Posted by: William | February 24, 2008

God’s Freedom & Mine

I think that it would be a difficult argument to make to say that God respects men; that he gives men their space and does not interfere. That there is some place where God’s freedom ends, and man’s freedom begins. Throughout the whole Old Testament, it’s clear that God does what he wishes and that all things end up working for his will; although he does not author sin, sin does in fact end up serving his purposes.

I have been studying Romans 9 today and the topic of God’s freedom versus our freedom has been on my mind. The immediate context of chapter nine is Paul’s discussion about God’s freedom to choose Jacob over Esau; Israel over the Edomites. Although it’s not expressly what he is talking about, there are some very important observations we can make from this text.

In Romans 9:15 Paul quotes God’s words to Moses saying, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” When talk about Man’s freedom versus God’s freedom that becomes a very difficult verse to wrestle with. If God’s freedom at any point were to bump into man’s freedom, either that verse would be left null and void, or else God would have to violate man’s freedom and man would no longer be free. I suggest that while man is indeed free, his freedom does not stand along side God’s but rather inside God’s.

In order for God to be truly sovereign as we see him all throughout the whole Old Testament (and I would argue even more clearly in the New Testament, but that’s for another day) his freedom would have to be limitless. There cannot be two sovereign beings; if at any point they were to sit in contrast to one another both would cease to be sovereign. God is sovereign, man is not. Therefore, God’s freedom extends to infinity, man’s freedom ends somewhere. I suggest that man’s freedom comes to an end at the point in which God, in his freedom, chooses to fence it in.

In the United States, we have freedom to do many things. Politically, there are very few serious bounds on us. We can travel, learn, protest, worship, evangelize. We are free, but not completely. Our government doesn’t give us complete freedom. I cannot walk into my neighbor’s house and take things from him without his permission. If I were to do so, there would be negative consequences. Our freedom is set inside of our government. In much the same way, our freedom is set inside of God’s freedom who may give us more or less freedom based on his prerogative and kind will.

In our own faith we see a model of this concept. If our will were completely free, then God giving us grace and mercy unto salvation would cause his will to bump into ours. What if we didn’t want salvation? (and we wouldn’t). Then God would not have the freedom to give us salvation. This would invalidate God’s sovereignty. Man cannot be completely free, because then God could not be completely free; that would be both dreadful for us and totally unscriptural. Man’s freedom must exist within God’s freedom where God sets the bounds of our freedom.

Jesus, thank you for the finished revelation of your Word. Jesus, I pray that you would take any knowledge we may find of you and make it useful for our sanctification and your glory. Jesus, within the bounds of our freedom that you have set out, make us a more pleasing offering to you. Help us to live and love, for your glory, in all humility. God, get your glory.



  1. I was with you until …

    What if we didn’t want salvation (and we wouldn’t)?

    So my parser was churning on this one = “we would not not want salvation?” = “we would want salvation” => Then God would not… or I’m confused.

    Are you saying that if we do NOT want our salvation but God, of course, does that His wants trump ours? That probably doesn’t help… except to show my confusion with your point all the more…

  2. I think the placing of the question mark was confusing. I was asking a rhetorical question, “what if we didn’t want salvation,” then inside the parenthesis answering it.

    I would say that God’s want does trump ours in salvation, because men are born fully fallen and natural enemies of God. We don’t want anything to do with him and so if we do find ourselves as Christians, his want has taken precedence over ours. And thank God for that.

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