“About the article typed out from Alonzo T. Jones’ book [Individuality in Religion]… How did our inherent God- created duty and nature to serve and love God somehow become tainted with the idea that sinning, not choosing God and his commands, is a ‘religious liberty’? How is it that this ‘sinning’ is called ‘freedom’ and that it is somehow that God made this ‘freedom’ in us? Is the ability to sin a ‘gift from God’? Where is the liberty in sinning?”
(The above question is a small portion of a long letter. I am going to address the main points here. All questions in this issue from Maryland come from this and a subsequent letter. The following answers are slightly edited versions of letters I have written and sent, in response to these letters. Editor)
You brought up some good questions. First of all let me make it clear that Jones never said that “sinning… is a religious liberty.” Sinning is not a religious liberty. The ability to choose to serve God or not, that is a religious liberty, a freedom, and perhaps the greatest freedom of all. Yes, the ability to choose, even to sin, is a gift from God. Please allow me to explain.
Let us suppose for a moment that when God created man He did not give him the freedom to choose whether to serve God or not. What would man be then? Man would be very similar to a robot that had been programmed to act a certain way, and no matter whether he wanted to or not, he could not act any differently. Look at it from God’s point of view for a moment. If you created these beings who could not choose to act differently from what you commanded, would you gain any pleasure in the service of those beings? I mean, there would be no way to say, “I really appreciate the way you are acting, worshipping and praising me,” because they had no choice to do otherwise.
Suppose you have a son who is like a remote control child. You push the buttons and the child does exactly what you say, whether he wants to or not. He has no possibility to choose to serve you because he wants to, or to choose not to serve you because he doesn’t want to. That type of service could never be pleasing to a parent or to God. I know I would get very tired of that kind of service being rendered to me. It would be the difference between having a child that does good because he enjoys it and having a robot that does good because he has no choice to do otherwise.
Think about it for a moment. The Bible tells us of some beings who “rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”(Revelation 4:8) If these beings were created in such a way that they could not possibly choose to do otherwise, then it would be similar to me programming my computer to say over and over, “I love you, I love you, you are the best, I love you.” If I did that, could I gain any pleasure from it? If so, I would be a very demented, egotistical individual. I would find no pleasure in such empty words coming from my computer. Now, however, if my wife loved me so much that she, very often, would say similar words, I would gain satisfaction from that. I would appreciate it, because I would know that I had not forced her to do it, but that she chose to, of her own free will, because she truly loves me.
Let’s examine this further. Lucifer (the previous name of the angel who is now called Satan) was created perfect. (Ezekiel 28:15) He was a perfect individual who loved God perfectly and enjoyed serving Him. However, it is evident that Lucifer was given the freedom to choose to serve God or not. We know the story. Lucifer desired to be exalted above what God intended for him. He began to have distorted ideas about God’s love for him, which led to a desire to try his own path, do his own thing, and reject God’s counsels. Lucifer rebelled against God and sinned, by choosing his own way.
God knew that Lucifer would rebel, yet He created him anyway. He could have created Lucifer in such a way that there was no possibility for him to choose to do wrong. But it is obvious that God did not want to do it that way. God had a choice. He could have created all beings in such a way that they had no choice to disobey Him. If He had done this, then nobody ever would have rebelled, sin would not exist, but God would be left with a universe full of robots, and I am certain God would not have been satisfied with such programmed service.
There was only one other alternative for God in order for Him to enjoy true fellowship with other beings, and that was to create beings who had the freedom to choose to do good or to do evil. Then if His creatures chose to do good and serve Him of their own free will, He could be satisfied with such service and have genuine fellowship with His creatures.
God knew from the beginning what would result if He chose to create beings with the freedom of choice. He knew the pain and suffering that would result when Lucifer chose to do wrong, yet God created him anyway. From the very first creature God created with the freedom to choose for themselves there was always a possibility for someone to rebel. If it would not have been Lucifer, it could have been someone else. The possibility existed for His creatures to have a curiosity to know if God’s ways are right or if there might be a better way.
