There is a debate that I have with myself from time to time – there is a tension between my understanding of Free Will and my growing understanding of God’s Sovereignty.
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Ephesians 2:1-3 NKJV)
Paul tells us that by nature, we are sinful – the children of wrath he calls us. Before Christ, we are dead in our sins – it takes Christ to make us alive. Christ said the same thing to the Pharisees:
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, “You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.”
Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father–God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. (John 8:31-42 NKJV)
Good religion does not make us alive – it does not save us. The fruits of that religion can be disguised as fruits of God – just as the Pharisees looked to be followers of God, but they missed Christ. They were serving the Father, but it was the Son which would make them free. It was not until the Incarnation that we were given a chance to become free, by the blood of the Lamb.
Before Christ, we are sinful, with no hope of godly things. While we may do good things, they are not godly things.
The Jewish leaders did not understand that, so steeped in their self-producing fruits. They were free from the bondage of Egypt, and were enslaved to no man. Their viewpoint was centered on the physical surroundings and could not see the slavery which actually chained them.
What was the difference between these educated Pharisees and the fishermen that Christ called? While these leaders sought to kill Christ as a traitor, the fishermen pronounced Christ as the Son of the Living God, God in the Flesh. The difference was not the person or the circumstances, neither the situation, but one thing that I have found:
And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:18-19 NKJV)
It was not that Peter deserved Christ anymore than the chief priest, but it was he who was called by the Son.
Please excuse the mess while my understanding of free will and God’s sovereignty is worked out. My remedy thus far is generally unchanged – God call us, and only through His call can we respond; but it is up to us to respond.