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Free Will Doctrine VS Election Doctrine

Q&A with John MacArthur

GARY: Hi John, my name is Gary. I wanted your opinion on a specific doctrine that you hear both teachings, you hear quote as humans we kind of like to put things in categories, so the free will doctrine versus the election doctrine, as far as salvation is concerned. And I wanted your thoughts on that.

JOHN: Everybody in this room believes in predestination if they believe the Bible, right? How many of you believe the Bible? You believe the Bible? That’s good. God help the rest of you. You’re either slow or heretics, I don’t know which. Now everybody believes the Bible, right? Then you believe in predestination. You say, “No, I was raised a Methodist.” I don’t care what you were raised, you believe in predestination if you believe the Bible because in Ephesians it says, “He predestinated us before the foundation of the world.”

It says in Revelation, “He has written our names in the Lambs Book of Life from before the foundation of the world.” It uses the word predestination. Everyone believes in that who believes the Bible. God predetermined who would be saved before they were ever born. That’s in the Bible. You believe it so just accept that you believe it. Now wasn’t that easy? Absolutely painless! You believe that. The Bible also says, “Whosoever will may come, and becometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” Do you believe that? Okay. So you believe that too. So you believe in man’s volition. Free will is not a biblical term because man’s will isn’t really free, it’s bound by sin, but you believe that when you became a Christian did you say to yourself, “Oh, I’m elect. I think I’ll get saved.” No! No you made a decision, you made a choice. So the Bible teaches God’s predestinated plan, God’s electing plan. I mean it says that over and over, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God, elect in Him. I have many people in that city,” he said, in the book of Acts who weren’t even saved yet, but they were already considered His people ’cause they were elect.

So you believe all that then you believe in man’s choice as well. So you believe both of those things. The problem is not whether you believe those. The problem is how you harmonize them, right? You know how you harmonize them? No you don’t. You don’t know how to harmonize them because there is no way to harmonize them. And the way I like to illustrate it is this: is Jesus God or man? Speak.


JOHN: Both. Is he all man? 100% man. 100% God. How could He be 200%? It’s a paradox. Who wrote Romans? Paul wrote Romans? God wrote Romans. They alternated verses? Who wrote Romans? It was Paul’s words from his vocabulary and his heart. Was every word inspired by the Spirit of God? How could every single word come out of the mind of God and yet Paul feel that every single word came out of his own heart? You know what’s going to happen if you try to synthesize those things? You know what happened in the early church councils? They got so confused they said, “Okay he’s half God and half man.” And you know what you have when you have half God and half man? Nothing. What’s half a man? There’s not such thing as half. What’s half of God? A nothing! So ______ heresy. So on the one hand they said He’s all deity and the idea that He was a physical being is just a phantom and they came up with a phantom view. And the others said He was all man and He’s not deity at all see, and because they tried to resolve it they came up with heresy every time. They just said He’s all God and not man or all man and not God or half and half and that’s a nothing. You have to leave the paradox.

Now when you come to the writing of the Bible some say, “Well it can’t be all Paul and all the Holy Spirit,” so Paul just wrote what the Holy Spirit told him and it’s all really the Holy Spirit. Is that true? You’ve just eliminated the Pauline authorship. On the other hand if you say it’s all Paul, like the liberals do, and none of the Holy Spirit you’ve eliminated God.

Let me ask you another question. Who lives your Christian life? Who lives your Christian life? Who? Do you? Do you? I hope you do. Is it just you out there living it up, gritting your, not I but what, Christ liveth in me, nevertheless what? I live, yet not I, but Christ. Well if it’s all Christ then I become a quietest, let go and let God. And I just, and you’ve got that movement. And on the other hand if you say it’s me I become a pietist and I wind up as a legalist. You just have to handle both and leave them in a paradox. Now when it comes down to the whole area of sovereignty and will you’ve got to leave them where they are and as soon as you try to resolve them you get all of the Calvinists who run over to this end of the seesaw and start screaming sovereignty and down goes the scale, right? And they got God doing everything. One guy came to me one day and said God even makes you sin. See that’s the ultimate.

And on the other hand you’ve got the Armenians who say no, no, no it’s all us, it’s all us, it’s all us. And if it’s all us, folks, we are really in trouble. Why don’t you leave it alone? Then you have the Baptists. Oh the Baptists. And the Baptists come together in the middle and they say well it’s a little bit of predestination and a little bit of free will. You see God looks down the road and He says, “Oh that’s what they’re going to do, I see, so I’ll chose it.” No! Just leave it alone. So the best way to solve that problem is to believe both and let God resolve it. Now if you could resolve all those problems you’d be God. And then there would be other problems we’d have to deal with.

Now let me tell you something. One of the greatest marks of the inspiration of the Scripture is the fact is that it has those incomprehensible paradoxes. Because if a man or men had written that book they never would have number one conceived them, number two they never would have left them there. They would have resolved them. The fact that they are there and they stand all over the place in the Bible is one of the truest proofs that God, of an infinite mind, far beyond our own, wrote those things. The very fact that there are those irreconsible apparent paradoxes in Scripture speaks of divine authorship. God understands how they harmonize, we don’t. And that means that God has a greater mind than we do and aren’t you glad about that? Okay?

GARY: Thank you.

From Grace to You Bible Questions and Answers, Part 19

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