The word FREEWILL immediately conjures up thoughts of the argument that has existed for nearly four centuries over PREDESTINATION and FREEWILL, as expounded originally by CALVIN and ARMINIUS. Before investigating the subject of freewill further, it might be profitable to state what the Encyclopaedia says about these two men.
John Calvin was born 10th July 1509 in Noyon, Picardy. In his adult years he espoused the Protestant cause as one of the well-known Reformers, and in 1541 settled in Geneva, Switzerland, where he remained until his death, 27th May 1564. There he tried to establish his doctrines of predestination, particular redemption, total depravity, irresistible grace, and the certain perseverance of the saints. Acting almost as a dictator, he tried to shape Geneva as a model community, where every citizen came under the legal discipline of the Church. It was part of his belief that the Church should control the State. His belief in the predestination to salvation of all the elect may be summed up by verses such as “No man can come to Meexcept the Father call him.” (John 6:44) A Spanish theologian and doctor by the name of Michael Servetus published papers attacking the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, and to escape the Spanish Inquisition, he fled to Geneva, where he was arrested by Calvin, and burned at the stake as a heretic in 1553. This is an example of the ruthless nature of Calvinism as handled by some fanatics. Not all Calvinists (thank God) are that extreme! It seems crazy that Calvinists should try to expose the evils of Catholicism whilst they too have a background of such hard and relentless ways.
Jacobus Arminius was born in 1560 in Leyden, Holland, and became a pupil of Theodore Beza, the famous French Protestant Bible translator. He objected to the rigid theology of Calvin, and proposed a thesis based on the exercise of the human freewill to choose. Romans 10:13 is an example of the position he took. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
John Knox was a pupil of Calvin, and when he returned to Scotland in 1559, he was accepted there as Reformer, so that Calvinism has largely dominated Scottish theology in the Presbyterian Church ever since. But in England James I, who reigned from 1603 to 1625, and his son Charles I, 1625 to 1649, both espoused the Arminian position. James I is remembered particularly for the English Bible of 1611. In 1618 the Protestant Synod of Dortrecht was convened on 13th November, and sat until 25th May the following year. The purpose of this was to settle differences that existed between the teachings of Luther, Calvin, and Arminius. The Synod finally condemned Arminianism. British theologians were present at this Synod. Hence, in these early years after the Reformation began in 1517, there arose considerable controversy about basic Protestant beliefs. And still today we find the fires of controversy raging in certain areas.
It is therefore interesting to note that the ancient prophecy of 1697, [which may be seen in its entirety in PT 90] began with the following words. “There shall be a total and full redemption by Christ. This is a hidden mystery, not to be understood without the revelation of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is at hand to reveal the same unto all holy seekers and loving enquirers. The completion of such a redemption is withheld and abstracted by the Apocalyptic seals. Wherefore, as the Spirit of God shall open seal after seal, so shall this redemption come to be revealed, both particularly and universally.”
We have quoted two of the leading texts of Calvinists, (John 6:44) and Arminians, (Rom.10:13) and it will be seen at a glance how apparently impossible they are to bring together into one harmonious doctrine. But quoting the 1697prophecy again, this time from its closing words, we shall find a clue to the solving of the hiatus. “Therefore there should be a holy emulation and ambition stirred up among the bands of believers that they may be the FIRST-FRUITS unto Him that is risen from the dead, and so be made principal agents for Him and with Him, that they may be if possible of the number of the FIRSTBORN of the New Jerusalem Mother. All true waiters of His Kingdom in spirit, under whatsoever profession they may be, ought to be numbered among the virgin spirits, to whom this message appertains. Be watchful and quicken your pace.”
The words we have quoted above in CAPITALS, indicate that the position of God’s elect church is not as the SAVED (relative to the DAMNED), but as FIRSTBORN amongst MANY BRETHREN. And if the FIRSTFRUIT is holy, so also is the LUMP, according to Paul in Romans 11:16. Hence, God has been SELECTING, CHOOSING OUT, from amongst mankind those whom He wishes to engrace, for the clear purpose of using them as FIRSTBORN SONS to reach the rest of their brethren, as yet “without God and without hope in the world.” They will serve their Master in this capacity throughout the Millennial Kingdom, as shown in Psalm 22. “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all thekindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee; for the Kingdom is the Lord’s, and He is the Governor among the nations.”
It is because “The Man Christ Jesus gave Himself a ransom FOR ALL, to be testified IN ITS OWN SEASONS.” (1 Tim.2:6) As yet only one season has been manifested, that of selecting the firstborn from among mankind, but the future seasons will declare the wider purposes of God. This is “the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He has purposed in Himself, that in the administration of the FULNESS OF THE SEASONS, He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him.” (Eph.1:10) Only by understanding this greater purpose of God can the hiatus between the Calvinists and the Arminians be solved. It can therefore be seen that, yes, unless the Father draw a man, he cannot “come to the Son.” In this present age, as in all the foregoing, the Father has been drawing out those whom He chooses for FIRSTBORN office. But in the Millennium, God will draw out a much greater company of people, using His firstborn as Kingdom evangelists.
But this will only be stage one of the great expansion. In the Millennium only the “sheep” of Jesus’ parable will be allowed a place on the earth. The “goats” will have to wait until later, being excluded from the time of God’s great Sabbath Rest. But equally we can say that “whosoever believes shall have eternal life,” the cry of the Arminians. If God decides to blind the eyes of many, so that they cannot see in this age, it isn’t because God has some capricious sense of perverted justice, (for that is what it would be, let us not call it by any other name,) but rather that He has decided to make all such wait until later before being “drawn” to the Lord. Jesus said that He, if He be lifted up, will draw all men unto Himself.
