Thoughts on Matthew 11:25-30
The Bible is full of tension, and one of the most difficult tensions to understand (or accept) is that of God’s sovereignty and our free will. God has created us to be thinking, willing beings who make choices – some small, like whether to drink tea or coffee today, and some huge, like whether to believe the Bible and the Gospel. We make choices based on numerous factors all the time such as weighing the benefits versus the risks of a situation, what others will think of the decisions we make, and the importance of what we’re choosing. We love the freedom to choose, to have a sense of control. Which is why the doctrine of election – that God chooses whom he will save – is so repulsive to so many of us.
Matthew 11:27-28 is a paradoxical passage that perfectly demonstrates the tension we see all over the Bible about our responsibility to choose and God’s complete control over who will be saved. Jesus begins by saying, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and not one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” This is pretty clearly exclusive. Jesus gets to decide – or elect – who can know God. This concept of “predestination” is reiterated all throughout the New Testament, particularly in passages like John 6, Romans 8 and Ephesians 1.
Now for the tension. Jesus immediately follows his statements about the sovereignty of God with, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” That’s a call to make a decision, to choose to come to Jesus. He does not say, “God will force all you weary people to come to me.” Rather, he presents it as a choice that we can make – to continue striving and toiling to find favor with God and man, or find rest for our souls by trusting and resting in a Savior who is gentle and approachable (even though he is the holy, almighty King of King and Lord of Lords in whom “all the fullness of God” dwells).
What do we do with then? The Bible is very, very clear about the sovereign election of God in salvation, yet there are so many “if” and “choose” statements. Can both be true? Jesus seemed to think so. Even if it doesn’t make sense, and even if you think you have it figured out and hold fast to predestination or free will, there is one other truth of Scripture to guide and constrain us – the law of love. Jesus made it clear everyone, including those with whom you disagree about this or any other doctrine, or ideology or political opinion, etc., are your neighbor; and, therefore, we are to love them as ourselves.
Regardless of what happens in the “background” of God’s providence and unchallengeable dominion over all his creation, the call for us is unchanged: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The point is not ultimately whether or not you chose God or he chose you. The point is are we living in obedience to Jesus right now, and every day until we either die or see him return in glory. In the meantime, Jesus offers us rest for our souls if we take his yoke upon us and learn from him. Will you choose to do that?