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God’s Sovereignty – The Free Will of Man

Nowhere in our King James version of the Bible, young people, will you find the word sovereign or the word sovereignty. This does not mean that the truth of God’s sovereignty is not clearly set forth in the Scriptures. From Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21 the Scriptures teach emphatically that God is sovereign. His name Lord, which in the Hebrew is Adonai, and His name Jehovah, which means I AM, loudly declare that God is sovereign.

That God is sovereign means that He reigns in a most absolute sense over all creation and over every creature. It means that He not only rules over all things, but that He has the unquestioned right to rule as He pleases, and is not ruled in any way or at any time by anyone. He is the King over all kings, the Lord over all lords. He is the I Am Who depends on no one, but also may not be criticized or accused of doing anything wrong.

Often the word sovereign is used to mean that He has power to rule over all things. The word, however, means that He has the right to rule every creature. Look the word up in your dictionary. You will find that it means chief or highest; supreme in authority; independent of and unlimited in any way by anyone else. Notice the word reign in this word sovereign. Take heed also to the fact that the first part, the “Sove” in this word, does mean super. God’s is a super reign over all things physical and spiritual.

All that happens takes place because He willed it to happen. No creature decides what God will do, should have done or must do. No creature may even think that God made a mistake. No one decides what He will do, or has the right to judge what He did. He is King. He is Lord in the most comprehensive and complete sense of the word. And, young people, you cannot praise Him any more fully than to say that He is God and God alone.

Take heed to this truth and hold on tightly to it. For it was the defense of this truth that brought us into being as a separate denomination of churches. We in 1924 maintained God’s sovereignty over against a doctrine that in its implication denied it. I say by “implication” because this doctrine of God’s sovereignty was not openly and literally denied. Man’s free will was maintained in a doctrine which maintained that man’s will has power over God’s will. In His grace God offers salvation to all who hear the preaching: and man then determined whether God’s will is carried out, so in this sense God is ruled by man’s will.

In 1953 we were again confronted with a theory that denies God’s sovereignty. By some it was taught that God promises us conditionally that He will give us salvation, if we will first save ourselves from our unbelief. It was stated that “God promises every one of you, that if you believe, you will be saved.” We must act before God can and will. We must save ourselves from unbelief, and then He will save us from our sins and the curse. It was also taught that “Our act of conversion is a prerequisite” if we are going to enter the kingdom of heaven. We decide, not God. We rule Him, and He does not in the sphere of salvation rule us.

And remember that all this actually started with Adam. His first sin was that of saying that God had no right to rule him and tell him what he might eat, and what he might not eat. He set out in a foolish attempt to rule God rather than bow down before God’s rule. He believed Satan’s lie that man could be equal to God. He could be like God and not be under His rule. He could reign with God and not have God reign over him. In fact, he could reign over God, trample His law under foot and lift himself above God. Man must not let God be sovereign. Man must strive to be a god and rule his own life the way he pleases. And every time that we sin, we deny God’s sovereignty. He remains sovereign, but we deny Him the right to it by our sinful deeds.

Now as far as the free will theory is concerned; this doctrine clearly denies God’s sovereignty. And unless you young people reject that universally taught error, you will, when you take our places pretty soon as the fathers and mothers, ministers, elders or deacons in our churches, bring to an end the faithful defense of our churches to that truth of God’s sovereignty. You will make our churches deny God’s sovereign grace. And I would like to show this to you in this article.

In only one way can we say that the natural man has a free will. He is free to sin! He is freed from his love to God wherein man was created. The natural man is not free to fulfill the smallest condition to his salvation. Until God has already begun salvation in him, man cannot have the slightest desire for it. ALL of our salvation depends upon God’s sovereign will. And He gives, to all those whom He eternally and sovereignly chose in Christ, the desire for salvation. There are no prerequisites to our salvation that we have to fulfill. A prerequisite is a thing required before something happens. The “pre” in this word means before. And our desire for salvation and faith in Christ and His cross comes after we have been born again and not before salvation has been begun in us.

