God knew that Adam would sin and yet He still gave him the ability to disobey. After that sin, God declared to Satan, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Sin would be crushed by Jesus who would pay it’s awful price on the cross.
God’s provision of salvation for the World is clear in His Word, and humanity is clearly responsible for what they do with His provision. We are able to respond in faith to the Gospel of Christ. But does the term “free will” properly describe this response and belief unto salvation? It became clear to me that it does not, through the help of a spiritual mentor and pastor who would bristle whenever the term ‘free will’ was used. Confused, I would think to myself, “what else could it be called?” Regardless, I began to avoid using those words as much as possible, respecting my pastor’s wishes, even though I wasn’t sure why.
Eventually, I came to understand why the term “free will’ fails. First, not everyone understands the term ‘free will’ in the same way. Also, the debate over man’s “free will” carries thousands of years of baggage, having been debated by non-christian philosophers and theologians alike. Add to that how “free will” is used like a curse word by many who hold to different views. Relationships, families and churches have been damaged by those who have failed to at least understand, who have instead stereotyped their brethren, forsaking the grace God calls us to.
Because of all this history, the term ‘free will’ must be qualified when used. What do I mean if I use the term ‘free will’?
To begin, all philosophies of men are babble, especially those regarding free will, in the face of God and His word! We as believers should not go there, it is folly. So I don’t…I look only to God’s word to describe ‘free will’.
Our freedom is limited due to sin, and our will is desperately broken, these are the facts presented in God’s Word. Another preacher I know often says that our “want to” is broken in regard to doing what is good before we come to faith in Christ. We do not want to do good and submit to God, our life is characterized by doing things our own way. We would continue in our own way were it not for God’s grace shown in the provision of Christ and the cross, the Good News!
The freedom we have is granted by God because of His grace and mercy. We are free to believe or not believe only because God made us this way, sovereignly deciding to give us responsibility. Therefore we cannot boast in such a freedom. God could save everyone, no one, a few elect ones by His decree, or those who meet a condition, faith in His son Jesus. He is in control. The Bible clearly says that God will save all people who believe on Jesus Christ with the heart. It also clearly says people have the responsibility to choose.
bought with a price…salvation is not free
The word “free” in the western world has a very strong connotation. It holds the idea of forging one’s own destiny, wide open and unlimited possibilities, or being able to do anything we want to do. In connection with our salvation however, “free” is not any of these things. Sin’s awful price, eternal separation from God, could only be paid by Jesus, God’s son. What we do is hardly a great act of freedom. Like a beggar who accepts a handout…we believe with the heart putting our faith in the one who made salvation possible. Jesus Christ paid the price, we just accept salvation as a gift.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
1 Corinthians 7:23
Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
1 Corinthians 6:20
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
2 Peter 2:1
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
The death of Christ on the cross was sufficient for the whole world, even for those who rejected Him like the false prophets in 2 Peter 2:1. Sin and death were made null by Christ’s sacrifice and Satan’s head (Sin) was crushed as God said it would be way back in The Garden.
God transforms us from being slaves of sin to servants of righteousness when we believe with the heart. The blood of Christ is then is applied and we are healed.
1 Peter 2:24-25
who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.
HUMAN WILL A PATH TO DESTRUCTION
Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
We were slaves of sin and had no will power that could break the bonds of our slavery. We were stuck in the mire, with our destination sure, until we heard the call of the gospel and believed in the one who could redeem us. Then God did His work of salvation. There is no boasting on our part. We were able accept the gift of Salvation only because our sovereign God decided that faith would be unto salvation, not by our works or human will, but by His decree. At some point in life, all people must choose either to heed the gospel call, or continue to follow their own sinful heart.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
We learn in God’s Word that before we believe our will is focused on our own desires. From birth to death, in the flesh, we seek to do things our own way… and those ways seem right to us.
I Peter 4:3
For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.
It is not until God’s does the work of salvation that we are indwelled with the Holy Spirit. Only then do we have real freedom from sin and an ability to deny our fleshly will. Paul says we are crucified with Christ and therefore dead to sin in Romans 6:6-12.
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
I Corinthians 2:12
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God
The Holy Spirit helps us understand the Bible, convicts us when we fall back into sin, and guides us in our sanctification. Every spiritual blessing is ours even though we are not perfect in this world. God regards us as righteous and our inheritance is waiting as one of God’s children.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
Our fleshly will still rears itself up yet we now have The Spirit’s prompting in our daily walk, reminding us what God’s will for us is. As we are molded more and more into the image of Christ, our human will fades away. Paul says this…Hebrews 13:20-21
There is so much more that can be said on this topic, however this is a brief summary of how I see the term “free will”.
The search for another, more adequate term for “free will” has been elusive for me. But, here are some different ways I have heard the concept expressed: “ability to choose”, “power of choice”, “freedom of choice”, “liberty”, “ability to believe”. All need some explaining as well.
I prefer one I have heard from Dr. Leighton Flowers, Director of Evangelism and Apologetics for Texas Baptists. He says that God made us to be “response-able” or “able to respond” to the gospel. Regardless of your terminology, I do hope the discussion has at least given some food for thought.
I thank God for the mercy and love He provided in Christ, the gospel of our salvation… that led me out of my captivity and into the light of His life.