3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” 5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3–5, NKJV)
Did Judas have a choice? Or, did God predetermine his betrayal because of His sovereign election and man’s corrupt nature? Being born totally corrupt (as Calvinists tell us), did Judas sin out of necessity? God indeed is sovereign (Psalm 66). But no, we are not born corrupted by original sin (Ezekiel 18:20; Matthew 18:3; Romans 7:9). God created man and woman with freewill, and it was not taken from humanity after Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:6; Romans 5:12). Judas chose to be a thief and a betrayer (John 12:6). He chose not to believe in Jesus, and he chose to let the devil into his heart (John 6:69-71; 13:2, 27). Yes, Judas had a choice – God’s foreknowledge did not eliminate Judas’ freewill. When we sin it is because we yield to temptation (Jas. 1:13-16). We do not sin because we must sin (due to a corrupt nature). Sin is committed, not inherited (Romans 5:12). God has chosen to save us (sinners) in Christ (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:4-7). We must choose to come to Christ (Matthew 11:28). God’s sovereignty and man’s freewill are not hostile to each other. Do not choose sin. Choose to honor God’s sovereignty by believing and obeying the gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).
2 All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” (Ecclesiastes 9:2–3, NKJV)
Each of us face common experiences of humanity. We also face death, which is common to us all. Our experiences and our end are true of “under the sun” (life on earth). Whether it is “time and chance” or a “purpose under heaven” in which we choose to engage, human life has been so designed by our Creator that wisdom teaches us to accept that “our works are in the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 9:11; 3:1-8; 9:1). This does not mean we are doomed to a life of fatalism without freewill. It means the purposes of God will prevail as He sets the boundaries of our times and seasons, and as His providence oversees and operates (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19). The “one event” and the “one thing” in today’s passage (as the end of verse 3 shows) is death. When hearts are set on evil things, no preparation is made for death. That is madness, not wisdom. Knowing we will die, we should get ready for it. Be righteous and wise, fearing God and keeping His commandments (Ecclesiastes 9:1; 12:13).
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” (Matthew 23:37–39, NKJV)
The Messiah expressed His ardent desire to draw Jerusalem close to Himself, comfort her and protect her. Yet, Jerusalem was not willing to receive His love. She killed God’s prophets; their message was disdainful to her. She stoned God’s servants, and would soon kill God’s Son. Now, the desolation of divine judgment was in her future. Only by understanding the Messiah’s gospel would any of her inhabitants find a blessing (read Acts 3:24-26). Note here the longing of God and the freewill of man. God desires the salvation of all (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Yet, without a willing heart to receive God’s word and follow His will, the lost person will not be saved. Responsibility for the desolation of Jerusalem, applied by the Roman army in A.D. 70, fell squarely on the shoulders of its rebellious citizens. If we refuse God and the salvation He offers us, we are responsible for our own demise. Why not rather turn to Christ, receive His word, obey His will and be saved?
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:18–20, NKJV)
God “desires all men to be saved”, but He will not force His salvation on anyone. The freewill He gave us from creation must be exercised to come to Him with one’s whole heart. God would bless Judah and Jerusalem’s willing obedience with cleansing from their sins and the good abundance of their land. But, rebellious refusal to faithfully follow the Lord would bring their destruction. Jerusalem was eventually devoured by their enemies’ sword, a just punishment for her sins. The gospel of Christ calls every sinner to come to the Lord, to hear His words of mercy and call to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:36-41). Receive God’s word with a willing heart and obedient life. He will cleanse you of your sins and give you abundant, eternal life. If not, remember that judgment is certain against all who rebel against the Lord (Rom. 2:6-11).
3 Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. 4 So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude. (Luke 22:3-6)
Judas made a choice to betray Jesus. The fact that Satan entered Judas does not at all suggest he lost his freewill in the matter. Satan set the enticement before him, and he gave into the temptation. It is the same with all temptation to sin: An enticement coupled with a person’s own desires (“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed”, James 1:14). The tempter can be resisted: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7). No one forces you to sin; the choice is yours. And, so is the accountability before God. The wages of sin is death. God gift is “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Choosing sin brings death. Choose faith in Jesus (Matt. 11:28-30; 7:21-23; Lk. 6:46).