A recent discussion pertaining to several ideas about free-will related to a God-given expression to His Creation has resulted in this Article. Specifically, two statements posed as contradictions are at the center of the topic. The first statement – “Free will is the ability to do as you please!” The second is –“Free will is the ability to choose any of all moral options offered.” Since the first statement is covered within the scope of the second’s ‘all moral options’, this Article advances the notion that there is NO discrepancy between those two statements, thereby forming the basis of what follows.
Many religious doctrines affiliated with Christendom insist that a proper interpretation of scripture negates the idea that free will is the ability to do as you please. Is that a proper assumption; is that the apparent declaration found in this verse?
“…where sin abounded, grace abounded much more … What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! –Ro.5:20-6:2.
THAT admonition, although a proper and lofty an ideal, is clearly NOT an evidence that free will has been rescinded, but the opposite. In fact, subsequent scriptures imply that free will choice continues to exist for even born again believers.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us … If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” – 1Jn. 1:8-10.
“…these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” – 1Jn. 2:1.
Following the above subject in the alluded to discussion, was an analogy of mankind as ‘agents of God’. There is absolutely no scriptural basis for an ideology regarding unregenerate MAN as an ‘agent of God’. While there is some relativity to saved individuals acting within the scope of ministry as such ‘agents’, even THAT is NOT a ‘moment by moment’ FIXED mandate imposed against one’s free will.
The fact that SOME men can become such agents, the reality is that NOT ALL men are. Even though there is sufficient scriptural support to rightly declare “MAN was created by God to fulfill God’s Will” – the very reason Christ came was to remedy the problem of sin that plagues ALL humanity. This is due precisely to the fact that NO man can “fulfill God’s Will”, independent of God’s intervention enabling him to do so.
Scholars of Christian theology have understood this principle for centuries (2000K+). Debates about specific implications, definitions, and minor differences continue – but the MAIN point is that while God’s purpose for MAN is to fulfill His Will, MAN – by volitional free-will choice – has been allowed to, and frequently does, deviate from THAT plan.
God’s PERFECT Will and His PERMISSIVE Will are NOT always consistent. Also, that which is part of His PERMISSIVE Will is quite often contrary to PERFECT Will. Examples are clearly evident by the following verse.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him [by free will choice] should not perish but have everlasting life” – Jn. 3:16.
The result of each individual’s CHOICE determines the outcome – perish, or have everlasting life. Cause and effect govern the natural universe. The same principles apply within the spiritual realm as well. If/then scenarios are declared throughout both Testaments of the Bible, revealing both conditional and unconditional aspects of God’s dealing with humanity.
The continuing ‘story of humanity’ contained within scripture reveals God’s SINGLE remedy for wrong choices – Jesus Christ. The fact that MAN is ‘born in sin’ does NOT negate the fact that it is the direct result of MAN’S free will choice. While it is true that an unborn child is NOT capable of an exercise of volitional free will, the sin of MAN is a ‘genetic’ flaw passed through the linage of MAN, spiritually infected by Adam’s disobedience that separated him from God (SIN).
“… by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation” – Ro. 5:16.
“…by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” – Ro. 5:19
Never-the- less, God’s dealings with humanity have varied; even today, His relationship with MAN is unique from one individual to another. Of course, there is a universal equality in that.
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” and “…by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth… there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – Jn.6:44; Ac. 4:10-12.
But THAT ‘common-ground’ is the only the BEGINNING of right relationship with God. AFTER that is truly established, God preserves individuality, and each person’s personal relationship with God is equally ‘right’, yet individually different.
Free-will choice is maintained throughout a person’s life, both before and after becoming ‘born again’. To further elaborate upon the ‘agent of God‘ – even agents have the ‘power’ of free-will choice to decide whether to be a ‘good and faithful’ servant, or abuse their authority.
Being a child of God doesn’t make one any less fully human, and thereby susceptible to natural inclinations and temptations – all evidence that free moral agency has not been revoked after becoming born again. God wants loving children, NOT a race of compliant ‘robots’ (programed to do ONLY His bidding).
The willful submission (choice to surrender) to God, demonstrated by Christ is an exercise of an individual’s free-will choice. All born again believers are virtually ‘little Christs’, hence the literal definition of the term “CHRISTIANS”.
“My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” ( Jn. 5:30)
Sadly, too few believers have a full comprehension of ALL that the Incarnation involves. God became MAN in Christ. ALL the fullness of God was IN Him.
“For in Him [Jesus Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” – Gal. 2:9.
[That you might] “know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” – Eph. 3:19.
The common thread that binds all Christendom together is this declaration of the Deity of Christ. But professing belief in it is not the same as really understanding it, and the ramifications it has on the born again experience available to all true believers.
Throughout the Gospels and Epistles we are instructed to “follow Christ”, “be Christ-like”, etc.. Unfortunately, the WAY to fulfill this mandate is rarely expounded upon. It is SOLELY the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (God IN us), that enables such a call to become reality.
” for it is God who works IN you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” – Phil. 2:13.
“The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells WITH you & will be IN you” – Jn. 14:17.
“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells IN you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. If Christ is IN you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells IN you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells IN you” – Ro. 8:9-11.
There is NO other way to achieve such godliness and fulfill the will of God. The entire Old Testament is preserved as a memorial to generations of people attempting to fulfill God’s PERFECT Will by obedience to ordinances exercising free will choices under their own innate abilities. But NONE could achieve righteousness, and it was NEVER God’s PERFECT Will that obedience to such ordinances could fulfill His Will.
“For IF there had been a law given which COULD HAVE given life, truly righteousness WOULD HAVE been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by FAITH in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” – Gal. 3: 21-22.
“…by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you COULD NOT be justified by the law…” – Ac. 13:39.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law NO FLESH WILL BE JUSTIFIED in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” – Ro. 3:20
Jesus is the ONLY begotten SON of GOD – unique in ALL both spiritual and physical realms. But through the SAME Spirit that dwelt IN Him while He walked among humanity in His physical body, the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit of God) is given to true believers who have WILLFULLY submit to God’s plan of redemption – making THEM ‘sons of God’.
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” – Gal. 3:26.
God is, and has been ALWAYS ‘in charge’, and shall continue to be throughout eternity. However, many who have NOT properly executed their free-will choices continue to ‘take charge’ over many things in this present realm of existence. Scripture clearly teaches that DOMINION over THIS world (the physical phenomenological realm which we now occupy) has been given to a universal spiritual enemy – the devil.
“… Cursed is the ground for your sake…” – Gen. 3:17.
“… knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him” –Ro. 6:9.
“the god of this age has blinded, [those] who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” – 2Cor. 4:4.
Free will MUST be understood as not only in existence, but a vital part of the ongoing over-all purpose and eternal plan of God. Matters of right and wrong, good and evil, love and hate – all exist due to the perpetuation of free-will choice given to MAN by God. Responsibility for the exercise of it rests with each individual, saved or not.
In closing, may I recommend reading other Articles similarly related to the use of Free Will that are also posted to this site? True Conversion – Born Again and Explaining the Existence of Evil both provide more in-depth analysis of this topic.