism at Pisidian Antioch. Before saying Yes to Paul and Barnabas' message, the gospel, they were faithful to the level of light they had. Luke writes in Acts 13:43 (NASB): Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who were speaking to them and urging them to continue in the grace of God.

 

Pre-Salvation Reciprocity
    The stories of Cornelius, Lydia, Nicodemus, the Judaic God-fearers at Pisidian Antioch, and of course our own testimony, reveal a back and forth of pre-salvation reciprocity between God and the unsaved person. As the unsaved person responds or reciprocates to the most basic light God gives them (praying, asking more questions, continuing to search, reaching out to Christians, etc.), God reciprocates with more light, more pre-salvation grace, and the person inches closer to salvation. If this pre-salvation dance continues, the person will very likely say Yes to salvation, like Cornelius, Lydia, Nicodemus, the Judaic God-fearers, you, I.

 

The Magi Following the Light
    The magi following the light of the star to Jesus is filled with meaning and implication. The story is in Matthew 2:1-11. Notice the pre-salvation back and forth playing out.
    The magi's journey to Jesus began with a star rising in the East where they were from, i.e., where they started out. What a tremendous metaphor illustrating basic illumination or "first light" from God to the unsaved person right where they are. The magi had to reciprocate and act on the light of that star, however. They followed it as it moved, all the way to Jerusalem. They asked questions to the people who might have answers. They searched and explored. Eventually the light of the star led to the Savior, where they worshiped and gave themselves to Him.
    The story is literal history, but do you see the deliberate metaphors? Do you see the pre-salvation dance God does with an unsaved person?


Some Fight the Light & Say No
 

Not everyone accepts God's pre-salvation grace happily or humbly. See how the Jewish religious leaders (Lk 7:30, Ac 7:51), most of first-century Israel (Mt 23:37), and the Athenians who mocked Paul (Ac 17:32) fought the light. The good news of the gospel is predicated on the bad news of the human condition: humanity is totally dead in sin and darkness (Col 2:13), is separated from God because of that sin (Isa 59:2), is by nature the object of God's wrath (Eph 2:3), and is absolutely helpless to remedy any of this on his own (Ps 49:7-9, Isa 64:7). The bad news of the human condition is the predicate of the gospel, the predicate of why Jesus had to do what He did to make a way out and a way up back to God. Paul called this message "the offense of the cross" (Gal 5:11).
 

The Offense of the Cross
    Because of the totalizing helplessness of the human condition, because of the violent and humiliating nature of what the Law required of Jesus, the gospel message is an offense to certain types of individuals. It is offensive to the prideful person. It is offensive to the perfectionist. It is offensive to the humanist. It is offensive to the one who likes feeling powerful and in control of everything. It is offensive to the one who values self-esteem more than self-definition. Truly the gospel is "the offense of the cross" (Gal 5:11) or "the stumbling-block of the cross" (YLT) to those who fight pre-salvation light. Paul repeated this to the Corinthians in a more expansive way, saying the gospel was, to Jews, a stumbling block, and to Greeks, foolishness (1Co 1:23).
    The difficult-to-swallow message of the cross is why some unsaved people fight the light, and ultimately say No to salvation.

 

The Parable of the Two Sons
    Some people, however, say No at first but change their mind later to Yes as the light grinds on them, or, as other methods of pre-salvation grace break through their defenses. This is one layer of meaning in the parable of the two sons, recorded in Matthew 21:28-32.


Some are Flummoxed by the Light & Say Huh?
 

When God's pre-salvation grace appears in an unsaved person's life, some move towards it and ultimately say Yes, some fight it and ultimately say No, some say No initially but later have a change of mind. Some, however, are flummoxed--confused and perplexed--by the light and say Huh?
 

