Do you have choice in life or are you simply a pawn where your actions are determined by your genes, environment, or a god who has predestined your every movement? In the creation account, after God has created the animals, He states, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’, Gen. 1. 26 NKJV. Although man is much like the animal creation physically, he is unique in his likeness to God. God ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’, 2. 7; He made man sovereign over the Earth.
This God-likeness has given man his ‘massive’ intelligence, conscience, and choice. Animals are driven by instinct. We do not expect them to make moral decisions. No one charges a lion with murder when it kills. This is its nature, and instinct drives it. It is a predator. But man is different; he can choose actions based on moral principles. So, in a court of law, one will be judged for one’s actions.
God then gave man a moral choice. ‘And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die"’, vv. 16-17. There was no physical need; they had plenty of food. This was a test of their faith in God, and obedience to Him.
But they utterly failed the test. The devil came to Eve and told her that God had lied to her. To eat of the fruit would only bring her happiness. She believed the devil, and doubted God’s love and truthfulness. Adam followed her example and also ate, chapt. 3. The devil’s tactics are the same today. He is the father of lies and a murderer, John 8. 44.
But their rebellion did not just affect them. The whole human race was ‘in Adam’, both physically and representatively. He was literally the head of the human race. All of mankind now share in an inherited sinful nature, with the weakness and tendency to sin. David was keenly aware of this when he wrote as a broken man after his fall into adultery, ‘Behold I was brought forth in iniquity; and in sin my mother conceived me’, Ps. 51. 5.
Honest men and women will confess that they struggle with this evil tendency, both in thought and action. They were born with a moral weakness. We are ‘by nature children of wrath’, Eph. 2. 3. All men share this genetic weakness. But man still has choice, and some choose to do terribly evil sins. All sin is not the same, and God will judge men according to their works. There are degrees of punishment, as there are degrees of reward, Luke 12. 47- 48. A judge must decide on punishment fitting the crime, and so it will be at the great white throne judgement, Rev. 20.
Calvinism teaches that man is not only born with a weakness to sin but is so mortally wounded that he cannot even choose to repent and receive Christ. Calvinists believe that God chooses some to be saved almost arbitrarily. One source puts it this way: ‘When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted’.1 Further, to these He sends His Holy Spirit who regenerates them and then they are finally able to choose Christ. Calvinists feel that this is glorifying to God and His sovereignty.
But this is not the God portrayed throughout scripture. From the beginning of Genesis, God is described as a loving, compassionate God. He is a God who loves all of mankind, not just the elect, John 3. 16. Beginning with Cain, Gen. 4, He pleads with man to repent, and to turn from sin. In chapter 6, He is pictured as a God who is grieved by the rebellion and sin of man. There is a strong conflict of wills, and this has been the history of man.
God in His infinite love has provided salvation which is available to all. Christ’s death on the cross is adequate payment for the sin of the whole world, 1 John 2. 1, 2. There is no partiality with God; James points out that this is sin, Jas. 2. 9. Now God commands all of mankind to repent, Acts 17. 30. God never commands that which man is unable to do. Our God is a loving, compassionate God, with arms stretched out to the world. Praise God!
As we face life with all of its decisions, we must mark the spiritual choices as most critical. As with Eve, we must choose either to trust God and obey Him, or listen to the tempter. This is an awesome choice that will determine the direction of our life and ultimate destiny. Abel chose the pathway of faith, and offered to God the correct offering, Heb. 11. 4, and so he heads that list of godly men and women who, by faith, pleased God.
The first choice is to believe God and repent of our sin, because, as earlier stated, God now ‘commands all men everywhere to repent’, Acts 17. 30. Repentance is that change of thinking that leads to a change of direction in life. It is the first act of faith. And this is followed by a trust in God for salvation, and forgiveness. Today, our knowledge of God’s plan of salvation is complete since Christ has come. But, in every age, repentance and trust in God were required for salvation.
When one has made this momentous choice and is on their way to heaven, life is still full of choices. Will you choose to give your body to God, and live a holy life, or live selfishly, Rom. 12. 1-2? If you marry, will you marry a believer who will be one with you in your spiritual desires? As we saturate our lives with God’s word, our lives will become more and more holy and pleasing to God, Ps. 1. But Satan never gives up in his attempt to turn us from faith and obedience. Remember Adam and Eve’s downfall. Choose to trust God and to obey Him!