Listen to Jesus rather than to those who do not understand His teaching. He said in John 3:3 that “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” How then can he will to be one of its citizens? That he does not see the kingdom means that he knows nothing about it and cannot see any advantage to being in it. Tell me, What child was ever born because he wanted it? Who is born again, that is, who is born spiritually because he had the spiritual life to see it? That is nonsense! If a man already has spiritual life before he is born again, how can you even speak of him being born again? He is spiritually alive. No, we must maintain that truth of Scripture that man is born totally depraved, that is, completely, entirely, one hundred percent depraved! A child that does not yet exist cannot desire to be born. One who has not yet been born with the life of the kingdom of heaven cannot want to become alive as one of its citizens. As surely as it depends upon God’s sovereign will whether a child will be born to a certain man and woman, so it depends completely upon God’s sovereign will as to who will be born again with the life of the kingdom of heaven. If salvation depends upon a spiritually dead man fulfilling a condition or prerequisite, there just will be no man saved.

Not only was man created to be a servant of God, but he became a slave of sin. Did God not tell Adam that the day that he sinned, he would die? Well, he did die spiritually that day. He did want to escape the punishment of sin that he deserved; but he did not want to be freed from his sinful nature, and from the power of sin that was over him. He did not want his will to be completely under God’s will. Why, when God asked him, whether he had sinned, he tried to lay the blame on God. He said that the woman that God gave him gave him of the tree. It was all God’s fault. He did not give him the right kind of wife. He questioned God’s sovereignty, finding fault with what God did to protect himself in what he willed and did. He did not ask for mercy and grace to forgive him and deliver him from his sinful will. He did not say: Rule me and make me able to bow before Thy sovereign will.

Do you not see how wrong the whole idea is that fallen man has a will that is free to “accept” Christ? Do you not see that God’s will must decide who is going to believe, and therefore to whom it is that He will give a new spiritual life that can believe and want salvation? God’s sovereign will must and does decide which spiritually dead men will believe when they hear the gospel preached. Man’s will is not free to decide whether a change will come over him. God’s sovereign will must change man.

Turn to Ephesians 2:8-10. How can one, in light of this passage, teach that faith is a condition, and conversion is a prerequisite man must fulfill to be saved? Plainly God says here that faith is His gift to us, not our gift to Him that fulfills the requirement of our salvation. What is more, plainly God says here that we are His workmanship and have been created in Christ Jesus. What creature in the beginning asked to be created? Before it is created the object does not exist. And what does not exist has no will, and surely not a free will, to want to come into being. Still more, here God tells us that we are created UNTO good works, and thus unto believing; and turning from evil works is not because we believed or performed the act of conversion.

Man does not have, before God begins salvation in him, a will that is free to “accept” Christ but a totally depraved will that can only reject Christ. Men willed Christ’s crucifixion and mocked Him. But take note of Acts 2:37. During Peter’s preaching some were pricked in their hearts. God pricked them by the Spirit of Christ. They did not prick their own hearts Something happened to them. It was not what they happened to do that brought such a tremendous changeover them. God’s sovereign will decided who would believe Peter’s words.

There can be no gospel invitation, an offer which the sovereign God makes and whereby he asks spiritually dead sinners to let Christ come into their hearts. God is sovereign not foolish. Who would go to a cemetery and invite those in the graves to accept life?

The sovereign God with His super reign over all creatures does not have a grace that depends upon spiritually dead men to get it to work. God does not depend upon us in any way and to any degree. And if God invites and pleads with men to let Him save them, then His sovereignty stops right there, and He does not have absolute rule. He does not get His way but is ruled by dead men.

This is a very serious matter, young people. Insist that those not yet born again have a free will, and you place the sinner above God. God depends upon man. The philosophy of man having a free will is free from glorifying God and instead glorifies man.