You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
~ Romans 9:19–24 (ESV)
God has, by his own will and desire, created certain people for salvation and others for damnation. This is clearly seen throughout all of scripture, where man’s choices are overridden by God’s will. Jonah tried to run from his calling, but God forced his hand. Moses tried to shift the work of preaching to the people of God and leading them out of Egypt, but God forced his hand. He allowed Aaron to speak for him, but Moses didn’t know that he had already sent Aaron to him to meet with him for that purpose. The people of Israel said that they could keep God’s commands, but God in Deuteronomy 28 knew that they’d fall away and prescribed their punishment which they were to receive time and again to them. Saul wanted to crush the Christian rebellion against Jewish authority and Jesus forced himself upon him. Every time that there is a choice to be made, God is the actor on that choice, and it’s often not what people would have expected. Abel over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, David over all of his brothers, creating the people of Israel instead of choosing a large and well established nation. I could do this all day.
The point made is that God is the one who chooses, but man merely responds to that choice. Look back at the covenants that we’ve seen – there are two types which are present. Covenant of grace, those which God provides onto a people (Noahic, Abrahamic, Davidic) and covenants of works, those which are doomed to fail, based on the people trying to keep their commitment with God’s commands (Adamic – led to the destruction of the world via the flood, Mosaic – led to the destruction of the nation of Israel). The covenants of grace were created because God chose to act for specific people in a specific way, but the covenants of works existed to point people back to God alone as our salvation and deliverer. Knowijng, then, that God is sovereign over his creation, and that we are part of that creation – not free moral agents who can do as we please, but subject to the will of the one who made, sustains, and controls all of the events and environment around us, who are we to say that God is unfair when he chooses to control those whom he will save and those whom he will send to hell?
Moreover, if God does choose to send anyone to hell, and if he is truly a just judge, then how is it that people can sin at all? This is where we see the realm of “free will” and that which it can pursue. The only free will that God allows is that which leads to sin. Think about it – WAAAY back in the garden, if Adam and Eve did the will of God then they’d never have eaten the forbidden fruit. Literally any other action was following God’s commands, but that which led them to sin. If you break down the ten commandments, we are called to honor God only in all that we do and to trust in him alone for our needs, much less our salvation, and we are to treat others in a way that honors God, as we are his image bearers, as are those with whom we interact. So any free will choice we exert on others is a violation of those commands.
For those who say that we can, of our own will, choose to do that which pleases God, scripture denies that right.
Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice,
that he should live on forever
and never see the pit.
~ Psalm 49: 7-9 (ESV)
Though you wash yourself with lye
and use much soap,
the stain of your guilt is still before me,
declares the Lord GOD.
~ Jeremiah 2:22 (ESV)
“And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’
~ Ezekiel 16:6 (ESV)
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.”
~ Ezekiel 37:1-3 (ESV)
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
~ Romans 5:6 (ESV)
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
~ Colossians 2:13 (ESV)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
~ Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-5 (ESV)
So it is God alone who determines who can be saved, and God also who determines how that takes place. That said, if God purposes to save anyone, as the commander of all spiritual and natural forces, he will keep that person alive and bend heaven and earth until they are converted. When you are so converted, it’s not because you are choosing one option from a billion others, but that God has so orchestrated all of the events of your life such that you can do nothing but choose him. And you’ll thank him for it for the rest of your life and on forever into eternity.