Free Will or Free Grace?

Having spent a couple of weeks on the oncology and hospice floors of Emory University with family, I have been reminded yet again of the bounds and limits of a person’s will. Many folks, would have you think that the will is neutral and capable of accomplishing great feats, not the least of which is salvation. Yet the time spent at Emory has demonstrated and brought to my mind yet again one of my core beliefs concerning the bondage of the will. Contrary to popular opinion, a person’s will is neither free and certainly not the deciding factor in life’s course or destination.

Yes, we have a will. Yes, one acts according to his will. Yes, by one’s will (determination) great accomplishments have been achieved. However, everyone’s will is sinful and limited. These limitations affect all our decisions and capabilities from the lesser and mundane to the higher and spiritual.

While spending so much time on the 5th and 7th floors of Emory Hospital, I met several people. Most of the folks I met were visiting family members, often critical if not terminally ill family members. None of us (patients and/or family members) wanted to be there. The patients wanted (willed) to be well and to live. We the family did not want (will) our loved one to have cancer or to die.

The patients were receiving top notch, often cutting edge medical treatment by skillful doctors and nurses. While many of the patients were helped others could not be. Why? Was the deciding factor one’s free will? Did some by an act of their will or their loved one’s will stop death? No! Not even the best medical skills combined with the love and good will of family, staff and patient could reverse the devastating effects of the disease or prevent death.

Interestingly while at Emory I did not hear anyone touting free will as an answer for cancer or death, but I did hear folks talking about and engaging in prayer. Wonder why? Because intuitively we know that man’s will is limited and not the ultimate factor in life or death. Why do we pray and ask God for our daily bread (lesser) and the forgiveness of sins and the salvation (greater) of loved ones? Because we know that our wills are limited and that daily and eternal blessings are not the result of man’s will but God’s grace.

The Bible says, The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law (1 Corinthians 15:56). Sin is the greater, the cause of death. Death is the lesser, the result of sin. If no one can prevent death (lesser) by an act of the will, why would we imagine that the solution to sin (greater) is the will of man? Salvation and eternal life are not the results of free will, but free grace sovereignly and lovingly applied by the Great Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To God alone be the glory! Amen.

Original Blog Post Found Here.