The Biblical Doctrine of the Freedom of the Will

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“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them, Whatsoever he be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, that will offer his oblation for all his vows, and for all his freewill offerings, which they will offer unto the LORD for a burnt offering; Ye shall offer at your own will a male without blemish, of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats. But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you. And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein” (Leviticus 22:17-21) … “They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required; And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD” (Ezra 3:4-5) … “Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, and teach me thy judgments” (Psalm 119:108).

Introduction

A few years ago a preacher contacted me to state that the Bible nowhere speaks of man, saved or unsaved, having freewill. I can only assume that the had removed many pages from his Bible, for the texts shown above, and those I will present later, clearly state that man has the freedom of will to either obey or disobey the Lord. There are some opponents to freewill who suggest that while man has freewill to sin, he does not have freewill to obey God. This concept is too silly a notion to consider in full here, but the Scriptures we shall look at will show that rejection of the doctrine of freewill is unsound.

Salvation

Some believe that man does not have the ability to come to Christ and trust Him as Saviour. The Bible teaches the total depravity of man; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9), but it ought not to be assumed that this means total inability. The Bible never even hints at the idea that man is so alienated from God that he is totally incapable of coming to Christ. It is not his sin alone that holds him back, rather it is his will to continue in sin that is the problem. “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40). Jesus clearly states that it is not a matter of whether a sinner can or cannot come to Him, but whether he will or will not. This same thought is seen in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” There is no mention of why they could not, for they freely chose to reject Him.

The very last call to salvation mentioned in Scripture is found in Revelation 22:17, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” If no one has the ability to come to Christ, then this invitation is false. Those who see the word ‘elect’ instead of “whosoever” are both adding to the word of God and deceiving themselves. The only thing that stands between the sinner and salvation is the sinner’s will to continue in sin. God created man as a free moral agent, and He has never removed his freewill. The favourite verse of opponents to freewill is John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” But why stop reading the Bible there? “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). The Lord draws all to Him, but how few are willing to trust Him! Everyone during his or her lifetime will receive numerous invitations to come to Christ. “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). But just like the Jews back then, the majority refuse to receive His Lordship. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13). While only God can give the new birth to a sinner who receives Christ, that is, man is totally unable to save himself or anyone else, by His sovereign grace allows man the freedom to choose to accept or reject His Son. “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

Grace

Following on from the rejection of freewill regarding salvation, some go on to say that God’s grace cannot be resisted; therefore no one has the freewill to reject it. Irresistible grace means that God has chosen to save only an elect group and it is totally impossible for them not to accept Christ as Saviour. Search the Scriptures and you will never find the word ‘irresistible’ before ‘grace’. The word ‘grace’ means the ‘free unmerited favour’ of God, therefore to add ‘irresistible’ to it makes it much less than it is. For grace to be free the recipient must have the freedom to either accepted or reject it. If it is forced upon even one person, it is not the free grace the Bible describes.

Does Scripture speak of irresistible grace? Proverbs 29:1 reveals that man has the freewill to resist and reject the call of God on his life. “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” Notice the words “often” and “hardeneth”; therefore God can be rejected more than once, but such resistance leads to damnation. Also Proverbs 1:24-26, “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.” The New Testament reveals exactly the same freedom to resist the will of God, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7:51-53).

God offers the free gift of salvation to all people. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). Everyone must freely choose to either accept or reject this grace.

Conclusion

Is the doctrine of the freedom of the will Biblical? Absolutely, yes! God made Adam a free moral agent with the power to choose between obedience and sin. Adam chose to follow newfound religious experience rather than God’s word (Genesis 3). At what point since then did the Lord remove freewill from man? If he did not have it in the first place, then God ordained the sin and Adam was simply an accomplice in the crime. If He removed freewill because of sin, then was it not a mistake to create man with it? The fact is, freewill is not an invention on non-Calvinists but a teaching of Scripture. Of course the opponents have the freewill to continue believing that they do not have the freewill to oppose this teaching. That might appear to be an odd statement, but does it not reveal the quagmire anti-freewill thinkers are in? “God created man in his own image” (Genesis 1:27) rather than wind-up robots that are void of freewill. Because we have freewill we offer unto our Creator worship and praise. “I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O LORD; for it is good” (Psalm 54:6). Because we have freewill we share with other the Gospel of Salvation. “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). Because we have freewill we have the choice to accept or reject His voice. “While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15).

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