After God created the heavens and earth and all that was in it, He put the people He made in a garden that contained all they needed (Gen. 1-2). It was also a place God walked among them (Gen. 3:8) so they enjoyed blessed fellowship with Him.
God wanted people to choose to stay in fellowship with Him because He also wanted a love relationship with them. Without being given a choice of whether to obey Him or not, the relationship would be nothing more than robotic servitude. So, God told them they could eat from any of the trees except one. And, He made it clear that a choice not to obey this one command would come with consequences.
God Made People Capable of Choosing
Being made in the image of God, humans had a will that enabled them to make choices. Would they choose to surrender to this one command of God or do what they wanted? He would not force obedience. They needed to decide if all they had with Him was enough.
Implications: Since God Himself doesn’t force people into a relationship with Himself, let’s be careful not to use tactics to coerce or manipulate people. We must faithfully speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) but in the end, people are responsible for their own choices. We cannot make them believe or obey. Let’s be careful we don’t turn people into hypocrites by externally conforming in order to look the part.
People Won’t Always Make the Right Choice
Being omniscient, God knew what Adam and Eve would choose to do. But, He gave them the ability to choose anyway because He wanted people to want to be in a relationship with Him and to willingly participate in His plans and purposes.
God went to extremes to show people how much He loved them and wanted to be in a relationship with Him, but many still rejected Him, choosing their own way. Ultimately He sent Jesus who would die on the cross in their place. — “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (Jn. 1:11-13)
Implications: Let’s be real. Not everyone we share the Gospel with will put their trust in Jesus. Not everyone we teach will take what they learn and apply it to their lives. Not everyone we give benevolently to will be grateful and pass it forward. People won’t always make the right choices. But, let’s not get discouraged. God made people with a will to choose. We are responsible to faithfully minister to others. They are responsible for how they respond.
Choices Come with Consequences
Yes, in the end, each person is responsible for themselves. And, each person will reap the consequences of their choices. Adam and Eve chose to do the one thing God warned them about. They suffered immediate consequences, being expelled from the garden and losing that face to face intimacy with God (Gen. 3). And, their choice brought on long term consequences, with people being born thereafter with a sin nature. Sin has marred lives ever since.
Implications: Let’s not candy coat the issue. We reap what we sow. We can’t make people believe or trust God but we can help them make informed choices.