Centuries of theological debate have centred on the themes of predestination and free will. And I know my views are not even going to leave a dent on the wealth of arguments by brilliant theologians and philosophers.
But as vast and controversial as the debate is, it’s still important for me to know. Do we really have a choice in the end? It is this that presses in from today’s reading from Exodus 7-9.
If God can harden hearts, then does free will really exist?
The phrase ‘free will’ is rather interesting. Experientially as humans, we do regard ourselves as having free will, the ability to make choices. We know whether we choose to accept or reject Jesus. But our wills aren’t really free. They’re enslaved to sin. ‘Free will’ doesn’t really exist because we always choose to reject God.
If someone has a choice, it is God.
It is God then who chooses to be gracious to whom He will be gracious, and to show mercy on whom he will show mercy, as He tells Moses in Exodus 33. To those He has chosen He lets light shine out of the darkness of their hearts and opens their eyes and ears, creating the miracle of new birth. There is an irresistible calling, because once we have seen the light of Jesus, we no longer want to return to the darkness of this world. For the first time in our lives, we actually have ‘free will’, because we suddenly have another choice before us. A choice of redemption. And we always choose the better choice.
There is no boast for the chosen, except in Jesus Christ alone. Instead, a profound sense of humility in the face of God’s sovereignty in redemption displaces the pride that we once took in our efforts. And there dawns a sense of unlimited joy because of the life we have found. But no, it doesn’t stop there. No Christian can truly enjoy being in the light while others still suffer in the darkness. That is our call. Just like Moses did the speaking, and God performed the miracles, so likewise today, all we have to do is tell others the good news of Jesus, and let God do the miracle of new birth. We do the work, He delivers the results.