Yet God had a marvelous plan in mind. He knew sin would arise, He also knew how to ensure that it would never rise the second time. God said, “What do ye imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.” (Nahum 1:9)
God knew affliction would arise, but He had a plan to keep it from happening a second time. He knew that if the entire universe could see where rebellion leads, and also see how far God would go to save the rebellious ones, then they would never, ever choose to rebel again. God will not take away our freedom of choice when we get to heaven; what will be clarified is the question of where choosing wrong will lead. The entire universe will be certain that, even though they have the choice, they would not dare go down the same road Lucifer went down, and rebel against God.
God knows this, and will end up with His desired goal of having other intelligent, free beings to fellowship with who will never rebel against Him even though they have the freedom of choice to do it.
The stories of Lucifer and Adam and Eve prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that God made both man and angels with the inherent ability to choose to do good or not. I praise God that I am not a robot. Sometimes I wish that God would force me to do right so that I will be obedient continually, but I know that it would not be right that way. I know that God doesn’t work that way, and I am thankful for it.
Yes! And a thousand times yes! The ability to choose to obey or not to obey God is a religious freedom, and the greatest of all freedoms. I am very thankful that God has made me in such a way that I can choose to serve Him or not to serve Him. Joshua said, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15) God would not ask us to choose who to serve if He did not give us the freedom to choose to serve Him or not. Yes, freedom to choose to do good or bad is a gift from God.
Let me put it in another way. Suppose I would take away your freedom to serve God in the way you choose. Suppose I forced you to worship God the Father and His only begotten Son, excluding the trinity completely, on the true Sabbath day, Saturday. Do you suppose you would enjoy that type of worship? If it is contrary to your beliefs, you would not enjoy it at all, and you know what, God would not enjoy it either, because you would be doing good, not because you wish to, but because you were forced to.
God, all of heaven, and myself, are steadfastly opposed to force in matters of religion. And all those who are forced in matters of religion are opposed to it as well. For this reason, many people refused to yield their freedom of conscience when persecuted by pagan Rome during the first three centuries, and by papal Rome during the Dark Ages. I stand in good company when I stand for, and adamantly support, religious liberty and the freedom of conscience, for millions of sleeping saints stood for the same principle, and God Himself is on my side.
I stand with A. T. Jones when he wrote, “Any service as to God that is not freely chosen by him who renders it is not service to God. There can be no virtue in it; there can be none of God in it. Any service rendered as to God that is not freely chosen on the part of him who renders it cannot be of God, because “God is love;” and love and compulsion, love and force, love and oppression, never can go together. Therefore any duty, any obligation, anything, offered or rendered as to God that is not of the individual’s own freely chosen choice, can neither be of God nor to God. Accordingly when the Lord created whatever creature—angel or man—in order that that creature should be happy in the service of God, and in order that there should be virtue in rendering service or worship to God, He created him free to choose to do so.” (Individuality in Religion, pages 8, 9)
Certainly you can see the truth in this statement, for it is an eternal principle that has been alive since the beginning, since God created the first angel, and will be alive throughout eternal ages in the world made new. I am glad that this principle is a part of me.
If God wanted people who could not choose to sin, why didn’t He create us that way? The very fact that there are people who sin proves that God gave them the ability to choose to sin. Yes, that is a freedom, because with it also comes the freedom to choose to serve God. You cannot separate the two. If you take away the freedom to choose to sin, then you also take away the freedom to choose to serve God.
“How is it ‘love’ to …create us as creatures that love God and enjoy Him and want to serve Him (the inherent principle) and then to say that if God does not allow us to ‘sin’ He does not love us?”
I believe you are misunderstanding A. T. Jones again here. He did not say that if we do not have the choice to sin that God does not love us, but that if He forces us, even to do good, against our will, then He does not love us. If I forced you to disbelieve and dishonor the trinity and keep holy the Sabbath, could you say that I love you? If you think that is love, then you must agree with the policy of the papacy of burning “heretics” and seizing their churches if they do not agree with you. Do you agree with the principle of forcing people to do what you want them to regardless of their personal convictions or desires?
God could have forced Lucifer to keep His commandments, but He didn’t, because He knew Lucifer’s service would then be fake and dry.
Let’s look at the example of Adam and Eve. God purposely put a tree of forbidden fruit in the middle of the Garden of Eden, which proves that Adam had a free choice. If God had cut off every possibility for Adam to choose to do wrong, then Adam’s service to God would not be out of love, but out of compulsion and force. Obviously God does not operate on that principle.
