God's Will and Human Free Agency
NCW 10, June 1994
Q. As God Himself has created this world and He has chosen all the people around us (we are social beings, after all), then he will be aware of everything that happens in this society, no matter (whether) we approve, or disapprove... We just cannot avoid witnessing all this, and yet we cannot change anything, can we?
You have possibly misunderstood the meaning of the word "world" in this passage: "...don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (James 4:4, NIV).
Throughout scripture a distinction is made between people (sinners) and the sin they commit. God hates no person but He hates their acts of wickedness -- He hates sin.
God loves the world -- the planet and all the people in it. Indeed "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
What James means by the "world" in this context (and it appears in dozens of other places in the New Testament" is the world SYSTEM. God does not hate people -- He hates their man-made philosophy, religion, politics, morality, etc.. Understood properly, therefore, there is no contradiction. Those who love the world system are God's enemies, because the world system lies diametrically opposite to the goal of Zion and its social and spiritual righteousness.
Actually, we can change alot of we desire it and believe the God has the power to change. We may not be able to change the world as a whole -- we know God's personal intervention will have to do that -- but we can change it locally.
Recently there was a huge Christian meeting in Oslo. Hundreds of former drug addicts stood up on the stand, sang praises to God, and testified how God had supernaturally healed them. Over four thousand souls, mostly youth, accepted Christ and promised to change their life direction. The next day there was to be a huge Christian march in Oslo -- our people were there.
God can change individuals and groups of individuals if there is faith and willing. I have seen it. God has chosen us to be here to learn faith and obedience -- He has not ordained the world system though He certainly uses it to advantage. We are free to choose -- individually and collectively. We are not hopelessly bound by a merciless destiny.
The other day we had a Scripture Study Session in our home and I explained that there is a subtle balance between individual free agency and collective, social destiny. I likened maturing to a roundabout with several turnings. Children go through specific developmental phases -- physical, mental and emotional, though sometimes they miss them out for one reason for another. Some go round and round the roundabout and refuse to choose a turning. There is a right turning at any one moment in time. If we take a wrong turn we must either go back or continue to the next roundabout and take the turning that will lead us on the correct Way. I remarked how some people never joined the New Covenant Church because they wanted to go along another path or joined but would not choose to take a turning. The Gospel the Lord has revealed to us is intense and requires diligence and choice-making. Some move on to other Churches where they can dither longer going round and round the roundabout. We control our own destiny to a certain extent though we may be forced to make certain choices because of external circumstances -- death of a loved one, divorce, war, illness, or whatever. And though our choices may seem "controlled", in actual fact we agreed to these circumstances before we were born -- we knew, and accepted, that God would direct us along certain paths if we took wrong turns, etc..
There is therefore a subtle balance between God's will and human free agency, mutually agreed upon before we were born here. God gives us the freedom to choose and act in much the same way as patents give their children the same choices, and the more mature spiritually we become, the greater the range of choices, because we are in harmony with His Spirit and act in unison with it. We must understand that life is a cooperative affair where the salvation of all is as important as the salvation of the individual. It is true, therefore, that we limited to a certain extent (though by no means completely) in what we can do; but inwardly we have 100% freedom -- the way we are inside is entirely up to us.
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Last updated on 24 April 1998
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