Our Free Will to Sin or be Righteous
Since God is all knowing and powerful, it’s understandable to ask: Do we as His children have free will?. The short answer is yes. As God’s children, we know we have free will because of examples in the Bible. One instance is the story of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, and his servant Jeroboam from chapters 11-14 of 1 Kings.
After Solomon’s death as the head of labor for the tribe of Joseph, Jeroboam asked Rehoboam if they would be treated harshly under his rule as well. Rehoboam asked multiple advisors about how to handle the situation and he chose to side with the counsel from his peers. In 1 Kings 12:14 Rehoboam told Jeroboam, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” Thus, Jeroboam led 11 of the 12 tribes in rebellion and became the ruler of the northern kingdom of Israel. Rehoboam could have decided to act on the good counsel of the older advisors, but on free will he chose the evil advice from his peers. Therefore, he was punished by God with rebellion. (1 Kings 12:21-24)
Having free will does not diminish God’s sovereign power and will over us. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” God loves mankind immensely. He creates and grants each one of us with the ability to make our own choices. However, we’d be mistaken to think that we can move our feet without God’s allowance and knowledge. In fact, as an omniscient being, He knows the outcome of a situation even before it arises.
Before Moses stands before Pharaoh, God says to him in Exodus 4:21, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.” God knew that Pharaoh’s heart was prideful, stubborn, and sinfully shrewd. As a way to abate his own fear of an ungrounded Israelite revolt, Pharaoh hardened his heart and decided to do what was evil by enslaving, as well as persecuting God’s people. However, God used His sovereign power to harden Pharaoh’s heart even further for righteous reasons. He brought about good by saving the Israelite’s from their oppression. Through Moses, He also brought glory to His holy name by making an example of Pharoah.
Romans 9:14-18 says, “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” Paul continues on in Romans till the end of chapter 11 to describe the unfaithfulness of the Israelite’s toward God, but how He used that for a greater purpose. Romans 11:11-12 (NIV) reads, “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!”
Throughout the history of mankind, God’s children can see Him using their evil choices to achieve a higher and greater purpose. Christ is the perfect example because God’s grace used the evilest in mankind to bring about their redemption once and for all. Romans 6:1- 5 reads, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
As God’s children, therefore, we have an obligation to live according to the new life that Christ has given us. If we do make a mistake and sin, He has also given us the path to be repentance. Revelations 2:5 tells us, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” Since God has loved us so richly, let us be stirred to glorify Him with works of righteousness and have hope knowing that God’s good will shall always triumph. As Romans 8:37-39 says, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”