HeyJules over at Faith or Fiction? has had a very interesting discussion going on regarding predestination. Pop over and check it out.
Her discussion has caused me to do more thinking which in turn causes me to turn to my Bible to see exactly what God's Word has to say on the subject.
It is in the basic nature of men and women that when faced with a decision, our inclination is to take the path of least resistance. Whatever seems easier, whatever seems more pleasing; whatever satisfies the senses is the object we choose. Indeed, the actions of Adam and Eve certainly make this obvious. In Genesis 3:6 these sensual instincts are at work. The proscriptions that God gave to them were quickly swept aside as the sensual took over. It continually amazes me how we are seduced by what looks good, and may in fact be good, but may not be the appropriate thing to have at the time.
So often we increase our folly by justifying our actions intellectually. However, our discernment is perverted apart from God's will. How is it then, that man could, in any real sense and at any real time, discern between wordly enticements and the perfect will of God? A Christian who holds that men and women are completely free to choose must answer this question. Many would advocate that all we are left with then is a human race void of any will whatsoever, that we are puppets on a giant stage, and that God is playing some kind of horrible game. This simply isn't the case. Scripture is quite clear that men and women have a will that is very active, but it is active doing every kind of evil. Has man's character changed in any positive fashion since the beginning of time? God said regarding man, '...every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually'. Where then, has the change in perception and discernment occurred in the minds and hearts of men?
Many would charge then that to believe God chooses who will be saved and who will not makes a mockery of the salvation process. However, man is indeed free. I don't argue this. Man's will is very free and very active. But, this freedom is not inclined toward God. It is a freedom that desires its own satisfaction and that exalts itself above God's will. If man is left to his own devices he will never come to Christ without the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit.
I am not saying that the Holy Spirit beckons and that everyone is on an equal playing field as to believe or not to believe. This cannot be, for man will always choose darkness rather than light (John 3:19). When the Holy Spirit calls the reprobate, they will not take heed; they will categorically reject the gospel. However, in the case of the elect, they will graciously open their hearts and throw themselves upon the mercy of the cross. This will happen because God has purposed it to happen. It isn't that man will not come to Christ of his own free will, but rather that he simply cannot come. Man does not have the spiritual equipment to 'decide' for Jesus.
In the book of Romans, Paul really closes the door on the concept that man is still able to 'decide' spiritually after the fall. Read Romans 3:10-18 in particular: '"...as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE." "THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING," "THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS"; "WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS"; THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, AND THE PATH OFPEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN." "THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES."' Based on this, what decision can man make except toward his own desires and lusts?
Apart from God's divine intervention and sovereignty in all of history, man would be as bad as he possibly could be. Look at the outright refusal to follow the command of God at the tower of Babel. This entire event shows that man's will is alive and well...and quite active. Man's desire, however, is not to obey God's commands in order to be under His protection, but, in fact, to rebel against God. Indeed, man's will is to find a way to become greater than God.
If there is a theme in the New Testament that is clearer than day, it's the concept of our 'deadness' to the call of the gospel. Conversely, if there is any other theme that is just as clear, it is God's electing grace. These two concepts form the 'bookends of scripture.' They hold the thread of redemption together.
The Book of Ephesians is one of my favorites. It stands as a monument to God's election plan and the unity of His work in the church. The first chapter is chock full of His election plan. We are told that He 'chose us in Him before the foundation of the world' (v4), that 'He predestined us to adoption as sons...' (v.5), that 'He lavished upon us the riches of His grace' (v.8); and that we 'have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose...' (v. 11). What could be clearer? Within one chapter of scripture the Lord of the universe sweeps aside man's 'free will' and replaces it with His own...thankfully.
In chapter two of Ephesians, Paul meditates on the Christian's former dead state, and his newness in Christ as it relates to the church. It is evident that the whole salvation process is God toward man, not vice versa.
An excellent verse is John 1:12, 13: "But as many as have received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God...who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God' (emphasis added). Colossians 2:13 is another important verse that has almost identical language to Ephesisans 2:4-5: "And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him...' There is no mistaking that the action being taken is on behalf of the sinner by God. There is no indication that I can see that the object of this regenerative power is 'doing something.' This is not to say that man does not respond, but this response is based upon the faith that is given to him.
I must restate again and again that men and women simply are not equipped to respond in a positive way to the gospel. This is unequivocally stated in Romans 8:7, '...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...' (emphasis added). The words 'not even able to do so' can be translated from the Greek, 'does not/neither has the power'. The force of this statement is overwhelming: we are powerless to affect a change in our spiritual situation. It is God...and all God, that does the changing. Man claims nothing in the salvation work of Christ.
The way I see it from scripture, is man isn't a neutral entity trying to decide between good and evil. Quite the contrary, man is a slave of the devil and sin, and it is God who grants man the grace to 'come to his senses' (cf. 2 Timothy 2:25-26).
The salvation plan of God is one that is carefully and painstakingly detailed in His Word. Just like the precious gift that it is, it must be unpacked carefully lest we break off pieces or fail to see its full beauty. One of the most beautiful things about salvation is that man can claim absolutely no part in it...nothing! He can neither attain to salvation himself, nor add to the finished product. But we, as Christians, can and must do one thing....we must bask in the knowledge that a loving and sovereign Creator has chosen us to be an heir of salvation, and now holds us firmly in His benevolent grip.