The Ethiopian Eunuch
    This is precisely the scenario we see in the salvation story of the Ethiopian eunuch (Ac 8:26-39). God's pre-salvation grace was obviously and powerfully at work in the eunuch's life. He traveled to Jerusalem to worship (v27), responding decisively and energetically to the light he did have. He was reading and trying to understand Isaiah 53 on the trip home (v32,33). And yet he was flummoxed by the next installment of light God gave him: the gospel message through an Old Testament prophecy. In perplexment, he asked Phillip (v31, paraphrased), "How can I understand what I am reading unless someone guides me?"

    Phillip explained the prophecy and the full gospel message to him, and he was born-again.
 

Nicodemus
    Nicodemus, similar to the Ethiopian eunuch, hit a wall of perplexment at certain moments of pre-salvation light. He knew Jesus was some kind of legitimate messenger from God, his first comments reveal (Jn 3:2). However, even as a Jewish ruler (v1) and teacher (v10), Nicodemus was thoroughly perplexed at the born-again concept. He rapid-fired three "I don't understand" questions to Jesus (v4,9).
    So Jesus continued explaining. It seems Nicodemus eventually said Yes and became a true believer, based on the personal risk involved in how he lovingly cared for Jesus' dead body (19:39,40).

 

1Peter 3:15
    
Peter wrote (1Pet 3:15 NIV), ...Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have...
    An unsaved person might ask us for explanation and clarification for any number of reasons. One of the reasons will be because they are all discombobulated by the pre-salvation grace working in their life, jamming their programming. Perhaps they are deeply unsettled at the human condition they are increasingly noticing, but dissatisfied with and even more confused by the explanations of psychologists, humanists, politicians, etc. Perhaps they are baffled at your joy or perspective or conduct in great suffering or unfair persecution, and need an explanation as to what your Source is. However God's pre-salvation light is flummoxing them, we are to be ready and conscientious like Phillip and Jesus to give an apologetic, an explanation, a clarification, of where they are stuck.


Some Frame the Light in an Alternate Worldview, Savior
 

When God's pre-salvation grace appears in an unsaved person's life, some move towards it and ultimately say Yes, some fight it and ultimately say No, some say No initially but later have a change of mind to Yes, and some are flummoxed by it and say Huh? Some, however, frame the light in an alternate worldview and seek an alternate savior.
 

Reframing the Light in a Wrong Direction
    In multiple decades of ministry and evangelism, I have learned some unsaved people accept part of the light, but then act on that part in a wrong direction. I have seen them accept the illumination on the reality of sin, moral imperfection, and the human condition, but then misapply or reject altogether the follow-up illumination of Jesus as Savior. They look to someone else as savior, maybe a charismatic loved one or family member, or religious figure, or political messiah figure, etc. I call this reframing the light in a wrong direction.

 

The Search for a Human Savior-King
    Practically, what this looks like is a person seeking a human king to save them (fight for them, defend them, provide for them, think for them, create a world for them, etc.), a human hero other than the one true Savior, the King over all kings, Heaven's Hero, the Lord Jesus. Israel's tantrum to Samuel, "Give us a king!" (1Sam 8:5,6,19,20), may sound practical or administrative or sociological, but pay attention to how God interpreted the referendum (v7,8 ESV): ...they have rejected me from being king over them...forsaking me and serving other gods...
    Israel realized the human condition. They saw firsthand--in Egypt, during the forty-year wilderness, during the conquest, during the time of the judges--that humanity was profoundly morally defective, awful, dangerous, even occasionally grotesque. They saw and felt and experienced that God-given need for a Savior-King. But they went sideways with this realization. They followed the example of the people groups around them, thinking a human savior-king was the solution. And how did God interpret this event? Did he say it was merely a practical or administrative or sociological idea? No. He said their referendum was a rejection of Him as their Savior-King. He went even further: He said it was the worship of false gods and their political front-men.
    The 1Samuel 8 event was not an anomaly in the human search for rescue from the human condition. The same event keeps happening over and over and over in a variety of ways across human civilization, across centuries and millennia. Hosea 5:13 says (ESV), When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound.
    This is an incredible, incredible verse about a person/group accepting part of God's pre-salvation light (When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound...), but rejecting the ultimate goal of all pre-salvation light, which is a saving relationship with God Himself (...then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king...). No human savior-king, however, can fix the human condition, which is why God then says, ...But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound.

