I don’t know that we can completely reconcile these two things with our limited understanding, but I do know that we can accept both of these truths since the Bible clearly teaches them. I would like to give two examples from Scripture and then we’ll see what we can learn from them.

In Acts 2:23 we read, “Him (Jesus), being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death” (NKJV). In the first half of this verse we have God’s Divine sovereignty, for we learn here that Jesus was DELIVERED UP TO DEATH by “the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.” This agrees with Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but DELIVERED HIM UP for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things.” God knew, before the foundation of the world, that Adam would sin in the Garden of Eden and that the whole human race would be born in sin with death and judgment as its consequences. But in grace He devised a plan of salvation which involved His Son becoming a Man in order to take man’s place in death and judgment on the cross. In 1st Peter 1:19-20 we learn that Christ was the Lamb of God “foreordained before the foundation of the world.” God, in sovereign grace, determined to deliver His Son up to the cross to be our Sin bearer and at the cross His purpose was fulfilled.

In the second half of the verse we have man’s free will, for we see that Jesus was “taken by wicked hands which had Him crucified and put to death.” Later, in Acts 3:16, Peter rebuked the Jewish leaders with these words, “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, WHOM YOU DELIVERED UP and denied in the presence of Pilate.” We saw earlier that “God delivered Jesus up” but here we see that man also “delivered Him up.” Can both of these things be true? If they are, how can we reconcile the two? I sincerely believe both are true, for God’s Word says they are true! The fact is man is indeed responsible for their wicked act. It was NOT God who moved their hearts to have Jesus crucified; they did this of their own free will because they hated Him. Because of this they will have to give an account to God for rejecting and crucifying His beloved Son. Yet God’s sovereignty was in play here too, for He knew that their sinful hearts would lead them to do this and He determined that while they were displaying their hatred for God He would display His love for man by providing salvation for them through the death of His Son.

Now let’s read John 6:37, “All the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” Here too we have “God’s sovereignty” in the first half of the verse and “Man’s free will” in the second half. God, in His sovereign grace, has given certain individuals to Christ. In Ephesian 1:4 we learn that “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” And because He has chosen some to be saved (see 2nd Thessalonians 2:13) and are given to Christ as gift from the Father (see John 17:2, 6, 9, and 24), they will indeed come to Christ for salvation.

Yet man is responsible to come to Jesus. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” When a sinner does come to Jesus, they are doing so of their own free will. God has not programmed them to do this; they actually feel their need to do so and believe Christ’s words when He invites them to come. They also believe His words, “the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” How do we reconcile the fact that men come to Christ because God has chosen them to be saved and yet they do so by an act of their own will? Two scriptures come to mind that may help us in answering this SEEMING contradiction. The first one is John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” The second one is Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (This verse is addressed to believers but it can surely be applied to unbelievers whose hearts won’t be moved unless God works in them.) In these passages we learn that God draws a soul to Christ through creating a desire in their hearts. In the case of salvation, God doesn’t force anyone to be saved, but He does work in their hearts so they are WILLING TO COME TO CHRIST FOR SALVATION. Thus God’s SOVEREIGNTY and Man’s FREE WILL are joined together. Both are true.

Before I close, I want to point out that though God chooses some people to be saved, He does NOT choose some people to go to hell. Men are indeed responsible to come to Christ and if they don’t they have only themselves to blame. Jesus said in John 5:40, “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” He could not have said these words if they COULDN’T COME. Men could come to Christ but they ARE NOT WILLING TO COME. They make a FATAL CHOICE by refusing to come to Christ for salvation and God will be perfectly just in condemning them to hell for that choice.  (376.5)  (DO)