Q: Is it implied in the Bible that God will respect our free will choices or is it specifically addressed in the Word?
A: The divinely respected free will of man is everywhere implied in the Bible, especially in passages such as:
"...choose this day whom you will serve," (Joshua 24:15)
"If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink." (John 7:37)
"Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD" (Isaiah 1:18)
The numerous appeals to mankind through both the Old and New Testaments clearly communicate that God not only honors our free will choices, but He actually refuses to force Himself on anyone. Instead, He calls to those who are willing to listen and respond.
Consider the following two passages as proof that God respects the free will determinations of mankind:
The Lord is...not wishing that any should perish, (2 Peter 3:9)
"...the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many." Matthew 7:13 (ESV)
In the first passage, the Apostle Peter explains that God is not willing that any should perish. And yet, Jesus reminds us that those who choose the path of destruction "are many." Clearly God honors the free will choices of mankind even when those choices are contrary to His own perfect will.
I’ve been asked many times over the years why God allowed Satan into the Garden to tempt Adam and Eve. The answer centers around this very issue of mankind’s free will. At some point, Adam and Eve simply had to be tested to see which way they would choose to go.
I suppose God could have created Adam and Eve as puppets or automatons who fulfilled His bidding without question, but it is clear He wished for all who come to Him to do so freely and of their own choosing.
I firmly believe that the gift of free will is what uniquely sets us apart from the rest of created life and is the key to understanding what it means to be created in the image of God.