    With the one true Savior-King standing right in front of them, the One with both the earthly and the eternal solution to the human condition, first-century Israel still said, "We have no king but Caesar!" (Jn 19:15). Same story, different day.
 

Reframing the Light in a Wrong Worldview with a Wrong Savior
    Some unsaved people accept part of God's pre-salvation light (usually the part about the human condition), but then go sideways to an alternate worldview with an alternate savior figure. While political figures or leaders in other religions might have good practical ideas and inspiring messages, God says there is only one Savior-King for the human condition: Himself, expressed in the Lord Jesus Christ. In evangelism, realize some unsaved people will fully accept the illumination about the human condition. However, we also need to recognize when they are reframing that light towards an alternate worldview with an alternate savior (even if that worldview is the Republican platform, even if that savior is the leader of the Republican party). We need to gently push people towards the Lord Jesus Christ alone, and preach His earthly and eternal solutions to the human condition.


Freewill, A Deeper Understanding
 

In the Biblical worldview, human freewill is multivalent. Multivalent means having more than one value, or meaning, or function.
    The freewill is in a different state and functionality before salvation, during the salvation moment, and after salvation. All expressions of freewill have some level of independent choice, however, as we will now see, that means different things at different points in the salvation sequence.


 Freewill, Pre-Salvation
 

Before a person is born-again their freewill is dead in sin (Jn 5:24,25, Col 2:13, Eph 2:1). The Word uses additional metaphors like "enslaved" (Jn 8:34, Ro 7:14) and "imprisoned" (Isa 61:3). In this dead, enslaved, imprisoned spiritual condition, the freewill is unable to seek God or respond to God on its own. Romans 8:7 says (NASB, underline mine), ...the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so. 1Corinthians 2:14 reiterates (ESV, underline mine), The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
    This truth is the critically important doctrine of total depravity (or total deadness), and its consequent, total inability. These and several other verses say the unsaved freewill cannot and will not choose God on its own, without the enablement of His pre-salvation grace. A helpful analogy is to think of a slave or prisoner, an analogy Scripture leans on multiple times (Isa 61:3, Jn 8:34, Ro 7:14). Does a prisoner have freewill? Yes, but only within the confines of the prison. A prisoner cannot do literally whatever he wants because of the prison, he can only do what the prison allows. Before pre-salvation grace manifests in an unsaved person's conscious reality, his freewill is functionally dead to God. His freewill is enslaved and imprisoned, only able to make choices allowed by the sin nature, choices which by nature do not include God.
    The most lengthy and detailed description of total deadness and total inability is Romans 3:9-18. Key phrases are in verses 11 and 12 (ESV): ...no one understands; no one seeks for God...no one does good, not even one. Verse 11 ("no one understands") was stated and explained earlier by Jesus in John 8:43 (NASB): Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot listen to My word. Key point: "...it is because you cannot listen to My word". Cannot. Total inability. Before salvation, everyone's freewill cannot and will not regarding God.
    Before pre-salvation grace manifests in an unsaved person's life, their freewill is functionally dead towards God, unable to choose Him or even want Him. How, then, do we understand freewill as that pre-salvation grace manifests in them, enabling them to take steps toward God and the born-again moment?

 

Temporarily Enabled
    As pre-salvation grace works in an unsaved person's life and being, their freewill becomes temporarily enabled. Though they are still dead, enslaved, and imprisoned in the sin nature, they are intermittently empowered to take steps toward God and the born-again moment. A helpful analogy: think of how some prisoners are granted work release while they are still in prison. They are temporarily enabled to experience a reality outside the prison while they are still in prison as their normal condition.
    Isaiah 55:6,7 capture this idea of temporary enablement (ESV, underline mine): Seek the L
ORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
    As the unsaved person responds and reciprocates these pre-salvation enablements from God (praying, asking more questions, continuing to search, reaching out to Christians, etc., like Nicodemus, the Ethiopian eunuch, Cornelius, Lydia), God reciprocates with more light, more pre-salvation grace, stronger freewill enablements, and the person inches closer to the salvation moment.