“Is this man saying that unless we are able to sin, to deny God, to choose the devil, we have no virtue, no righteousness in our following God’s commandments?”
Yes, A. T. Jones is saying that if we have no choice to do wrong, then all of our doing right cannot have any virtue, because it is not a choice. For example, if I create a robot that works every day except for the Sabbath, the seventh-day of the week, and on that day the robot rests from his work. Could I praise the robot for doing something virtuous? Could I claim that my robot is doing a good deed when it had no choice to do otherwise?
Take child training for example. I have a young son, and I need to train him to do good and be obedient. Suppose I am trying to train him to be obedient by teaching him to refrain from pulling a glass dish off the table. If I remove the glass dish from the table completely, so there is no possibility that he can reach it, would I praise him for not pulling the dish off the table? Would I think that he had done some virtuous thing by not pulling the dish off the table? Certainly not! I would, however, be very happy if I could train him to listen when I say no, and he chose to restrain himself from pulling the dish off the table. Now I would have something to be happy about. Certainly you can see the truth in this.
Let me clarify something here. God expects us to choose whom we will serve, but we do not have any power in and of ourselves to do good. We can choose to yield our will to God, and He will work in us to do His good pleasure.
“If ‘religious freedom’ is only possible as a result of the presence of sin tempting us away from God, then certainly God is not free since he cannot be tempted by any evil…”
Jones never said that religious freedom is only possible as a result of the presence of sin. Religious freedom existed long before sin, and will exist long after sin and sinners are destroyed. Religious freedom is the God-given ability to choose to worship God or not. When everyone in the universe chooses to worship God (Revelation 5:13), it will not mean that the ability to choose has been taken away, but only that every individual in the universe will know where choosing evil would lead.
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” (James 1:13) Notice the verse says that God cannot be tempted with evil. Why? Because God alone knows the end from the beginning. God knows what the whole universe needs to learn, and that is that evil is definitely the wrong path to go down. There is no chance that God will sin. He knows the end from the beginning. He hates sin and knows perfectly well where sin leads, and therefore will not possibly follow that course.
The rest of the universe, however, does not know perfectly where sin leads. It is true now that many beings have a good idea where sin leads, but when sin is ended, the entire universe will know where it leads, and they will know the goodness and justice of God, and never again will they be tempted with evil. Why? Is it because they no longer have the freedom of choice to choose to do evil? Certainly not! It is because they will know clearly that sin is the wrong choice, and no amount of temptation could ever get them to sin. This is the condition God is in right now, and the condition in which He is longing for the entire universe to be.
I do not believe that the desire to sin will be present in the earth made new. We will all have glorified bodies. Satan will have been destroyed. There will not be anyone around to tempt us, and the idea that Lucifer cherished, that brought sin into his life, will forever be shown to be faulty, so we will no longer have any desire to do otherwise than what God commands. However, this is not achieved by God removing our freedom of choice. The ideas that Lucifer cherished that brought sin into his life were his desires to be exalted above what God intended for him. He began to have distorted ideas about God’s love for him, which led to a desire to try his own path, do his own thing, and reject God’s counsels. This will not be existent in the earth made new because everyone will know where Lucifer’s path leads, they will know God’s great love for them, and they will not even think of taking the same path Lucifer took.
God does not have lusts to do evil, and we will not either in the earth made new. Remember this also, Lucifer did not have lusts to do evil when he was created either, so there is more than lust involved. There is the question of whether God is right or not in all that He does. This question will be forever answered in the earth made new.
“Could Christ sin and fall from heaven the way Satan did? Could any of the elect angels? Could any of us in the final glory of heaven sin and fall from heaven?
You asked an excellent question, and one which was answered in detail in the January 2001 issue of Present Truth. Please refer to it for a thorough answer to this question.
God will not have anyone in heaven who is doing what is right because they have no choice to do wrong. The choice will always be there, but carrying through with that choice will never happen because all will know what the outcome would be. Nobody will ever question God’s government again. It was laid on the line once, but never again. Of Christ, Isaiah wrote, “the government shall be upon his shoulder.” It was upon His shoulders once, but never again. God’s government will be forever vindicated, and nobody will question it again.
Yes, Christ could have sinned. Christ was free to choose to do other than what His Father had commanded. He said, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) Christ obviously had an independent will, and in this case it was different from His Father’s will. He freely chose to submit His will to His Father. Christ evidently had that choice.