These words make a mockery of the Calvinist position, and not only Calvinists but all those who for some inexplicable reason decide that God has predestined most people to everlasting torment, whether they get a chance to believe or not. My wife and I cannot, and will not, be party to a system that perverts the love of God in this way. Should we not base ALL our theology on the clearly revealed character of God as set forth in the Person of His Son? He who asks us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and do good to those who despitefully use us, cannot Himself demonstrate to the world a character quite the opposite of this in coming ages. It just doesn’t add up. If the so-called doctrine of “everlasting torment” is ONLY questioned on the basis of these few words in the Sermon on the Mount, it must surely be enough to show that the “hell-fire” language must be figurative, just as the words “for ever and ever” are figurative.
So what about FREEWILL? Do we have the power of CHOICE? The Arminians say we do, and the Calvinists say we don’t, UNLESS we have been chosen already by God. In John 15:16 we read of Jesus saying to His disciples, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you,” which does seem to pin down the Calvinist position. Of course it does! During this age, only such as are chosen will have their eyes opened to the truth. That part of Calvinism is wholly correct. Where they go wrong is to assert that ALL THE REST are predestined to eternal fire. In the verse quoted above, from John 15, it reads further, “I have chosen you and ordained you to go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you.” What shall we ask the Father? Something for our own enjoyment? Suppose we follow the pattern set by the Father Himself in Psalm 2, when He speaks to His Son in Millennial days. “Ask of Me and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Your possession.” Shall we have this as our own goal? If so, we have strong Scriptural backing for such requests. Furthermore, it is clearly prophesied in many places, one of which shows the great joy in heaven when it is achieved. “When the seventh angel sounded, there were great voices in heaven saying, The Kingdoms of this world are become the Kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ.” (Rev.11) Is not this the most noble theme of all, the best thing to ask of the Father in Jesus’ name?
At this point we must ask ourselves, as believers, a most important question. Do we entertain any PRIDE in the fact that we have “made the right choice,” to believe in the Son of God for salvation? Do we unwittingly foster the spirit of the Pharisee who thanked God he was not as other men were? Do we feel more righteous than the God-rejecting world? Do we think that God’s choice in us was a GOOD choice? We have been asking ourselves this question of late, and have come to realise that there are hidden and subtle snares to our thinking if we are not careful. Calvinism cannot but breed this form of pride by its very mode of thought.
Arminianism loses sight of the fact that no one can be saved UNTIL the Father draws him to Himself, through the Person of Christ. But when seen together under the Kingdom principle of the firstborn, all such Calvinist pride disappears, because no one can say that he is better than his brothers and sisters just because he happened to be the first to open his mother’s womb. Neither does our “engracement in Christ” suggest that we are better than anyone else. We are saved to serve, redeemed to reach the lost, justified to dispense righteous judgment amongst men, and chosen to chasten and convict by the power of God’s Spirit. If we are doing these things NOW, as obedience to the “great commission” then know that in God’s Kingdom we shall be employed in a far greater capacity in continuance of this great work.
FREEWILL never acts as an abstraction, independently of everything. It can only operate on the basis of knowledge. We use our God-given gift of choice in accordance with what we KNOW. Every choice we make is between two or more possibilities. Hence the necessity for TRUTH to be dispensed to help people make the right choice, whether now or in future days of God’s Kingdom. So far this world hasn’t been the best of places for finding the truth. Those who do, very often speak about it as “treasure hidden in a field”. But in the Kingdom the “knowledge of the glory of God shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.” That is a most exciting prospect. It is when people will say “Come and let us go up to the Mountain of the Lord – – and there learn of His ways.” It is when “the whole world will be at rest, and break forth into singing.” It is when God will reason with mankind to a degree never before witnessed on earth. He will call all the nations together and say, as He declared through Isaiah, “Come and let us reason together, says the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” “I have blotted out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins.”
And if these words were spoken in the first instance to the nation of Israel, they are therefore just as true for all mankind, because Israel was God’s “firstborn son,” who was meant to redeem the rest of his brethren (the other nations). What he didn’t do, the Son of Man, Son of David, Son of God, came to do instead. So now there is neither Jew nor Greek. The middle wall is broken down. Salvation is for all, according to God’s pre-ordained seasons. And if we think that God is unable to “reason” adequately with any individual of mankind, to bring him to his senses, then we must remember the stories in the Bible of three particular men, Nebuchadnezzar, Manasseh, and Saul of Tarsus. Nebuchadnezzar was one of the worst diabolical tyrants of the ancient world. And it was coupled with a mountainous pride in his own achievement. But God warned him. And he took no notice. And so he spent seven years like a wild animal until, on having his senses back, he gave glory to the God of heaven. Manasseh was one of Judah’s worst kings. 55 years of unremitting idolatry and blatant evil, even to the extent of sacrificing his own children through the fire to Moloch. But he was taken captive to Babylon with an iron ring through his lip and a chain. But in affliction he prayed, and besought the Lord, and was restored to office in Jerusalem a much humbled man. Saul of Tarsus was struck down on the Damascus Road, and changed from being a violent persecutor of God’s people to one of the greatest evangelists, prophets, and apostles this world has ever known. Such examples are given to show us what God can achieve when it is His time. That which hasn’t yet been achieved will be achieved in the coming ages, and God is graciously allowing us to be co-workers with Him in this greater evangelistic programme within the Kingdom of God.