Freewill, During the Salvation Moment
 

The unsaved person finally arrives at the salvation moment; they are ready to say Yes to the Lord Jesus. What happens to their freewill in that salvation moment? Are they born-again first as a unilateral act of God, and as a result, they exercise faith in Jesus as an act of their now-alive freewill? Born-again ---> faith? Or, do they exercise faith in Jesus first as an act of their temporarily enabled freewill, and as a result, God grants them the born-again experience? Faith ---> born-again?
 

Hardline Predestinarians: Born-Again ---> Faith
    Hardline predestinarians--in an effort to stay aligned with the idea that God preselects who will be saved--say God unilaterally grants the born-again experience first, which then enables the person to exercise faith in Jesus. They point to two main scriptures to defend this line of logic, John 1:12,13 and 1John 5:1.
    John 1:12,13 say (NIV), Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. 1John 5:1 says (NIV), Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God...
    John 1:13 says a person is born-again "not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will". Hard predestinarians zero in on the phrase "nor of human decision". This phrase, they say, proves the born-again experience comes first, because it is "not of human decision". They say the same about 1John 5:1; if a person believes in Jesus it is because they have been born of God first.
    Keep in mind, predeterminists are forced to interpret these verses this way, because they are launching from the assumption that God has already preselected who will be saved. If He has already preselected who will be saved and who will go to hell, then He must unilaterally grant the born-again experience first to whom He has already chosen. Freewill and conscious personal choice are utterly irrelevant.

 

Others: Faith ---> Born-Again
    A variety of other theological camps strongly disagree with the hard predeterminists and their interpretation of John 1:13 and 1John 5:1. They say, at the salvation moment, the unsaved person exercises faith in Jesus first as an act of their temporarily enabled freewill, and then God responds by granting them the born-again experience. I agree that this sequence is what Scripture intends to convey.
    Regarding John 1:12,13, predeterminists are missing the contextual point entirely: it is about Israel. Here is verse 13 in the ESV (note my numerical inserts): who were born, not of [1] blood nor of [2] the will of the flesh nor of [3] the will of man, but of God.
    In context, John just mentioned how Jesus came to His own, Israel, and His own did not receive him (verse 11). Consequently, in verse 13, John took three shots at Israel's fleshly religion, which was the basis for their rejection of Jesus. John said they could not be born-again by (1) their Abrahamic ancestry ("blood"), (2) an ancestry actuated by sexual union ("the will of the flesh"), (3) an ancestry perpetuated by family patriarchs ("the will of a man" or "husband's decision" NIV). Predeterminists make a remarkable hermeneutical error by detaching verses 12 and 13 from verse 11. The immediate context is about Israel's rejection of the Savior in favor of their Abrahamic blood-driven, flesh-actuated, patriarch-perpetuated religion.
    1John 5:1 makes a different theological point. It reads (NIV), Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God... The verb here, "believes", is a present active participle in the Greek. It should read "is believing", like Young's Literal Translation has it (underline mine): Every one who is believing that Jesus is the Christ, of God he hath been begotten...
    1John 5:1, therefore, is not even referring to salvation moment faith, or whether the born-again experience comes before faith or after faith. 1John 5:1 is saying, everyone who continues in a present-tense lifestyle of faith ("is believing", present active participle) proves they are truly born-again. It is a verse about proof and fruit, not soteriology or the ordo salutis. It is a beautiful, convicting point about enduring, present-tense faith.

