Question: I’ve read most of What Love Is This? I believe in man’s free will and right of choice. However, when I read Luke:1:13-17, especially verse 15, I cannot reconcile the pre-conception appointment of John with the free will of man. I’m aware that there are other divine appointments of a similar vein; these seem to remove human choice from one’s personal destiny. Your insight would be appreciated.
Response: Actually, there is nothing in these verses to negate John the Baptist’s free choice. All that is described is God’s call upon his life—the task for which God had chosen him—but he didn’t have to obey it. That was a great honor, for which he was empowered by the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, but he had to be willing.
Nor was this choosing by God to salvation and heaven. John was chosen for a certain task. Of course, he had to become a believer in order to fulfill that task, but that was up to him. The Old Testament prophecies only identify this chosen one by the ministry he would fulfill: “the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD” (Isa:40:3); “I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me...[in the spirit of] Elijah the prophet...he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Mal:3:1; 4:5,6).
The messenger, however, is not named. Had John not been willing, God would have raised up someone else. But since God knows the future, He knew that John the Baptist would undertake the mission He would give him. The fact that God knew what John would do does not mean that God caused him to do it, yet that was what Calvin and Luther both insisted upon.
Though chosen of God to be the forerunner for Christ, John had to choose to obey as the Spirit would lead. Remember, Judas was also chosen but rejected his appointed ministry and betrayed the Lord: “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (Jn:6:70).