How can God say, “You will either love me or you will go to hell” and then call that free will?
This question assumes that God has a choice. I hope the following will help. The answer is broken into three important parts.
No One Seeks After God
We cannot and do not love God on our own. This can be seen in every day life. We live in a world that does not really want to know God. Some folks talk about God, but they usually seek a god that has certain characteristics they desire. Others of us have already chosen the arts, science, history or technology to be our god. Many claim there are no moral absolutes. Ironically, that standard is an absolute. We are not objective seekers after god. This is no surprise because the Bible already says,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD. (NASB) Romans 3:11
We Must Believe In Christ
A man or woman goes to hell because they do not believe in Jesus Christ. Loving God is not the issue.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (NASB) John 3:16-18
This verse tells us that unbelief is the problem, not love. Yes, God does command us to love others, but it is never a requirement to enter heaven. Why? Because we cannot love the way God wants us to love without His help. Romans 5:5 tells us that God’s Holy Spirit gives us His love. After we become His child, He helps us to love Himself and others.
. . . Because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (NASB) Romans 5:5
Because God Loves Us he Warns Us
By telling us what we must do to escape hell, God has not only been honest with us: He has shown us that He loves us. This question assumes that God has a choice. It assumes that God is able to honor whatever choice we want to make. The question assumes that God is like us Ps. 50:21).
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (NASB) Isaiah 55:7-8
We are called to respond to Jesus. We are called to believe. Acts 16 tells us about an earthquake that shook the doors of a jail open. The jailor was afraid for his life since he would die if anyone escaped.Here is what the Philippian jailor did after the earthquake.
And when the jailer had been roused out of sleep and had seen the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here! “And he called for lights and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household. (NASB) Acts 16:27-34
The major fact about God that we miss is that He is holy and we are not. He has told us that evil cannot live in His presence. God calls us to believe in His son for the forgiveness of our sins so that He can declare us to be holy.
God calls us to trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus showed us that He loved us by dying for us. The only way that God could help us escape hell is by having Jesus die for us so that we could do one of the simplest things on earth – believe or trust Jesus to forgive our own sins!
Suggested Links:Predestination and Free Will
Searching For God
If you are not chosen then does it really matter when you die?
So why is our freewill inclined to a sinful nature?