 

Romans 4:5: Faith ---> Justification, Righteousness Credited
    Romans 4:5 seems to articulate that the unsaved person exercises saving faith in Jesus first, then God responds by granting the born-again experience. The verse says (NASB): But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.
    Paul uses equivalent terms here for the born-again experience: justification and righteousness credited. He writes this verse using a synonymous parallelism (or double parallelism) to present how the salvation moment happens. He says in the first line, the unsaved person (a) "believes in Him" (b) "who justifies the ungodly", and in the second line, the unsaved person's (a) "faith" (b) "is credited as righteousness". The sequence seems clear: faith/repentance/confession of Jesus as Lord ---> born-again experience/justification/righteousness imputed.

 

Romans 5:1,2: Faith ---> Justification, Access Into Grace
    Romans 5:1,2 also articulate the unsaved person exercises faith in Jesus first, then God responds by granting the born-again experience and all its redemptive dimensions. These two verses say (ESV, underline mine): Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand...
    Notice the two phrases I underlined. In the first phrase, "justified by faith", we are told straightforwardly that faith is exercised in the person and work of the Lord Jesus, and then, by that faith, God justifies the unsaved person (justification is one dimension of the born-again experience). In the second phrase, "obtained access by faith into this grace", we are told the exact same thing in different terminology. We gain access by faith into God's grace and all its accoutrements (the born-again experience, justification, righteousness credited, the indwelling Holy Spirit, etc.). Once again, the sequence of the salvation moment seems clear: faith/repentance/confession of Jesus as Lord ---> born-again experience/justification/righteousness imputed.

 

Ephesians 1:13: Faith ---> Sealed with the Holy Spirit
    Ephesians 1:13 also articulates the unsaved person exercises faith in Jesus first, then God responds by granting the born-again experience. This well-known verse says (NIV, underline mine): And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.
    Other translations word the key phrase similarly, usually "having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit". The salvation moment sequence keeps showing up the same in verse after verse after verse: the unsaved person believes in the person and work of Jesus (verbalized as repentance and confession of Christ as Savior and Lord, i.e., the sinner's prayer), and the Holy Spirit responds with the born-again experience, regeneration, sealing, indwelling.

 

Acts 26:18: Faith ---> Positional Sanctification, Etc.
    Acts 26:18 also articulates the unsaved person exercises faith in Jesus first, then God responds by granting the born-again experience. Paul said to King Agrippa (NKJV, underline mine): to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.
    Here Paul lists six instantaneous salvation blessings (though there are plenty more than six) equivalent to and part of the born-again experience. At the very end of his list he describes how an unsaved person obtains access to these blessings: "by faith in Me".

 

2Corinthians 3:16: Faith ---> Veil is Removed
    2Corinthians 3:16 also articulates the unsaved person exercises faith in Jesus first, then God responds by granting the born-again experience. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians (NKJV): Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
    The sequence here is impossible to misunderstand. Paul said, when one turns to the Lord--exercises faith in Him, repents, calls upon His name, confesses His as Lord--then the veil of blindness is removed. When one turns to the Lord, then the veil is removed. When --> then.

 

John 20:31: Faith ---> Life in His Name
    Finally, we come back full circle to the writing of John. In John 20:31, he articulates the order of the salvation moment (NKJV, underline mine): but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. John did not say divine life is given first. No. He says we believe first, then the very life of Christ, the born-again experience and all that follows, is given.

 

Freewill, During the Salvation Moment
    By responding to and following the enablements of pre-salvation grace, the unsaved person arrives at the salvation moment. They are ready to say Yes to the Lord Jesus. What happens to their freewill in that moment? They, as an act of their temporarily enabled freewill, exercise saving faith in Jesus in the form of repentance and confessing Him as Savior and Lord (the so-called sinner's prayer). As a result, God grants them the born-again experience and all that instantaneously comes with it: justification, positional righteousness, grace, inheritance, positional sanctification, the sealing of the Holy Spirit, etc.


