How is God sovereign and humans have free will? How do free will and God's sovereignty work together?
God's sovereignty means that God is in control of all things. Free will refers to our human choices. How can God's perfect control of all things work with our free will?
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Our human limitations make complete understanding of these two areas impossible. However, Scripture does offer insight regarding this matter. Romans 8:29 teaches, "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son." God both knew and set in motion actions within created time that led to this conclusion.
A major issue in understanding the relationship between God's sovereignty and human free will is the relationship between God's existence outside of created space-time and human existence within space-time. God exists outside of our created universe and can see the beginning of time, end of time, and every step along the process all at the same time. When He planned the universe, He knew every step in advance.
As humans living within physical space and time, our minds are not able to work outside of space-time to see the universe and its events all taking place at once. Therefore, the relationship between God's sovereignty and human free will appears contradictory. From a human perspective, God cannot both choose events to happen and then allow humans to freely choose actions at a later time. But time is not a limiting factor to God. His power transcends our limitations and allows Him to work from a vantage point that overrides space-time conflicts to coordinate His perfect plan.
This is why the preceding verse to Romans 8:29 can state, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). He can cause all things, good and bad and everything in between, to come together as part of His perfect purposes for our individual lives as well as for His overall plan for creation.
It is when we begin to see life from God's perspective that we realize His greatness, wisdom, and power. While we believe in Jesus by faith (Romans 10:9, John 3:16), we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19) and because He chose us (John 15:16). We are called to follow God's commands, knowing He is the one who gives us the power to live for Him and to do His will.
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