Christ became a man, a man like you and me. He was “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” (Romans 8:3) “As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14) “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18) “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
Christ took upon Himself the same flesh and blood that you and I have now. He was tempted, which indicates that He had lusts and He had the ability to sin. To say otherwise is to claim that Christ was merely acting, and that He is null and void as our example. Let me clarify something here. Although Christ had lusts that come to the human family by nature, He never once committed sin, and therefore He never had the cultivated evil habits that you and I must overcome. For example, some people may be enticed by a cigarette, while others are repulsed by it. Those who are most enticed are those who have developed the filthy habit of cigarette smoking, while those who are repulsed are those who either have never had the habit, or have overcome it.
Yes, all the elect angels could have sinned, and still could, along with all the righteous who will be in heaven, but God carried out His plan so thoroughly that He has insured heaven against the possibility of sin arising the second time. It will not rise again, not because the choice is gone, but because the question regarding God’s government is gone—gone for good. That is why God will only bring those to heaven whom He can be sure will never rebel against Him in the future. Thank God for that.
I pray this helps answer some of your questions on this issue.
“I have a question on the way women must behave in church. The issue is in 1 Timothy 2 verses 9-15. So is it that women should not preach or even stand in front of men during Sabbath School? Please help me by answering my question on your Present Truth question and answer segment.”
Thank you for bringing up such an important subject. Let’s read these verses to see what Paul is saying. “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:11, 12)
First of all, it is obvious that we cannot take these words in their most literal sense, because elsewhere Paul gave instruction that “The aged women” must be “teachers of good things.”(Titus 2:3)
The evident context of 1 Timothy 2:11, 12 is in a church setting. However, even here we cannot take these words in the most literal sense, for women were not kept silent, by Paul or others, in public church meetings. I will give some examples.
“But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head.” (1 Corinthians 11:5) Here Paul is speaking concerning women praying or prophesying, and in chapter 14 he wrote, “he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification,… he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:3, 4) For a woman to prophesy she must speak to her brethren, and this is often done in the church.
The Bible speaks of many women prophetesses. We will note a few. “So Hilkiah the priest,… went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her. And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read.” (2 Kings 22:14-16) Here God directly spoke to His people through a woman prophetess.
She was not the only prophetess in the Bible. “And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.” (Judges 4:4, 5) It is obvious that women play a part in God’s work of teaching others the ways of God.
At the time of Christ Anna was a prophetess. “And there was one Anna, a prophetess,…” (Luke 2:36)
And in the New Testament church God still used women to prophesy. “And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.” (Acts 21:9) For further examples of women in the church read Acts 18:26 and Romans 16:12.
It is evident that Paul was not seeking to exclude women entirely from public speaking in the church. Paul was stressing that women should not “usurp authority over the man,” or as the American Standard Bible says, “to have dominion over a man.” There is no record in the Bible of a woman ever being ordained or anointed as a king, priest, bishop, or elder. In fact, Paul gave strict instruction for those who are to be bishops or elders. They must be “the husband of one wife.” (1 Timothy 3:2) It should go without saying that this excludes women, but let’s read on. “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Timothy 3:4, 5)
Here Paul said that an elder or bishop must rule his house well in order for him to be able to take care of the church. There has been a push recently to put women in responsible positions in the church, such as elders and pastors. However, to do this would reverse the roles of husbands and wives in the home. If it is right for a woman to be an elder, bishop, or pastor in a church, then it must also be right for a woman to be the head of the house. Paul wrote, “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) There is a specific order of authority given here. God the Father is the Highest, who is the head of Christ. Christ is the head of the man, and the man is the head of the woman, in a similar way that Christ is the head of the man.
In today’s society women are seeking to usurp the authority of the man in the home and in the church. There are some men who are promoting this as well, in an attempt to remove from themselves the responsibility God has given them.
It is this type of usurping authority that Paul was condemning in his letter to Timothy. This should be a strong rebuke to those women who wish to hold a higher position in the church than God has given them. It has never been God’s plan that a woman should take away the authority that God has given to the man in the home and in the church. This does not mean that women cannot share testimonies in church, prophesy, or even lead out in Sabbath School lessons. Women are a valuable asset to the church.
I pray this helps answer some of your questions on this issue.