Freewill, Post-Salvation
 

The unsaved person is now saved, born-again, justified, declared righteous, fully alive, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, in a relationship with God. What is the state and function of the freewill now?
    After salvation, the born-again person's freewill is 100% alive positionally, but may be limited functionally because of areas of practical bondage. Think of the prisoner who has just been released back into society, but does not have the psychology, habits, and skills to function successfully in that society. Nevertheless, post-salvation, there is a new volitional liberty to initiate spiritual activities and ideals Godward. In pre-salvation, the unsaved person could not, in and of himself, initiate spiritual activities and ideals Godward. He needed the enablements of pre-salvation grace to take any kind of step Godward. In post-salvation, notice the new volitional liberty.
    Hebrews 4:16 says we can approach God's throne boldly and confidently as we wish. We do not have to wait to seek the Lord only while He may be found, only while He is near (Isa 55:6). Philippians 2:12 tells us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. In other words, we can be proactive self-starters about our spiritual growth. We can start right this second developing our prayer intimacy with God, Biblical understanding, character transformation, inner healing, etc. This does not mean the Christian life depends solely and entirely on us, not at all, for in verse 13 Paul says it is God who works in us to will and to act according to His purposes. God is always working proactively also to transfuse His purposes into our personality and life. However, because our freewill has been resurrected and fully revived by the born-again experience, we can now be proactive about our relationship with Him and all that that entails.


God's Nature & Logic on Freewill
 

What is the Lord's nature and logic on human freewill? Why does He not predetermine and predesign literally all things, sin and evil included, as absolute predestinarians insist? The Lord Himself tells us in Psalm 32:9 (NIV): Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
    What a helpful explanation! God does not want us to be like the horse or the mule--an animal--that needs to be controlled or forced. Why, we ask, does our Creator give us the dignity of choice? What is His nature and logic on the matter? Because He did not create us to be animals, He does not want to relate to us as animals, and He does not want us to relate to Him as animals. He wants us to partake of the divine nature via spirit-to-spirit intimacy with Him, and, He wants us able to make reasoned choices. These very dignifications make us ontologically and functionally different than all the flora and fauna on the planet.

Two other scriptures are also helpful.

 

Lamentations 3:34-36
    Lamentations 3:34-36 is quite an intriguing passage; it lists three things the Lord does not approve of. Here is the passage in Young's Literal Translation (underline mine): To bruise under one's feet any bound ones of earth, to turn aside the judgment of a man, over-against the face of the Most High, to subvert a man in his cause, the Lord hath not approved.
    After mentioning walking on people, Jeremiah said the Lord does not approve of "turning aside the judgment of a man" and "subverting a man in his cause". In other words, sabotaging another person's decision-making. Subverting their ability to make an informed, independent choice. Subverting their freewill.
    God is against anyone tampering with someone else's freewill decision-making, turning aside their judgment and subverting their cause, in Jeremiah's language. It is a telling indictment, then, that absolute predestinarians want us to believe God does that very thing He is against.

 

I Gave the Song, but You Did Not Dance or Weep
    In Luke 7:30-32, Jesus gives a rich and illustrative parable about first-century Israel rejecting Him. Verse 30 mentions the Jewish leaders rejecting Him, and verse 31 mentions the entire generation of first-century Israel rejecting Him (except for a tiny remnant). In verse 32 He gives a parable about this rejection; pay special attention to the four underlined words (ESV): They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep."
    The gospel is God's song to humanity, a song with two parts. One part of the song is a joyful "flute", i.e., the good news of the gospel. This part of the song is supposed to make us "dance" with joy. But the good news of the gospel is predicated on the bad news of the human condition, which is totally depraved, lost, under sin's curse, separated from God. This part of the gospel song is a "dirge", a melody of grief and mourning, and is supposed to make us "weep" with repentance. In this parable, Jesus is saying the gospel song was presented to first-century Israel, but they neither danced at the flute part (the good news) nor wept at the dirge part (the bad news).
    What does this parable have to do with God's nature and logic regarding human freewill? Everything. The driving concept in the parable is that Israel--and all humanity--have the freewill choice to weep and dance at God's gospel song (accepting it) or not weep and not dance at His gospel song (rejecting it, like the generation in verse 31 and the Jewish leaders in verse 30).

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