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THE FREEWILL OF MAN

Some years ago I was fellowshipping with a group of pastors. One of them spoke of a common belief that I did not think could be found in the Bible. As a joke I said, “Do you have a favorite Scripture on that?” He had a great answer. “I think that is in the same place that teaches the freewill of man.” And you can look throughout the Bible and not find a direct statement of the freewill of man. However, there are some Scriptural arguments for the free will of man. 

We can start with the command to Adam and Eve. They were clearly given a choice to obey or not obey what God told them. They did not obey. The Bible teaches that their sin brought great calamity upon the earth. This also points out that free will is not unlimited. We do not have the ability to unmake some decisions. I can choose to jump off a cliff. But once I have jumped, I cannot decide not to fall. Their decision could not be undone once they had disobeyed.

All the commands of scripture depend upon the ability to decide to obey or not. There are many examples in Scripture where people were rebuked for making foolish or evil decisions. This would be meaningless if people had no choice in these matters. Believing in Christ and yielding to His will clearly demands a decision. We must choose to give our will to Him. This makes great sense to us as well as being obvious in Scripture.

However, the Bible presents this as more complex. And while this complexity is often repugnant to us, it fits human experience. We cannot overcome sin in our lives without God’s intervention. Simple decisions and will power will not keep us from stumbling. And coming to God at all requires God’s help. Let me point out some things Jesus said. In John 6:37 He said, “All that the Father gives me* will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” In John 6:44 He made a stronger statement. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him*.” This is not the only place Jesus spoke words like this. This seems to indicate that our believing is a work of God. I cannot answer all the questions related to this. But while our will is always involved in turning to God. The will to turn to God is complex. People are foolish to speak of freewill as if such decisions were made in a vacuum. Spiritual, emotional, and worldly forces bombard us when we struggle with coming to Christ. There are decisions that we cannot flippantly decide to make. We are bound by sin. In John 8:34 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Even as believers we continually need God to free us from sin’s bondage. Without God working in our lives we can never even want to turn from our selfish sinfulness. Those of you who are offended by the concept of predestination spoken of in Romans 8:29 and elsewhere, need to recognize that God is above time. He knows all things, and even hears and answers prayer from eternity past present and future. I am always uncomfortable when people speak lightly of freewill as if there are no parameters. We must make decisions. But many of them are not simple. This includes most spiritual decisions. 

*Italics mine

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Comment by Malva Birch on February 7, 2021 at 10:43am

Lord God,

Please help us to listen to You and to obey You through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Without You we can do nothing.

Please guide and guard our choices and decisions.

Thank You in the Name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Eph 3:20, 21 ESV 

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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