There are two extreme approaches to answer this question. Calvinism is the idea that God’s sovereignty dictates every thought, word or action of every man, making man essentially a Robot. Conversely, Arminianism is the idea that man is completely autonomous, free to do as he chooses without any divine influence.
But, there is a balanced approach. God left us the choice to respond to His love or reject it, this gift of freedom is an expression of His great love. God created human beings free to make their own choices, but our freedom is in some ways limited. For example, we are not free to choose our parents, our race, or where we were born. We have free will within the boundaries set by God in accordance with His sovereign purpose for each individual. We are free to make our own choices and be responsible for them all, but our free will never override God’s providential will; there is not one thing that happens on this Earth that is not allowed by God. God is Omnipotent meaning all powerful, but He does not interfere with our free will unless we submit our free will to Him. Likewise, God is also Omniscient or all knowing, but God’s foreknowledge of the future does not interfere with our freedom.
There is a story from Scripture that displays this concept very nicely. In the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. Years later when Joseph is reunited with his brothers he says to them, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20). This indicates that while his brothers’ actions may have been evil, God still allowed them to practice their free will. They were fully accountable for selling Joseph into slavery, but God had certain plans and intentions related to their actions.
God is not interested in having slaves and He doesn’t need us in any way, what He wants is a relationship with every single one of us. Like any other relationship, each person has a choice whether or not they would like to remain in the relationship. However, unlike a friend choosing not to be friends, a son or daughter cannot choose not to be a child of their parent anymore. Similarly, our identity is not something left for us to choose, we are made by Him in His image.
Interested in reading more about this topic? Read "Is Our Future Determined or Free?" by Michael Ramsden to learn more.
We are many voices, united by the same Spirit, driven to Serve Apostolic Love and Testimony.